Ultimate Mitsubishi FTO Buyer’s Guide & History

In the 1990s, Mitsubishi was one of the heavy hitters of the Japanese motoring industry. They produced incredible cars such as the 3000GT/GTO, the Lancer Evolution range, and of course the FTO.

When the Mitsubishi FTO launched in Japan in 1994 it won the coveted Japanese Car of the Year award, becoming the first sports car to do so since the mighty Mk1 Toyota MR2 10 years earlier. Today the FTO has become somewhat of a forgotten gem, but don’t let that put you off one of these fantastic JDM coupés.

In this guide we are going to be looking at everything you need to know about buying a Mitsubishi FTO, from common problems and issues to how to get yourself the best deal and more. Read on to find out more.

How to Use this Mitsubishi FTO Buying Guide

This buyer’s guide is a fairly long read, so check out the table of contents below to skip to the section you want to read. To begin with we will have a look at the history and specifications of the Mitsubishi FTO to give you a bit of background info about the car. Following those two sections we will get into the buyer’s guide section of the article and then we will look at more general car purchasing advice.

History of the Mitsubishi FTO

Credit: Mitsubishi

Mitsubishi’s FTO badge didn’t actually start with the ninety’s coupé, but with the Galant FTO that was first introduced in January 1971. The “FTO” name was derived from Fresco Turismo Omologato, which translates into Fresh Touring Origination in English (certainly an interesting combination of words).

Unlike its bigger brother, the Galant GTO (a car designed to be a fully-fledged sports car), the FTO was created to be lighter, sharper in handling and cheaper to manufacturer. The wheelbase was shortened by 120mm when compared to the standard Galant and the car was offered with both 1.4 and 1.6-litre engine options.

Production of this earlier FTO gradually came to a halt in August 1975, after Mitsubishi introduced the Lancer Celeste earlier in the year.

The FTO Name Gets Revived

The FTO name lay dormant for nearly twenty years before Mitsubishi decided to revive the badge. Like the original Galant FTO, the 1994 FTO concept featured a 2-door hardtop coupé style body with a front-mounted engine. However, this time power would be sent to the front wheels rather than the rear like on the older FTO.

Mitsubishi sourced the basic design and underpinnings for the FTO from the Galant. Engineers then heavy modified the car to turn it into a fun-to-drive yet relatively affordable sports car with a sleek new body design.

Mitsubishi Launches the FTO

When the FTO first launched in October 1994, Mitsubishi offered the car with three different power units. The base “GS” model came with a 1.8-litre SOHC 16 valve Inline four-cylinder engine that produced as much as 123 hp (92 kW) at 6,000 rpm. Buyers could select the option of either a 5-speed manual transmission or a 4-speed automatic. Other notable features included 14-inch wheels, a driver’s side SRS air bag system and automatic air conditioning.

For those who wanted a bit more power, Mitsubishi offered the FTO GR. This mid-tier model came with a 2.0-litre DOHC 24 valve V6 engine that was rated at 168 hp (125 kW) at 7,000 rpm. The engine wasn’t the only thing to get bigger, with the GR coming with slighter larger 15-inch wheels and like the GS auto-aircon was included.

At the top of the range came the GPX. This model came equipped with a 2.0-litre V6 engine that featured Mitsubishi’s MIVEC system. MIVEC was essentially the company’s version of variable valve timing (VVT) technology. As with other similar systems, MIVEC varies the timing of the intake and exhaust camshafts, increasing power and torque output over a broad engine speed range. The addition of MIVEC boosted power to as much as 197 hp (147 kW) at 7,500 rpm. As with the two lower-tier models, the GPX could be purchased with either a 5-speed manual or a 4-speed automatic transmission.

With a good bump in engine output, performance increased significantly. The 0 – 100 km/h (62 mph) time was now as low as 6.6 seconds down from around 7.4 seconds for the GR V6 model and 8.9 seconds for the four-cylinder GS. Top speed was limited to 180km/h (112 mph) as it was on the two lower tier models as well.

To help control the extra speed and power, Mitsubishi equipped GPX variants with larger, twin-piston calipers at the front, while the rear ones remained the same as on the GR and GS models. This addition also led to Mitsubishi fitting new 16-inch alloy wheels that could fit over the bigger brakes. Other notable changes included a standard rear spoiler and side air dams.

When Mitsubishi introduced the new FTO, they also launched the second generation version of their INVECS (Intelligent & Innovative Vehicle Electronic Control System) automatic transmission technology. INVECS-II was radically different to the previous generation and was based on Porsche’s Tiptronic technology.

As with the Porsche system, Mitsubishi’s one allowed for either full-automatic mode, or a clutchless manual mode if the driver felt the need to shift up or down gears. The new system also offered Adaptive Shift Control which monitored the driver’s habits. It would then adjust the gearshifts to be smoother or more aggressive depending on the driving style of the person behind the wheel.

GPX and GR Limited Editions

To celebrate its win at the Car of the Year Japan awards in 1994, Mitsubishi decided to create special limited-edition models of both the GPX and the GR. The GPX Limited Edition was finished in a unique dandelion yellow paint scheme and came with “94 – 95 Japan Car of the Year” emblems on the C-pillars.

Mitsubishi’s design and engineering team also fitted the special GPX with a limited-slip differential as standard on manual cars and gave it a rear screen wash/wiper. Only 207 of these cars were produced in April 1995 with 20 of them being manual while the rest were automatics.

To accommodate more budget conscious buyers, Mitsubishi also created a Limited Edition version of the GR. These cars were produced from April to September 1995 and were available in Passion Red, Steel Silver or Pyrenees Black.

Mitsubishi Introduces the FTO GP

In February 1996 Mitsubishi introduced a MIVEC GP model that featured the same engine and roughly the same performance as the GPX. This car would later become known as the GPversionR (GPvR) and it featured a rear-spoiler, Ralliart muffler, Ralliart strut tower bars at the front and rear, and remote control retractable side mirrors.


In early 1997 a limited edition Nakaya-Tune version of the FTO was introduced. Only 300 of these cars were sold and they were tuned by Akihiko Nakaya, a Japanese Mitsubishi Motors racer.

This special edition model featured a number of improvements over the standard GPX model with the package including a Nakaya-Tune sports muffler, brake pads, carbon fibre lip spoiler, and suspension (made by OHLINS). Power was rated as the same as on other MIVEC models.

Other features included a sports mode automatic shift indicator (for AT cars), MOMO 3 spoke steering wheel, green window glass, and a leather shift knob.

1997 – The FTO Gets a Facelift

Credit: Mitsubishi

By February 1997 Mitsubishi was ready to introduce a facelifted version of the FTO. The updated car came with a new, more aggressive front bumper arrangement that now featured a single large intake cut-out instead of two smaller ones. The fog lights were also updated to be four circular lights, each recessed into the updated front bumper, and the final change at the front was some internal changes to the headlights (the exterior design remained the same). Another major change was that the rear spoiler was redesigned to be more aerodynamic and now came standard on some models.

Once again, the GS was the base spec model with its four-cylinder SOHC engine, and the GR was the next step up with its six-cylinder engine. To provide another purchasing option between the GR and the more expensive MIVEC engined models, Mitsubishi decided to introduce the GX. The new FTO variant featured a 63 mm throttle body bore as opposed to the 60 mm one on the GR. This helped to boost power to 178 hp at 7,000 rpm and gave a slight bump in performance with the 0 – 100 km/h (62 mph) time dropping to around 7 seconds. One other big change was that the GX featured both a 5-speed manual and a new 5-speed automatic transmission.

The MIVEC GPX model was given the facelift updates as well and also featured the option of either a five-speed manual or five-speed automatic transmission. Like the earlier GPX, the updated model was also given a MOMO steering wheel, leather shift knob, and a shift indicator for automatic cars.

The final models in the range were the GP versionR and the GP version Aero. These cars came with 16×6.5JJ aluminium wheels, a Ralliart muffler, Ralliart strut tower bars at the front and rear, high back sports seats, and a MOMO steering wheel amongst other things. The Aero version also received a larger rear spoiler and a twin SRS air bag system.

The End of the FTO

By July 2000 new side impact safety standards were introduced in Japan. This combined with the rather lacklustre sales of the FTO at the time lead to Mitsubishi ending production of the car. They decided against updating the car or introducing a new model.

Mitsubishi FTO Specifications

ModelGSGRGXGPX & GP versionR
Production Years1994 – 20001994 – 20001997 – 20001994 – 2000 (1996 – 2000 for GP versionR
LayoutFront-engine, front-wheel driveFront-engine, front-wheel driveFront-engine, front-wheel driveFront-engine, front-wheel drive
Engine/Engines1.8-litre 4G93 SOHC 16V I42.0-litre 6A12 DOHC 24V V62.0-litre 6A12 DOHC 24V V62.0-litre 6A12 DOHC 24V MIVEC V6
Power123 hp (92 kW) at 4,500 rpm168 hp (125 kW) at 7,000 rpm178 hp (133 kW) at 6,000 rpm197 hp (147 kW) at 7,500 rpm
Torque161 Nm (119 lb-ft) at 4,500 rpm186 Nm (137 lb-ft) at 4,000 rpm191 Nm (141 lb-ft) at 4,500 rpm200 Nm (148 lb-ft) at 6,000 rpm
Gearbox5-speed manual or 4-speed automatic5-speed manual or 4-speed automatic5-speed manual or 5-speed automatic5-speed manual or 4 or 5-speed automatic (4-speed on early GPX models)
Tyres 185/70R14195/60 R15205/50R16205/50 R16
Wheels14-inch15×6 inch16×6.5 inch16×6.5 inch
Suspension FrontMcPherson struts. Coil springs. Anti-roll barMcPherson struts. Coil springs. Anti-roll barMcPherson struts. Coil springs. Anti-roll barMcPherson struts. Coil springs. Anti-roll bar
Suspension RearMulti-link. Anti-roll bar.Multi-link. Anti-roll bar.Multi-link. Anti-roll bar.Multi-link. Anti-roll bar.
Weight1,100 kg (2,425 lbs) – MT

1,120 kg (2,469 lbs) – AT

1,150 kg (2,535 lbs) – MT

1,170 kg (2,579 lbs) – AT

1,150 kg (2,535 lbs) – MT

1,190 kg (2,624 lbs) – AT

1,170 kg (2,579 lbs)  – MT

1,190 kg (2,624 lbs)  – AT

Top speed180 km/h (112 mph) – limited180 km/h (112 mph) – limited180 km/h (112 mph) – limited180 km/h (112 mph) – limited

240 km/h (149 mph) – with limiter removed

0 – 100 km/h (62 mph)8.9 seconds7.4 seconds7 seconds6.6 seconds


Mitsubishi FTO Buyer’s Guide

Credit: Mitsubishi

Now that we have had a bit of a look at the history and the specifications of the Mitsubishi FTO, let’s have a look at what you need to know before purchasing one of these cars.

Arranging an Inspection of a Mitsubishi FTO

Below we have listed some things to keep in mind when setting up an inspection of a Mitsubishi FTO:

  • View the FTO in person or get a reliable third party to do so for you – This is a good idea as purchasing a used car sight unseen can be a quick way to have your wallet drained. While you may get lucky, many FTOs on the road today are in less than adequate condition and require extensive work to bring them back to an acceptable standard. If you simply can’t view the car yourself for whatever reason (distance, scheduling, etc.), get a reliable friend or third party to do so for you.
  • Bring along a helper or friend – It is always a good idea to bring somebody along with you to a used car inspection as they may be able to spot something you missed.
  • If possible, view the Mitsubishi FTO at the seller’s house or place of business – We recommend this for a couple of reasons with the first being so that you can get an idea of how and where the FTO has been stored. Secondly, you can check the roads that the car is regularly driven on. Rough roads with lots of potholes can play havoc with the suspension, steering, tyres and wheels, so keep that in mind.
  • Try to look at the FTO in the morning rather than later in the day – This really depends on you and the seller’s schedule, but if you can try to arrange an inspection for a time in the morning (earlier the better). By doing this you will give the seller less time to prepare the car and clean up any issues (such as a big oil leak). If the FTO is being sold at a dealer, just head down to their premises without letting them know prior. When you arrange an inspection, tell the seller that you don’t want the car driven or warmed up prior to your arrival. Warm engines can hide a multitude of sins, so be cautious.
  • Avoid inspecting a used car in the rain – Water can cover up a whole load of different issues with the bodywork and paint that may have been easy to spot on a sunny, dry day. While you can’t control the weather (or at least that’s what they used to say), you can go back for a second viewing of the Mitsubishi FTO if it was raining during your first look.
  • Watch out for freshly washed FTOs – If you go to an inspection and the Mitsubishi FTO you are interested in has just been washed (and still has water on it), it could be a sign that the seller is trying to hide an issue. Some sellers may clean the engine bay and underside of a vehicle to cover up issues such as leaking oil/fluid.
  • Get the seller to move their FTO outside if it is in a garage or showroom – Lighting in places such as garages and showrooms can cover up issues that direct sunlight may have revealed.

Where to Find a Mitsubishi FTO for Sale?

As the Mitsubishi FTO was only sold new in Japan it can be quite hard to find them for sale, depending on where you live in the world. While some FTOs have made their way to the United States, they are still few and far between.

New Zealand, Australia and the United Kingdom definitely have a lot more options when it comes to purchasing one of these cars. We recommend that you check on your local auction/classifieds websites (TradeMe, AutoTrader, ClassicCarsForSale, etc.) or dealers’ websites.

Another great place to find FTOs for sale is in Mitsubishi/FTO owners’ clubs. Clubs such as FTO OC UK, FTO Australia and Mitsubishi FTO Owners Club NZ consist of enthusiastic owners who tend to look after their cars a bit better (not always however). Even if you don’t plan on purchasing an FTO from an owner in one of these sorts of clubs, they are still worth checking out as they are a treasure trove of useful information and advice.

How Much Should I Spend on an FTO?

This really depends as a low mileage, late model GP versionR is going to be worth a lot more than an early GS that looks like it is on its last legs. Additionally, prices will vary depending on where you live in the world and whether or not the car is being sold by a dealer or private sale. With that in mind, we recommend that you jump on your local classifieds or dealers’ websites and check for FTOs for sale. You can then use these prices to work out roughly how much you need to spend for a specific condition/spec level.

Which Mitsubishi FTO Should I Get?

Credit: Mitsubishi

Without a doubt the MIVEC V6 equipped models are the ones to get (GPX, GP version, etc.) if you are looking for the best FTO. However, if you don’t mind a little less performance and “classic potential”, the GR or GX models are perfectly fine (preferably the GX). We would probably avoid purchasing a GS model ourselves as performance is a bit lacklustre and there really isn’t much potential for the value to increase (If you don’t care about either of those things GS models can be bought at extremely reasonable prices). One benefit of the GS is that insurance and running costs tend to be a bit cheaper.

Are Mitsubishi FTOs Expensive to Maintain?

Maintenance costs aren’t really any different from other low to mid-range Japanese sports cars from the era. Parts are still reasonably easy to find (although some are expensive to source), and you can do much of the work yourself on these cars, which will save a big chunk of cash.

Should I Get a Mechanic to Inspect a Mitsubishi FTO Prior to Purchase

While not completely necessary, it is usually a good idea to get a mechanic or specialist who has experience with FTOs to look at the one you are interested in prior to purchase. A good mechanic can give you a second opinion, and they will be able to run more tests than you can during a short inspection.

However, we probably wouldn’t bother taking the FTO to a mechanic if the price wasn’t too high and/or we weren’t looking for something that has a bit of classic potential.

Still, even if you do not plan to take the car to a mechanic before buying it, we recommend that you ask the seller if you can. If they seem funny or hesitant about it, it could be a sign that they are trying to hide an issue.

Beware of Non MIVEC Cars Being Advertised as MIVEC

It is not uncommon to find a less than dishonest buyer trying to pass off their GR or GX as a MIVEC equipped model. To determine what power unit is in the FTO you are inspecting, look at the oil cap. If its on the right side of the engine cover it is a standard 2.0-litre V6 and if it is on the left it is a MIVEC V6 (1.8-litre I4 engines also have the oil cap on the left). Some people have swapped MIVEC engines into lower tier models, but be mindful that the more powerful engine came with stronger front brakes. Check out the VIN information in the section below for more on how to determine exactly what model FTO you are looking at.

VIN/Chassis Number

Remember to check the VIN plate on the bulkhead at the back of the engine bay. Here’s a quick rundown of what the different letters signify:

Body Style

  • H – Coupe


  • N – 5-speed manual
  • R – 4-speed automatic
  • Y- 5-speed automatic


  • U – GS
  • H – GR
  • G – GPX
  • X – GX
  • F – GP


  • E – 1.8-litre 4G93 SOHC 16V I4
  • M – 2.0-litre 6A12 DOHC 24V V6
  • H – 2.0-litre 6A12 DOHC 24V MIVEC V6


Mitsubishi FTOs tend to be very robust and reliable cars, however, just like with any motor vehicle maintenance is key. If you suspect that the FTO you are inspecting has not been looked after properly and/or repeatedly thrashed, be cautious as you could be opening yourself up to a wallet wounding experience.

To begin your inspection of the engine, move to the front of the FTO and lift the bonnet/hood. Make sure that the catch works correctly and that the bonnet lifts smoothly. If you notice a problem here it could be a sign of accident damage.

Once you have done this give the engine bay a good general look over, keeping an eye out for any obvious problems such as leaking fluids, broken or missing components and any modifications (not necessarily a problem, but something that needs further inspection).

Many Mitsubishi FTOs have been modified and a good number of those have been fitted with poor quality aftermarket components or parts that are not suitable for the car. If the FTO you are looking at has been modified, try to get a list of parts that have been fitted and who did the tuning. Additionally, we also recommend you avoid any Mitsubishi FTO that is running excessive amounts of power.

A completely spotless engine bay is usually a sign of a good owner, however, it may also be a sign of somebody who is trying to cover something up (especially if it looks like the engine bay has just been washed.

Inspecting the Fluids

This can often be overlooked when inspecting a used vehicle, but we feel it is a very important thing to do. The condition of the engine oil and other fluids can tell you quite a bit about the health of a particular FTO and how it has been maintained. Additionally, if the fluids are too low or high it can lead to increased wear and potential even component/engine failure.

Make sure you have a look at the engine oil/dipstick and watch out for any metallic particles or grit as they could be a sign of a big problem. Additionally, watch out for any foam in the oil or on the dipstick. Foam in the oil can be caused by a range of different things from condensation in the oil to a leaking head gasket (especially if it is very thick and white), or an engine that has been overfilled with oil.

Talk to the seller about the service schedule for the Mitsubishi FTO and don’t forget to check the service history and any relevant documents as well (receipts, etc.). If the seller won’t produce the service history or can’t tell you much about how the car has been serviced and what has been done to it, we would be very cautious. A complete service history will only add value to the FTO if you decide to sell it in the future (however, it is becoming difficult to find these cars with a complete service history).

Make sure the oil and oil filter has been replaced every 7,500 to 10,000 km (4,700 to 6,200 miles) or so. Alternatively, if the car is not driven that much the oil should have been replaced every 6 to 12 months. Some owners like to do it earlier, which we only see as a good thing and shows that they care about their Mitsubishi FTO (however, not completely necessary as modern synthetics do last a long time).

Are Oil Leaks Common on Mitsubishi FTOs?

Even the newest FTO is now over 20 years old, so don’t be surprised to find that the majority of them you look at leak a bit of oil. The valve/rocker cover gasket is a common area for leaks, so keep an eye out for that. A replacement gasket is fairly cheap, but depending on who you go to the labour might be expensive (It can be done yourself if you are fairly practical). Leaks from the cam seals are also quite common as well.

It is important to check for oil leaks both before and after a test drive as that spotless engine bay may not be so spotless after a trip around the block. Don’t forget to check the ground underneath the FTO and watch out for any dripping oil. If you notice puddles of oil underneath the Mitsubishi FTO you are inspecting it is best to walk away. While it could be an easy fix (something like an incorrectly installed oil filter), it could also be a sign of major trouble. If it was an easy fix the seller/owner probably would have got it sorted before putting the FTO on the market.

Do the Engines Fitted to the FTO Use a Timing Chain or Belt?

All the engines in the FTO range use a timing belt instead of a chain, so it is important to make sure that it has been replaced at around 80,000 to 100,000 km (50,000 to 62,000 miles). Both the four and six-cylinder power units are interference engines, so if the belt breaks it could lead to some pretty nasty damage and expensive repair bills. The following components should have been replaced along with the timing belt:

  • Idler pulley
  • Tensioner pulley
  • Water pump
  • hydraulic tensioner
  • Fuel filter

If the belt has not been changed in a long time or it is well past the recommended mileage for a change, it suggests poor maintenance and you should be thinking what other areas of the car have not been looked after properly. If the belt needs to be changed soon and you still want to purchase the Mitsubishi FTO, make sure you get a good discount.

Checking the Cooling System on a Mitsubishi FTO

Cooling problems should be one of your biggest concerns when purchasing a used car. A failure of the cooling system in an FTO can lead to serious damage and possibly even total engine failure. Here are some of the main components that make up the cooling system in a Mitsubishi FTO:

  • Radiator – removes heat from the water/coolant
  • Thermostat – sends water/coolant that is hotter than the target temperature to the radiator to be cooled
  • Water Pump – belt that is driven from a pulley. Pushes water/coolant through the engine
  • Overflow or Expansion tank – removes air from the system and provides a filling point for the coolant
  • Coolant Lines – hoses that allow water/coolant to remain contained as it moves through the engine/cooling system

Take a good look at the expansion/coolant tank and don’t forget to check the coolant lines themselves (as much of them as you can see). Check for any leaks or crusted coolant as that many be a sign of a past leak.

Like we mentioned earlier with oil, it is a good idea to check for coolant leaks both before and after a test drive. Once you have conducted a test drive of the FTO you are interested in, wait around 10 to 15 minutes and recheck for any coolant leaks. Do a smell test as well as while you may not be able to see a coolant leak, you may be able to smell it (sweet aroma). Another thing to do is to check the coolant height both before and after a test drive. If the FTO you are driving heats up in heavy traffic but cools once you get some airflow, it is probably down to low coolant from a leak.

It is recommended that you replace the radiator cap every five years or so in an FTO as the seals can failure (check to see if the owner has replaced it). A failed radiator cap can cause similar symptoms to a failed head gasket (more on that below), so it is a cheap first step before diving into expensive repair work. If the radiator cap is replaced and the FTO still has issues and bubbles in the coolant, then the head gasket has probably failure.

Another thing to watch out for is water pump failure, especially if it has been a while since it was last replaced. Here are some common symptoms of a failed water pump:

  • Whining noises
  • Coolant leaks
  • Overheating

Common Signs of Overheating & Other Issues

Here are some things to watch out for that may indicate cooling issues such as a blown head gasket:

  • The FTO’s temperature gauge on that is on the high side
  • Bubbles in the radiator or coolant overflow tank
  • White and milky oil
  • Spark plugs that are fouled (if you or probably a mechanic can get a look at them)
  • Low cooling system integrity
  • Smell of coolant from the oil
  • Sweet smell from the FTO’s exhaust
  • White smoke from the exhaust pipe (especially if you see lots of it)
  • Steam from the front of the Mitsubishi FTO

Some of these issues are more serious than others but be very cautious if you notice any of them. Walk away from a Mitsubishi FTO that is displaying multiple of the above. If for whatever reason you are still interested in a Mitsubishi FTO that is displaying these issues, do not purchase the car until you can get it checked out (these issues are personally a no from us).

Checking the Exhaust on a Mitsubishi FTO

Remember to have a good look at as much of the exhaust system as possible, checking for the following:

  • Corrosion – The original FTO exhausts can rot, especially in places like the United Kingdom. Cheap mild steel aftermarket exhausts will also rust, so be mindful of that. A good stainless steel exhaust shouldn’t have any issues with corrosion. Remember to make sure that the mounting hardware has not rusted as well.
  • Damage – Watch out for any dings, dents, scrapes etc. Check that the mounts/hangers are in good condition as they are a common failure point – makes the tailpipes wobble all over the place
  • Poor quality repairs – Always be mindful of a quick fix that may have been done to get the FTO up to a saleable condition
  • Low rumbling, scraping and rattling noises – May indicate an issue with the exhaust or could be caused by some other problem.
  • Smell of fuel/gas –if you smell fumes inside the cabin, it is a sign that there could be an issue with the exhaust.

Aftermarket Exhausts

Japanese owners love to fit aftermarket exhausts to their cars, so don’t be surprised if you find that many of the FTOs you look at have non-stock exhausts. Be mindful of the fact that some aftermarket exhausts are not legal in certain countries. If the Mitsubishi FTO you are looking at has an aftermarket exhaust, try to find out the manufacturer/builder. Check any reviews you can find to make sure it is a good one. Watch out for HKS exhausts as the baffles often rust and the joints corrode.

Switching on a Mitsubishi FTO for the First Time

We recommend that you get the seller/owner to start the Mitsubishi FTO for you for the first time for the following two reasons.

  • So you can have a look at what comes out the back of the FTO when it is first started
  • If the seller revs the car hard when it is cold you know to move onto another FTO as they probably haven’t treated their one properly

Don’t forget to turn on and off the FTO yourself a number of times during the inspection/test drive. It is also very important to check what warning lights come up when the car is started. If no warning lights appear it could be a sign that they have been disconnected to hide an issue. Alternatively, if the CEL (Check Engine Light) stays on for example, it is important to find out the cause of the issue.

What Should the Idle Speed be on a Mitsubishi FTO?

Expect the idle speed to fall in the 700 to 800 rpm range, but it may be slightly over or under. Don’t be worried if the idle speed is a bit higher when the car is first started, but it should drop once the engine is up to temperature. Additionally, when you turn on the air conditioning you should find that the idle speed increases.

If the car is experiencing rough, very low or very high idle, it could be caused by a whole range of different factors from an incorrectly adjusted accelerator cable to dirty idle control valves/sensors (common one) or a vacuum leak and much more. Be cautious of any Mitsubishi FTO with idle issues as if it was a simple fix the owner probably would have got it sorted before putting the car on the market.

Noisy Tappets

Listen for a tapping noise from the top of the engine as this could be down to the tappets. Its not a major issue but can be annoying. Sometimes switching to a fully synthetic oil will fix or reduce the issue. If it doesn’t or the FTO is already running on fully synthetic oil, the tappets may need adjusting. Alternatively, it may be a sign of another issue (however, it is most likely the tappets). Adjusting the tappets is a bit of a pain, so try to get a discount if you notice this problem.

Bad Battery

Bad batteries seem to be a fairly common issue, so watch out for slow turnover and dimming of the lights when revving. Check to see when the battery was last replaced and if it was a long time ago use that to your advantage when it comes to negotiating the price.

Bad Engine Mounts

Motor mounts will eventually need to be replaced, so it is a good idea to check if/when they were last changed. Here are some of the main things to watch out for:

  • Clunking, banging, or other impact sounds that are a result of engine movement
  • Excessive vibrations
  • Engine movement – rev the car and see if the engine moves excessively

Tips While on a Test Drive

When checking the engine on a test drive, make sure you wait until it is fully warmed up before giving it a load of beans. Check how the Mitsubishi FTO responds under both light and hard acceleration. It is a good idea to leave the windows open so you can get a better listen to the sound of the engine and any potential issues that may have been muffled by the cabin.

Smoke From a Mitsubishi FTO

As we mentioned earlier, ask the seller to start the FTO for you for the first time. Position yourself at the rear of the vehicle and hold up a white piece of paper/towel (if you have one) in front of the exhaust tailpipes. Once the FTO has been started, have a look at the towel/paper to see how much soot is on it. A small amount of soot is perfectly fine, but large amounts indicate a problem (tuned cars that are running richer usually produce more soot).

Don’t be concerned if you notice a small amount of exhaust vapour on engine start as this is usually just condensation in the exhaust system. If the vapour is very thick and white or you notice lots of smoke, walk away. Here are what the different colours of smoke indicate:

White smoke – Lots of thick white/grey smoke from a Mitsubishi FTO’s exhaust indicates that water has made its way into the cylinders due to a blown/leaking head gasket. Give the exhaust a good whiff and if it smells sweet, it is probably coolant. If the smoke is very thick and doesn’t dissipate quickly it could be sign that the block or cylinder head is cracked/broken.

Blue/Grey smoke – This colour smoke could be caused by a whole range of things including warn pistons rings, valve seals, and more. The smoke occurs because oil gets into the cylinders and burns with the air/fuel mixture. To test for this colour smoke during a drive, get somebody to follow you while you are in the FTO. Take the engine through its rev range and see what comes out the back. If you don’t have a helper, get the owner to drive for a bit while you look out the back.

Black smoke – This sort of smoke is usually a sign that the engine is running too rich and burning too much fuel. There are quite a few things that could be causing this issue from something like dirty intake components to incorrect spark timing, problems with the fuel injectors and more. If the exhaust smells of fuel, the engine is almost certainly running too rich.

Rebuilt or Replaced Engines

Given the age of these cars, many of them are now running rebuilt or replaced engines. There is nothing wrong with this as long as the rebuild or replacement was done by somebody who is experienced with the FTO and knew what they were doing. Find out who did the work on the Mitsubishi FTO and check any reviews/feedback. If it was a “home mechanic” job, be cautious, as while there are many very competent home mechanics, there are also plenty of ones with more ambition than skill.

We always recommend that you ask the seller/owner why the engine was rebuilt or replaced – was it simply due to mileage? Did the timing belt break?

Another thing to keep in mind is that it is better to avoid FTOs with freshly rebuilt or replaced engines as they are a bit of an unknown. An FTO with around 10,000 km (6,200 miles) is going to be a much safer bet than one that has only travelled a couple of hundred kilometres on a rebuilt or replaced engine.

Getting a Compression/Leakdown Test Done

If you are looking to find a really good example, it is often a good idea to get a leakdown/compression test done before purchase. These sorts of tests are handy tools to help you determine the condition of a particular Mitsubishi FTO’s engine. If you plan to take the FTO to a mechanic prior to purchase, we recommend that you get one of these tests done.

Some owners will get a compression test done before sale and put the results in the advertisement. The most important thing with the results is to make sure that they are all roughly the same (within around 10% of each other).


Credit: Mitsubishi

The Mitsubishi FTO was fitted with either a 5-speed manual transmission, a 4-speed auto or a 5-speed auto. Let’s start by looking at the manual transmission.

Manual Gearbox

Mitsubishi’s 5-speed manual transmission fitted to the FTO is fairly robust and reliable, however, these cars are getting on a bit. Make sure you go through all of the gears at both low and high engine speeds, and don’t forget to check reverse. Some owners have found that the transmission in their FTO pops out of gear (usually fifth) when giving the engine a few revs, so check this. Luckily its not a very common problem, but if you do find an FTO that does this it could need some expensive transmission work (problem is usually caused by bad synchros or a bent shift rod).

Bad synchros can be an issue on FTOs that have had a hard life/thrashed, so check for grinding on both upshift and downshifts. If the grinding/graunching seems really bad a transmission rebuild or replacement is probably necessary. Another thing to check is to see how the transmission performs when conducting a hill start.

It is usually recommended that the transmission fluid be replaced every 50,000 to 100,000 km (31,000 to 62,000 miles). Some owners like to do it more frequently, which we only see as a good thing. If it doesn’t look like the transmission fluid has been replaced at any point, we would be a bit cautious. See this guide for more on how to change the gearbox oil on a manual Mitsubishi FTO.

Making Sure the Clutch is Functioning Properly

The clutch is a wear item and will eventually need to be replaced. However, it is preferable to buy an FTO with plenty of life left in the clutch, so here are some things to watch out for.

Clutch Engagement – The first step is to make sure the engagement is good. To do this put the Mitsubishi FTO you are inspecting into gear on a level surface and let the clutch out slowly. It should engage around 7 to 10 cm (2.5 to 4 inches) from the floor. Engagement that is early or too late indicates a problem.

Clutch Slippage – The best way to test for this problem is to shift into a gear that is too high for the speed you are going. You should notice that the engine bogs down a bit (don’t do this on a regular basis). The next thing to do is to accelerate. If you notice that the tachometer goes up out of relation to the speedometer and/or you notice jerkiness it suggests that the clutch is slipping.

Clutch Drag – Get the Mitsubishi FTO on a flat surface and press the clutch pedal to the floor (do this while you are stationary). Rev the car hard (once it is warm) and see If it moves. If the car does move, the clutch is not disengaging when you shift and parts will wear prematurely.

Clutch Shudder – This is usually noticeable when you accelerate from a stop. A small amount is perfectly normal, but an excessive amount is a sign that the release bearings need to be lubricated.

Automatic Transmissions

The automatic transmissions fitted to the Mitsubishi FTO are known to have a few more problems than the 5-speed manual, but they still tend to be very robust and reliable if maintained properly. One of the biggest things to watch out for is a badly done de-restriction which can cause some issues with the Tiptronic system (don’t forget to check that the upshift and downshift selectors work).  

Apart from that keep an eye and an ear out for any clunking, knocking or whining noises, which could indicate some serious issues with the transmission. Make sure that the transmission shifts smoothly under both light and hard acceleration and don’t forget to check reverse as well. Test all of the positions of the transmission. A clunking sound when shifting and the car is in motion could be the gearbox or motor mounts (see when they were last replaced). As with the manual transmission, the fluid in both the automatic gearboxes should have been replaced fairly regularly.

Steering & Suspension

Credit: Mitsubishi

The FTO is known to have pretty good cornering abilities, but with the age of these cars, more than a few of them are running about on clapped out suspension and steering components. Try to visually inspect as many of the suspension and steering components as you can get a look at. Watch out for any leaks, modifications, wear and/or damage. It can be handy to bring along a torch/flashlight and a mirror to get a better look at hard-to-see areas. Badly corroded suspension wishbones are a major problem as getting replacements is incredibly difficult.

Worn anti-roll bar suspension bushes are a very common issue, so listen out for a knocking sound over bumps (problem is even more common on FTOs that have been driven hard). Many suspension and steering components will need to be replaced at or around the 160,000 km (100,000 mile) mark, but this does really depend on how and where the FTO has been driven and how it has been maintained. Here is a checklist of somethings to watch out for when testing and inspecting the suspension components:

  • Dipping and swerving when the brakes are applied
  • Excessive Rear-end squat during acceleration and rear end wobble over bumps
  • Tipping during cornering
  • High speed instability
  • Delayed or longer stopping distances
  • Uneven tyre wear
  • Excessive bounce after hitting a bump or when pushing down on the suspension (trailing arm bushes)
  • Leaking fluid on the exterior of the shock/strut
  • Sagging or uneven suspension
  • Knocking, clunking or creaking sounds during a test drive – usually the anti-roll bar bushes on these cars, but may be something else.
  • Rattles – drive over some bumps – there should be no noise from the suspension components (however, you may hear some rattles from something in the cabin).
  • Clicking sounds (especially at full lock) – usually a bad CV joint as this is a very common issue. However, clicking sounds may also indicate something like a bad wheel bearing as well

If the Mitsubishi FTO you are inspecting has been fitted with aftermarket suspension, check to make sure you are happy with the ride quality. Aftermarket suspension can often be setup too hard for regular road use, making for an uncomfortable ride. Additionally, find out the brand/manufacturer and check any relevant reviews.

Checking the Wheel Alignment

Find yourself a nice flat and straight section of road to check the wheel alignment. Make sure the Mitsubishi FTO runs straight with minimal wheel corrections. Uneven wheel alignment can lead to excessive/uneven tyre wear, resulting in more frequent tyre changes and expense to you. Additionally, bad wheel alignment can impact the driving dynamics of a car and even make the driving experience less safe.

Most of the time a simple realignment is all that is needed, however, in some cases bad wheel alignment can be a sign of serious suspension/steering issues or even accident damage.

Inspecting the Wheels & Tyres

Don’t forget to have a good look at the wheels and tyres. The odd scrape and scratch on the rims is to be expected, but if the wheels look like a cheese grater it is a sign that the FTO has been owned by somebody a bit careless.  

Many FTOs have been fitted with aftermarket wheels, but it is worth asking the seller/owner if they have the originals. If they don’t, try to use that to get a little bit of a discount. Here’s a quick guide to what size rims and tyres were fitted to each model when new.

ModelGSGRGXGPX & GP versionR
Tyres 185/70R14195/60 R15205/50R16205/50 R16
Wheels14-inch15×6 inch16×6.5 inch16×6.5 inch

The tyres can tell you quite a bit of information about how the Mitsubishi FTO you are inspecting has been maintained and driven, so check for the following:

  • Amount of tread – If there is minimal tread left try to get a discount as you will need to get the tyres replaced in the near future.
  • Uneven wear – Wear should be even between the right and left tyres on the Mitsubishi FTO. Additionally, make sure wear is even across the tyre itself.
  • Brand – They should be from a good or well-reviewed brand – if they are from a poorly reviewed brand it suggests that the owner has cheaped out on maintenance.
  • Same tyre – in terms of tyre make, type and tread pattern on each axle (preferably on all four wheels) – mismatched tyres can lead to poor handling performance and may even be dangerous.


Credit: order_242

The brakes are going to be one of your primary areas of concern as the standard discs are prone to warping. Shuddering/shaking through the pedal and/or steering wheel when the brakes are on is indicative of this problem. The issue usually becomes first apparent under high-speed braking, so make sure you do some high to low-speed runs.

If the brakes feel weak or spongy there is an issue as they should be more than adequate for road use. However, those that track their FTOs or want a bit more out of their car often upgrade the brakes (VR4, Evo, Outlander brakes are popular upgrade options).

Make sure you visually inspect the brakes, checking for any wear, damage, modifications, etc. If the pads and rotors need to be replaced in the near future make sure you get a discount on the Mitsubishi FTO. Additionally, check with the owner and in the service history to see if the brake fluid has been replaced every two years or so.

Don’t forget to check the handbrake as a problem here could be embarrassing or even dangerous if it fails. It is a good idea to test the handbrake on a steep incline if you can find one. Additionally, listen out for any squealing, rumbling or clunking sounds when the brakes are in use as this could indicate anything from worn/bad pads to disc issues and more.

Seized/stuck brakes is a possibility, especially if the Mitsubishi FTO has not been driven after being washed. Here are some signs of the problem:

  • Mitsubishi FTO pulls to one side (may even happen when the brakes are not in use)
  • Car feels low on power as if the parking/handbrake is on (could also be a sign of something else as well)
  • Brakes get extremely hot and produce a distinctive acrid smell and in some cases smoke
  • You find that the Mitsubishi FTO doesn’t want to move at all
  • Loud thud-like noise when pulling away for the first time

Body and Exterior of a Mitsubishi FTO

Bodywork problems can be a nightmare to fix and more than a few FTOs have major exterior issues. Make sure you are happy with the bodywork and paint, and don’t let the seller distract you from your inspection. Here are some things to watch out for:


Unfortunately, rust does seem to be quite an issue on Mitsubishi FTOs and is often the killer of these cars. Rust/corrosion can form pretty much anywhere, but here are some of the main areas to watch out for:

  • Roof – especially near the front windscreen
  • Sills and bumpers
  • Wheel arches or wheel wells (especially at the rear)
  • Suspension turrets and behind and underneath the relay box
  • Chassis rails
  • Suspension wishbones
  • Mounting hardware on underside

Try to find out if the FTO you are looking at was rust proofed when it was imported from Japan. Additionally, check to see if it has had any additionally rust proofing applied since then. We would be extremely cautious of any FTO that hasn’t been rust proofed, especially if you live in a country like the United Kingdom.

What Can Make Rust More Likely to Appear?

  • FTO has spent time in areas or countries with salted roads (United Kingdom for example)
  • Car has spent time in areas with very harsh winters
  • Vehicle is often parked/stored by the sea for significant periods of time
  • Always kept outside (never garaged)
  • Accident damage (stone chips or more significant damage)
  • Parts or things rubbing on the bodywork
  • Old or no underseal

Looking for Rust Repairs

It is not only important to look for present rust, but you should also keep an eye out for signs of past rust repair (mismatched paint, paint overspray etc.). Watch out for any areas that may have been resprayed or cut out and replaced. You should also check the service history and with the owner (however, don’t trust what the owner says completely as they may be trying to hide something from you).

Use a magnet on steel sections of the car (cover it with a cloth so you don’t damage the paintwork) or a coating gauge thickness tool such as this one to find any areas that may have been repaired.

Accident Damage

Crash damage is a major problem, especially as many FTOs have found there way into the hands of drivers with more enthusiasm than skill.

Many owners and sellers will lie and try to cover up accident damage. In some cases, people will even claim that their vehicle hasn’t been in an accident when it clearly has. Here are some of the main things to watch out for:

  • Misaligned panels or large panel gaps – Check that the bonnet lines up correctly and fits as it should. Additionally, check the bonnet catches as if they look new the car has probably been in an accident. You should also check the doors and the lights for any damage or signs of past damage.
  • Doors that drop or don’t close properly – If the doors drop or don’t open/close properly the Mitsubishi FTO you are inspecting may have been in an accident.
  • Inconsistencies such as waving, rippling or different coloured panels – Indicates a respray which may have been conducted as a result of accident damage or rust.
  • If the bonnet/hood looks like it is popped when it is not – This may indicate that the Mitsubishi FTO you are inspecting has been crashed into something (even a light knock can cause this problem).
  • Damage to the mounting supports for the headlights – This is very difficult to fix if the car has been in an accident, so watch out for this.
  • Bent or broken parts underneath the car – Check to see if everything is straight underneath the Mitsubishi FTO and watch out for any replaced parts or parts that are different from one side to the other. Take a good look at all the suspension, steering and exhaust components for damage.
  • Rust in strange locations – Is often a sign of crash damage on a Mitsubishi FTO
  • Paint runs or overspray – Could be a factory issue, but more likely due to a respray
  • Missing badges or trim – Could be due to repair work (body shop couldn’t find replacements) or a number of other things (stolen, etc.).

Accident damage shouldn’t necessarily put you off a Mitsubishi FTO, unless the damage was clearly very serious and/or the repairs are poor. If the damage was light to moderate and repairs were done by a skilled panel beater/body shop, the FTO is probably okay to buy. However, it is a good idea to use the repairs/accident as a way to get a bit of a discount and you may want to get the repairs checked out.

If the owner/seller tries to cover up or lie about the accident it suggests that the problem is worse than first appears. Alternatively, if the owner can’t tell you much about the accident/damage it may have happened when a previous person owner the vehicle.


Credit: Mitsubishi

There’s not too much to worry about when it comes to the interior, but expect to find that more than a few FTOs have interiors in less than satisfactory condition (more of an age and care related issue). Expect the odd rattle, squeak and buzz, especially if you are going down any rough roads.

Have a good look at the seats and check for an rips, stains or scuffs. Getting the seat material replaced is possible, but depending on where you are in the world and who you take the car to, it can be quite expensive. Make sure the seats are nice and firm and that they don’t move during acceleration and/or braking. If they, do it is incredibly dangerous and will be an MOT/WOF failure. Don’t forget to check that the seat adjustments work as well.

If you notice excessive amounts of wear on the seats, steering wheel, carpets, shifter and pedals for the mileage it may be a sign that the Mitsubishi FTO has had a particularly hard life.

Rattling glass is a common issue and is usually down to badly adjusted or worn window guides.

Another thing to be on the lookout for is any leaks or dampness in the cabin. If leaks are left unchecked it can lead to a nasty odour and possibly even rust formation. Check the around the headlining and feel the carpets as well. Make sure you check in the trunk/boot and inspect the underside of the floor mats. If they have water residue on them it may be a sign of a past or present leak.

Make sure you have a look at the headlining above the driver’s seat. If it is a slightly different colour it may be a sign that the Mitsubishi FTO you are inspecting has been owned by a smoker. A smell test will also help you determine whether or not this is the case as well.

Air Conditioning, Electronics, Locks, etc.

The big one to watch out for here is the air conditioning as if it is not used regularly it will fail. It is often recommended that you turn on the air con at least once a week to keep proper function (ask the seller/owner if they do this). Make sure cold air comes out of the system and if it doesn’t, don’t let the seller convince you it just needs a re-gas as it could be something more serious like a compressor.

Don’t forget to check that all of the electronics and systems work as intended. Have a play with all the different knobs, dials and switches around the cabin. If you do come across an electrical issue it could be expensive to fix. Additionally, check that all the locks, windows and keys work properly as well (also check that the owner has the original keys the car came with.

The central locking is particularly prone to failing, so test it thoroughly. If the car has been fitted with an aftermarket immobiliser, make sure that works as well as they can be a nightmare when they go wrong.

General Car Buying Advice for a Mitsubishi FTO

Credit: Mitsubishi

How to Get the Best Deal on an FTO

This information applies to both dealers and private sealers. Knowledge is power and it can save you a lot of money when purchasing a vehicle.

  1. Research heavily – Prior to starting your search for a Mitsubishi FTO, figure out what specs and condition you are happy with. Do you want a low mileage GP version or do you not mind a base GS that has travelled a bit further.
  2. Shop around – It is always best to shop around a bit before you make a purchase. Mitsubishi sold a fair few of these cars, so there are plenty out there in different levels of condition and mileage, so don’t limit yourself to one seller, dealer, area or auction platform.
  3. Go look at and test drive multiple Mitsubishi FTO – It is a good idea to test drive a many cars as possible, so you know what makes a good and what makes a bad Mitsubishi FTO.
  4. Adjust your attitude – Never rush into a purchase. If you are desperate to buy a car you are more likely to get ripped off. Take your time when looking for a Mitsubishi FTO for sale and only go for promising looking cars.
  5. Use any issues with the car to your advantage – Take a mental note of any issues you find with the vehicle. When it comes to discussing the price, use these problems to try and drive down the price. For example, if the car needs new tyres or brake pads make a point of it and try to get the seller to reduce the price.
  6. Don’t trust the owner – While some owners/sellers are honest about their cars, many will lie to get a quick sale. Take in what the owner has to say but back it up with a thorough inspection.
  7. Go between sellers/dealers – If you are looking at multiple Mitsubishi FTO, let the owner/seller know. This way they will know that you have other options and they may try to undercut the price.
  8. Be prepared to walk away – If you are not happy with the deal, simply walk away. You may miss out on the car or the seller may get back to you with a better offer.

Mileage vs Condition 

Mileage vs condition is always a hot topic for debate, but we feel that it is always better to buy on condition and then on mileage. Lots of owners make the mistake of believing that they are preserving their car by not driving it. In reality, this is completely false and not driving a vehicle can actually do more damage than good.

Short distance trips do not allow the engine to warm up properly, which can lead to increased component wear and reduced engine life.

Rubber seals and plastic parts will fail regardless of mileage and can even deteriorate quicker on cars that don’t get used often. Letting a car sit will not prevent rust or stop the electronics from failing.

Service History and Other Documentation

It is incredibly important to check any vehicle’s service history and any additional paperwork that goes along with it. While the servicing doesn’t need to be done at a dealer, it should be carried out by a competent Mitsubishi specialist or mechanic (especially for major repair work). Home mechanic work is okay, but it is much harder to gauge the competence of a home mechanic than checking reviews for established businesses.

The service history will give you a good idea of how the Mitsubishi FTO you are inspecting has been maintained. In addition to this, receipts and paperwork for modifications (if the car has any) can help you determine whether they have been done by an experienced tuner or a bad one.

If the owner can’t or won’t let you see the service history, you should probably pass on the vehicle. A complete service history will only add value to any vehicle your purchase and will make it easier to sell the car in the future.

Additionally, you can check websites such as CarFax (USA) and CarJam (NZ) for more information about the car you are thinking of purchasing. These sort of websites can be incredibly useful, but there is usually a cost associated with them.

Questions That You Should Ask the Seller/Owner 

  • How often do you drive the car?
  • When was the last service and who was it serviced by?
  • How much oil does it use?
  • What oil do you use in the car?
  • What parts have been replaced?
  • When was the timing belt and water pump last replaced?
  • When were the coils, spark plugs, leads changed?
  • What’s the compression like?
  • What modifications have been made to the vehicle?
  • Has the vehicle overheated at any point or has the head gasket failed?
  • Has the car been in any major or minor accidents? Is so, what repairs were made?
  • Is there any money owing on the car?
  • Have you got any information on the previous owners and how they treated the vehicle?
  • How are the speakers
  • Is there any rust?
  • Has rust been removed at any point?
  • When were the brake pads replaced and have the calipers seized at any point in time?
  • Where do you store/park the car usually?

There are loads more questions you can ask the seller, but we feel these are some of the most important.

Things That Would Make Us Walk Away from a Mitsubishi FTO

Credit: order_242

Here are some things that would make as walk away from one of these cars. While you may be happy with a vehicle with these problems, we are not.

  • Overheating problems or blown head gasket
  • Significant Crash Damage or poorly repaired roof
  • Money owing on the car
  • Stanced
  • Modifications with no paperwork or carried out by a poorly reviewed tuner
  • Excessive amounts of power
  • Bad compression
  • Bad resprays
  • Significant rust problems
  • Engine swaps with non-standard engines
  • Significant track use
  • Major engine or transmission issues
  • Owner who is not forthcoming with information (could be trying to hide something)

Notes on the Owner 

The owner is one of the most important things to think about when viewing any vehicle. You need to ask them plenty of questions when inspecting their Mitsubishi FTO (however, don’t trust their answers completely). Remember, it is your problem if you wind up buying an absolute lemon. Here are some things to watch out for.

  • How long have they owned the vehicle? If it is less than 6 months it tends to suggest that the car needs major work done to it that they can’t afford. It also could be a sign that they deal cars as well.
  • Do they thrash the car when it is cold or continually launch the vehicle? If so, you are better to walk away.
  • Why are they selling the vehicle? Could be a genuine reason or they may be trying to offload their problem onto an unsuspecting buyer.
  • What sort of area do they live in? Is it a good area or a complete dump?
  • How do they respond when you ask them simple questions?
  • Do they know anything about the Mitsubishi FTO and the model they are selling (GS, GR, GPX, etc.).
  • What can they tell you about previous owners?
  • Do they have lots of cars on their drive? If they do it may mean they are a dealer.
  • What is their reaction when you ask them about money owing on the car? Tell them you are going to do a check and see how they respond.
  • What is their reaction to you asking for details for HPi check?
  • How do they react if you ask to do a compression test on the vehicle?
  • How do they respond when you ask them to show you the service history and paperwork for the car?

If you get a bad feeling about the owner, you are better off moving onto another Mitsubishi FTO.

Importing a Mitsubishi FTO from Japan

The Mitsubishi FTO was only sold new in Japan and while many have been exported, there are still lots available in the land of the rising sun.

How to Import a Mitsubishi FTO from Japan

While importing a Mitsubishi FTO from Japan may seem a bit daunting, it is actually relatively simple. The first thing we recommend you do is to Google search something like “import Mitsubishi FTO”. You will be greeted with loads of different websites to choose from. These websites will let you search for one of these cars based on their age, generation, condition, price and more.

Most of the websites/companies you encounter should be based in Japan, but you may find some other ones that are located in different parts of the world.

Make sure you check reviews/feedback of any website or auction house you want to use. While you are unlikely to get completely scammed, many of these websites will be economical with the truth about a vehicle. We have listed a few examples of Japanese importers/exporters below:

JDM Expo – Is an independent subsidiary of Nikko Auto Co., which is recognized as on the most reliable exporters of Japanese cars in the country.

Car From Japan – is another large portal for connecting overseas buyers with Japanese second hand cars.

Japan Partner – Is one of the fastest growing exporters of used Japanese vehicles.

Note: many of these sorts of websites do not provide a grade or auction check sheet. The grade, auction check sheet, and car map are vital to picking a good car. Buyer beware!

Use a Private Importer

While the websites above are a handy way to give you a general idea of what to expect when importing a Mitsubishi FTO, we recommend that you go with a private importer. A trusted private importer will be able to find a suitable Mitsubishi FTO for you and import it, saving you the hassle. While it may cost you a bit more (sometimes it is cheaper) you are more likely to get a better vehicle.

You can get a full explanation of why we recommend using a private importer here.

How Does the Japanese Car Grading System Work? 

The auction houses and car exporters in Japan all get their vehicles in roughly the same way. The difference between them is how much support they are willing to provide, how honest they are, and how they grade their vehicles

They will provide what is known as an ‘auction check sheet’ – a document that contains most of what you need to know about the vehicle. As you can’t see the vehicle personally, you will have to rely on the check sheet and other information on the listing to make a decision. If the seller/website is not willing to provide you with an auction check sheet or additional information on the car, don’t proceed any further.

Before you make a purchase you need to learn how to read an auction check sheet. The sheet contains information on the make, model, condition, specifications and any other notes. There will be a grade on the sheet that denotes the overall grade of the vehicle.

While the grade on a check sheet is important, you should not rely on it to make a final decision. Different companies have different methods for grading their vehicles, so a grade 4 for one company may be a grade 3.5 for another.

Some websites may use a different grading system and if you can’t view the auction check sheet, you should contact the seller/exporter.

Use the grade to reduce the number of Mitsubishi FTOs you are looking at and then use the check sheet and additionally information to make a decision. We also recommend you pay a third party to check out the car for you if possible (hence the recommendation for a private importer).

The Auction Check Sheet 

Below you can see an example of an auction check sheet. The grade is located in the top right corner of the check sheet. You will notice that there is both a letter and a number grade. The number indicates the overall condition of the vehicle, while the letter shows you the interior grade. At the bottom right of the check sheet is the ‘car map’. The car map tells you information about the exterior of a Mitsubishi FTO and where any problems are located.

Additionally, the sheet contains information about the specs of the vehicle and any modifications (major or minor). The inspector may also write some additional notes about the car.

What Does the Number Grade Mean? 
  • Grade 7 to 9 or S– New car with delivery miles.
  • Grade 6– Same as above but with a few more miles.
  • Grade 5– Vehicle is in excellent condition with low miles.
  • Grade 4.5– Overall condition is great, but may have up to 100,000 miles on the clock.
  • Grade 4– Overall condition is good, but can have low or high miles.
  • Grade 3.5– Similar to grade 4, but some work may be needed and they usually have more miles.
  • Grade 3– Can be the same condition as grade 3.5, but with more miles. Alternatively, the car may have lower miles but require more work.
  • Grade 2– Very poor condition car and may have significant mechanical or exterior issues. Not necessarily a right off, but you would have to be a brave buyer to purchase one of these.
  • Grade 1– Is modified in some way (can be extensive or something simple).
  • Grade 0, A, R, RA– Some repair history that can be major or minor.
The Letter Grade

As we wrote earlier, the number grade is usually accompanied by a letter that indicates the interior grade. An ‘A’ indicates that the interior is in exceptional or good condition. A ‘B’ indicates that the car is in average condition, while a ‘C’ displays that it is in poor condition. Grades below C show that the car’s interior is in very poor condition.

The Car Map 

The check sheet will also contain what is called a “car map”, which tells you all the information you need to know about the exterior condition of the car. It will show the location of any problems or damage to the vehicle. Any problems are indicated by a letter and a number. The letter tells you what the issue is and the number indicates the severity. You can read more about the car map in our “How to Import a Car from Japan” guide.

Our Guidelines for Importing a Mitsubishi FTO from Japan

  • Always demand to see and have the auction check sheet before making a purchase
  • If you can’t read Japanese or the company won’t provide a translated check sheet, get help from somebody who speaks/reads Japanese.
  • Try to go through a private importer
  • Check that the chassis number on the check sheet matches the one on the frame
  • Cross reference the check sheet with other websites
  • Don’t rely on the grade (always check the auction sheet thoroughly)
  • Investigate each website/service thoroughly (reviews, feedback, etc.)
  • Be careful of heavily modified vehicles
  • Get someone to inspect the car for you if possible. Ask for photos and get a good run down of the condition.
  • Avoid cars with unknown mileages
  • Stay away from bargains that seem to be too good to be true
  • Stay away from grade 0, A, RA, R vehicles that have been involved in accidents
Know Your Country’s Importation Laws 

Always make sure you check your country’s importation laws as you may find you can’t bring the vehicle you want in. For example, some countries have certain restrictions on importing cars under a certain age.


  • Ben

    From his early days playing the original Gran Turismo and with his Hot Wheels car set, Ben has had a long interest in all things automotive. His first foray into the world of automotive journalism was way back in 2009 and since then he has only grown more interested in the industry. Ben also runs and heads up the video production side of Garage Dreams, focusing on small informative documentaries about some of the world's most legendary cars.

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4 thoughts on “Ultimate Mitsubishi FTO Buyer’s Guide & History”

  1. I’m a lucky Bugger , I purchased my FTO Mivec 21 years ago with 60000 kms on the speedo , it was going to be repossessed as the owner hadn’t kept up the payments.
    I kept to the service instructions and changed the oil every 8000 kms using genuine Mitsubishi filters for oil and transmission, the air filter is a washable K and N unit.
    I’ve just had the timing belt, water pump etc changed, for the 3 rd time, she has never let me down and starts first time. She needs a respray now as the gloss coat is peeling off due to the hot New Zealand sun.
    I’m 68 now, and I seriously think she’s in better condition than I am, I have no intention of selling her as I couldn’t find any car that’s more fun to drive. With fuel prices the way they are I’m not complaining at 8 litres per 100 kms, and insurance at $135 per year.

    • Thanks for commenting Andy. Out of interest, what part of NZ are you in? I know the sun can be a shocker here (my old Fiat Stilo Abarth has terrible paint fade on the roof from this). If you ever do want to sell it, make sure to contact here first as I’ve always quite fancied an FTO ever since I was at high school … lovely cars they are.


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