Is The Mitsubishi FTO Rare?

The Mitsubishi FTO is one of the ‘best kept secrets’ of Japan’s Golden Era of performance motoring – the 1990s/early 2000s.

In the age of Gran Turismo 1 and 2, just about every Japanese manufacturer had multiple options with regards to performance cars.

Mitsubishi was no exception, selling such great cars as the Lancer Evolution (read our buyer’s guide here), the 3000GT/GTO, and even the Galant/Legnum VR-4 which was sold primarily on the Japanese Domestic Market. You can learn more here about what JDM means if you’d like some clarification on the topic.

These days, Mitsubishi doesn’t make a single performance car and instead focuses on economical SUVs and hatchbacks.

How the mighty have fallen!

But in the 1990s, Mitsubishi did have a genuinely fantastic lineup, including the FTO.

While the FTO always played “little brother” to the 3000GT (or GTO as it was known in non- American markets) there FTO had a lot going for it.

A blend of sharp styling, good handling and powerful engines in higher trim cars still make a well-sorted FTO a good driving experience in 2022.

Back in the day, it was so good that the car even won the coveted Japanese Car of the Year award.

So, what if you want to get your hands on one of these “modern classics”? Is the Mitsubishi FTO rare – or can you still find decent examples?

In this edition of Car Facts we are going to explore the rarity of the Mitsubishi FTO.

How Many FTOs Were Made?

From 1994-2000, around 36,500 FTOs were made in different trims (36,471 according to data on https://en-academic.com/dic.nsf/enwiki/835984)

More than 50% of FTOs – ~20,000 cars – were built in the first year of production, tapering off massively over time.

With less than 40,000 units ever built, the FTO was hardly the most common car on the roads at the best of time.

However, if you’ve read our Mitsubishi FTO buyer’s guide, then you’ll know that despite originally being produced only for the Japanese Domestic Market, many FTOs found their way into markets like the UK and New Zealand as unofficial used imports.

How Many FTOs Are Left?

This is a lot harder to measure.

However, we can do a bit of calculation to try and get a gauge of how many FTOs are left.

According to a few sources, around 20,000 FTOs were imported into the UK at various stages. Let’s call it a flat 20,000.

According to Car Log Book UK, there are only 364 FTOs left on the road.

As a percentage, this means that around 1.82% of all FTOs imported to the UK are still on the road.

Now it’s worth bearing in mind that rust is the number one killer of FTOs (like many Japanese cars) and in markets like Australia and New Zealand, as well as the Japanese domestic market, rust isn’t such an issue.

Therefore, let’s adjust the “survivor percentage” figure up to 5%, to be charitable.

Assuming that 5% of the total FTO fleet is still on the road, that means around 1800 FTOs still exist in the wild.

Even if 10% were still on the road (almost 30 years after the first car rolled off the production line) that would still only be 3650 cars in roadworthy condition.

With that in mind, it’s fair to say that in 2022 the Mitsubishi FTO is a rare car, and will only become rarer.

Why Are So Few Left?

You might be sitting there wondering how a car that was so well-received in its heyday, and which has so much going for it, has come to exist in such small numbers, relative to its production volumes.

Surely people would have clung to these classics-in-waiting, deserving of preservation, right?

Unfortunately, there was a period of time where the FTO got very cheap.

When I was learning to drive in the mid 2000s, here in New Zealand you could pick up a low spec FTO in decent condition for $2000-3000.

They became cheap cars – even the more desirable GPX models got to a tantalizingly low price at one point – and so many were picked up by “everyday” motorists who needed a cheap second car, or simply couldn’t afford anything else, or by first car owners who went on to abuse and improperly maintain their FTO.

To this day, if you see an FTO in New Zealand it is usually a clapped-out, Star Trek mileage example with the basic engine, tiptronic gearbox and a space-saver spare permanently attached.

The natural progression of age & mileage, in conjunction with just how cheap FTOs got when they were “unloved” and before JDM prices started climbing, means that few are left on the road now.

And the worst bit? Anyone with a good one (especially a desirable spec model) knows what they’ve got and will therefore ask a higher price.

Conclusion – Is The Mitsubishi FTO Rare?

Yes, it is in 2022.

Considering that less than 40,000 cars were ever built, the FTO wasn’t a particularly common car in its day.

However, there is now an ever-shrinking pool of survivor cars left, meaning it’s fair to call the FTO a rare car.

Anecdotally, we used to see plenty of FTOs here in New Zealand. However, I cannot remember the last time I saw one (even the 3000GT/GTO is a more common sight) and if you do see one here it is generally in appalling condition and looking fit for the scrap heap.

A true shame, when you consider that the FTO was considered an impressive car in its time – and in the right spec/trim is still a good vehicle today. In fact, a good GPX FTO is still a worthy competitor to the Honda Integra Type R DC2.

If you get the chance to save one of these rare beasts, then you should consider doing so. Make sure you read our FTO buyer’s guide and model history here for more information on the FTO.

Author

    by
  • Sam

    Sam focuses mainly on researching and writing the growing database of Car Facts articles on Garage Dreams, as well as creating interesting list content. He is particularly enthusiastic about JDM cars, although has also owned numerous European vehicles in the past. Currently drives a 3rd generation Suzuki Swift Sport, and a Volkswagen Touareg (mainly kept for taking his border collie out to the hills to go walking)

10 thoughts on “Is The Mitsubishi FTO Rare?”

  1. I own a 94 manual 2.0 gx model only freshly painted still driving it today love the car 60000 miles wonder how much it’s worth exactly I’m in ireland

    Reply
    • Hi Michael, sounds like a lovely car!

      I’m not sure exactly what it would be worth in your local market … but prices are certainly climbing on these as they become harder to find in good condition.

      Are you going to sell it or look to keep it as an investment?

      Reply
  2. My wife garaged/SORN her beloved Manual GPX with around 50k on the clock around 6 years ago so that we could get a sensible car for the kids to learn to drive in. We notice that we don’t see them on the roads any more. Hoping to get her back on the road next year & then put her back away for a few more years.

    Reply
    • Sounds like a superb example Shaun, thanks for commenting. Definitely an increasingly rare sight on the roads – used to see them everywhere here in New Zealand, but not anymore (and even bad examples are a bit pricey).

      Would love to see some photos of yours – feel free to email admin@garagedreams.net

      Reply
  3. I have owned my Imperial Red 1995 GR for 16 years. It was bog standard when I got it but over the years have modified it mechanically apart from the engine & auto transmission. It is such a great car to drive, ahead of its time. It did suffer from the dreaded roof rust not long after I bought it but found a local garage to cut off the original roof and weld on another one I cut off a scrapped car. They did a magnifent job. Its still going strong, it needs lots of TLC because its now 28 years old but it doesn’t look 28 years old. Am at the moment considering selling it but with so few around its to difficult to know where to pitch its value. I see a few going for £500-1000 but they have +100k miles on the clock, mine has done 41k genuine. Its just a fab car all round.

    Reply
    • Hi Keith, thanks for taking the time to comment. Sounds like a great car you have, and it’s always pleasing to hear a solid ownership story. It sounds like you have really cared for your FTO, which is fantastic to see.

      My view would be not to sell it unless you really need the money. FTOs are becoming increasingly rare (partly because they never had the same cachet as the GTO, so people were less inclined to care for them … they got too cheap, especially the non-GPX models). Now finding even a bad one is much harder than it used to be.

      Fair enough if you need to sell to pay for other expenses, but otherwise I’d just hang on to it as you might struggle to find another one if you regret the decision.

      Thank you so much for taking the time to write in.

      Reply
  4. I have the 1997 manual, gr sports package. Spent the last year working on it. It’s taken that long, due to hard getting the parts for it. Just got paint to complete it. Also got a 1995 sitting waiting for its turn lol.

    Reply
    • I can imagine parts for the FTO are getting a bit hard to find due to the car’s relative rarity, but good on you for persevering! Enjoy the car(s)!

      Reply

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