The Mitsubishi 3000GT – also known as the Mitsubishi GTO- is one of the “unsung heroes” (or maybe just slightly-less-sung) of 1990s Japanese performance motoring.
While it is generally not considered as desirable as the Toyota Supra MK4 or the Nissan Skyline GT-R, the 3000GT is a superb piece of kit and is definitely at the more affordable end of the “JDM hero” market.
The author of this article always wanted a 3000GT (known as the Mitsubishi GTO in our local market of New Zealand) since first seeing the car on Gran Turismo many years ago:
But is the Mitsubishi 3000GT a reliable car?
You might be at that point in life where you are able to buy a “dream” car like the 3000GT, but you’re concerned about reliability issues.
Buying an unreliable car can quickly turn your dream into a nightmare, unless you are one of those people who really likes working on cars and fixing problems with them.
In this edition of Car Facts we are taking a closer look at the reliability of the Mitsubishi 3000GT.
It’s important to bear in mind that “your mileage may vary” when it comes to buying a 3000GT and keeping it on the road – there are people who have trouble-free ownership experiences, and those who have nothing but endless nightmares.
Here is our take:
Was The 3000GT Reliable When New?
When assessing the potential reliability of a used purchase, one thing that is worth doing is looking at what the track record of the car was when new.
Cars that had lots of problems new are probably only going to get worse as they age (unless it is one of that rare breed of cars that have a whole bunch of issues early on that are fixed, never to surface again).
Take a quintessentially unreliable car like the Range Rover – there are plenty of horror stories of people’s Range Rovers breaking down not long after buying new, and this trend tends to continue, and possibly even worsen, as the car ages.
So was the Mitsubishi 3000GT reliable when it was sold new in the 1990s?
We couldn’t find any particularly accurate survey results that we could trust (leave a comment below if you know if anything ‘contemporaneous’ that looked at the relative reliability of the 3000GT) but overall feedback from forums, reviews we could find from the time etc all indicated that the car was generally quite reliable – at least for the initial owner.
Non-turbocharged models were considered to be the most reliable, with the additional complexity of the twin turbo variants having some negative impacts on reliability.
However, the 3000GT was not a “dog” of a car when new (unlike what many people experience with Range Rovers, Alfa Romeos etc) so this is a positive tick in the book as to whether the 3000GT is a reliable car now.
If you’ve read our 3000GT/GTO buyer’s guide and history, then you’ll know that the earliest 3000GTs rolled off the production line in 1990.
This means that some examples are as much as 31 years old now.
Age takes its toll on cars – it really is that simple.
Plastics degrade, rubber perishes, electrical wiring can start to fail; all of these age-related concerns can definitely conspire to make the 3000GT more prone to bouts of unreliability.
The 3000GT is at that awkward age where it is not old enough that just about everything that could break has been replaced, but not new enough that it doesn’t necessarily need replacing either.
This “no man’s land” age can result in worsening reliability issues.
If you are looking to buy a 3000GT, then you want to look at which potentially perishable items have already been replaced, and which might need doing soon – our buyer’s guide will help you with this.
The next point to consider when looking at whether or not the 3000GT is a reliable car is complexity.
In its heyday, the 3000GT was a complex, technologically-sophisticated car with a lot of “trick” tech designed to make it perform better.
There’s a (once) popular motoring publication here in New Zealand called the “Dog & Lemon Guide” which memorably claimed the car was a ‘Japanese computer programmer’s interpretation of what a Ferrari should be’. Ferraris, of course, being famously complex and unreliable cars!
You’ve got the combination of sophisticated AWD, a large turbocharged V6 crammed into a small space, and other toys like Active Aero that all conspires to make the 3000GT a potential ticking time-bomb.
Other Japanese hero cars like the Toyota Supra or Nissan 300ZX are definitely less complex, with simple rear-wheel drive and fewer clever components. That isn’t to say that they don’t go wrong, but the 3000GT perhaps has more potential to go wrong due to all the gizmos and gadgets that the engineers at Mitsubishi decided to include on the car.
Technological complexity doesn’t necessarily equate to unreliability, but it is important to consider before buying that the 3000GT is packed full of the type of tech and components that have the potential to go “bang” and cause a lot of headache and expense.
For example, the Active Aero system on the pre-facelift 3000GT is prone to failure. Most examples we have seen for sale here in NZ don’t have working Active Aero, and the owners can’t be bothered to go through the hassle or expense to repair it. Non-functioning Active Aero is hardly fatal for the car, but if you demand a fully working example, then this is the type of component you will want to check diligently before purchase.
Any knowledgeable car owner will tell you that maintenance makes or breaks a car. Mileage/age isn’t necessarily a determinant of reliability (just look at how many miles airplanes have to do – and then look at how diligently they are maintained to keep their reliability so high).
A well maintained 3000GT has the potential to run for hundreds of thousands of miles, as does any other well-maintained car.
The big issue with the 3000GT – at least in our experience – is that this is a car that has had a tendency to fall into the wrong hands.
These weren’t cheap cars new, and it’s not unreasonable to believe that most owners who did purchase them from the showroom floor maintained them to a decent standard in the first instance.
However, once cars have depreciated sufficiently (to the point where people who cannot really afford to maintain them wind up buying them) this is where maintenance issues can start to arise – and the level of maintenance required to keep something complex like the 3000GT is skipped over buy these later owners, resulting in progressively worsening reliability.
If you are going to buy a 3000GT, then make sure to try and find an example with the best possible service records. Don’t just take the owner’s word that they have looked after the car – you want to see receipts, invoices and documents where possible.
If the previous owner can’t produce a receipt for a claimed service item (e.g. timing belt replacement) then it is usually better to assume they have never done it in the first place and you will need to factor it in.
Because of the advancing age of the 3000GT fleet – and the fact that there are dwindling numbers of cars available – you may not be able to be so fussy in terms of the service history of the example you buy. However, you will still need t0 factor in maintenance and inevitable repairs into the purchase price … don’t pay so much that you can’t afford to fix your new toy if it falls victim to age and mileage!
Conclusion – Is The 3000GT A Reliable Car?
The honest answer is “it depends”.
A well-maintained 3000GT could be fairly reliable ‘modern classic’ purchase, but you need to bear in mind that these cars were incredibly complex when new, and that is the best part of 30 years ago now.
The 3000GT was one of those cars that became fairly affordable for quite some time in the mid 2000s-2010s. This is despite them being expensive cars when new, especially the even-more-complex 3000GT VR4 (twin turbo) model.
What this meant was that many examples fell into the hands of people who fancied owning one but couldn’t really maintain their purchase properly (this isn’t an uncommon issue with any luxury or performance car that depreciates heavily – read our article here on the horrors of buying a cheap, used VW Touareg for insights into how this can play out).
The combination of high levels of complexity with the risk of poor maintenance means that the 3000GT/GTO is a car that has the potential to be rather unreliable and throw up some big bills.
We reckon that the average 3000GT is going to be more reliable than a European sports car of the same era BUT there are definitely many unloved examples floating around, waiting for some unsuspecting owner to come along and splash their cash, only to find themselves sitting on a horrendous money pit.
If you are thinking of buying a Mitsubishi 3000GT/GTO and want to try and get one that is as reliable as possible, then you need to read our 3000GT buyer’s guide here.
We have put together one of the most comprehensive guides on the Internet to sourcing, inspecting and buying a quality 3000GT.
This will help you to avoid buying a bad example, and instead find the best possible car within your budget.
You might also want to invest in good tools that will help making inspecting, maintaining and repairing your car easier. We recommend The Grumpy Mechanic as a source of excellent reviews on car maintenance and repair products.