This 1996 Mitsubishi 3000GT VR-4 Spyder Is a Japanese Droptop Hidden Gem
One of only 84 examples produced that year heads to Barrett-Jackson Palm Beach.
Now that '90s-vintage Toyota Supras and Acura NSXs are commanding six-figure prices, the mainstream collectible car market is starting to notice and appreciate the Japanese supercars of the era. But one car that has largely flown under the radar is the Mitsubishi 3000GT.
We know what you're thinking: the front-wheel-drive-based 3000GT, or GTO as it was called in Japan, hardly qualifies as a supercar. That may be true of the base models, but the 3000GT VR-4 was a different animal. Packing a 300-hp twin-turbo 3.0-liter V-6 and all-wheel drive, the VR-4 battled its Japanese contemporaries in numerous comparison tests throughout the 1990s. It rarely came out on top, but it could more or less hang with the cars we celebrate as modern classics today. Later models received a bump in output to 320 horsepower and 315 lb-ft of torque, but even with the power, VR-4 performance was somewhat compromised due to the car's weight. And the convertible Spyder models were even heavier.
The car going up for auction at Barrett-Jackson Palm Beach is one of those rare Spyder models with the power retractable hard top. Starting in 1994, Mitsubishi contracted American coachbuilder ASC to convert a number of 3000GT coupes into convertibles. Instead of going with a soft top, Mitsubishi and ASC came up with a trick folding roof, a design feature that hadn't been seen in the U.S. since the Ford Fairlane 500 Skyliner of the late '50s. The conversion added not only weight, but plenty of dollars to the price, with a VR-4 Spyder commanding roughly $70,000 in 1996 dollars—that's the equivalent of $115,000 today.
According to the seller, this particular example is one of only 84 Mitsubishi 3000GT VR-4 Spyders produced for the 1996 model year. It comes with the coveted six-speed manual transmission, and has reportedly been garage-kept to preserve it in original condition. Based on the photos, we have no reason to doubt that, although it would have been nice if someone had cleaned up the driver's footwell before snapping the images.
With MkIV Supra and original NSX prices continuing to climb, could the 3000GT be the next hot Japanese collector car? We're not sure, but we're eager to find out what this car ultimately hammers for on April 12—it will surely be higher than the $36,000 the same car brought on Bring a Trailer last summer.
Barrett-Jackson heads into its second big event of the year, the 2019 Palm Beach auction, April 11-13, 2019, at the South Florida Fairgrounds in Palm Beach, Florida. The 17th annual Palm Beach collector car sale will showcase hundreds of coveted vehicles, and the experts from MotorTrend will be there to bring you all the action LIVE from the auction block. Check your local TV listings to find out where you can catch Barrett-Jackson Palm Beach on MotorTrend Network and download the app for exclusive, live coverage. Need more viewing options? You can also tune in to our live stream from your web browser on April 11, April 12, and April 13.