Friday, November 4, 2016

Identity Crisis!

I was walking through the East Village recently when I stumbled upon an old friend. I called out my friends name but the car ignored me. It turns out that this car has had many an alias and prefers not to talk about the past. From what I can tell this little box has had 7 different names just between it's birthplace and the States!
This is a 1987 Plymouth Colt E in Sarajevo White. The name of the color at the time celebrated the city that hosted the 1984 Winter Olympics. This is the same city where Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated in an act that lit the fuse to start WWI. Unfortunately the city was also under brutal siege by the Serbs from 1992-1996 after declaring independence from Yugoslavia and gaining UN recognition. I don't think Plymouth kept up the color name for long.
Easy there Close Talker! This car just looks like it has coffee breath.
I was confounded at first by the centerpiece of this grill and how it looks removable. Then I noticed that shiny headlight on the left compared to that old toenail on the right. My guess is that the grill was smashed to oblivion parking on the streets of lower Manhattan and the replacement is a universal one. When this car was sold new it had COLT written in the middle of the grill. In its birthplace of Japan it had a large Mitsubishi logo. The replacement knows no allegiance.
Here we see the Colt in its home environment (amidst piles of garbage).
I think this is when I admit that I love this car even though I'm relentlessly bashing on it. The front and back side windows mimic each other nicely, as do the angles of the windshield and hatch. I had a friend in high school who was nice enough to lend me her Colt of this era long before I even had my drivers license. I would take it full speed down the Saw Mill River Parkway and spend the ditched school day driving all over Manhattan feeling like a champ*. At the end of the day I would deliver the car back to her after filling the tiny tank with the few gallons I used. This is a genuinely fun car to drive hard through corners!
*Champ happens to be one of the many names this car used in the '80s.
Usually I like to walk around the whole car before peeking inside but I'm breaking tradition to show you what a romper room it is. This is just a pile of old blankets and litter with multiple cushions and supports scattered about. I can just see the passenger saying "this cushion's no good I need a different one!" and just stacking the new one on the old instead of throwing it away. Imagine just adding a new band-aid to an old one.
The manual transmission makes this a much more fun car to drive than the auto at least.
Also, is that a cookie in the dashboard for later?
Gotta love that limo tint. You're not protecting identity with that tint, more like the reputation of whichever unlucky bastard contorted themselves enough to get into that backseat.
COLT E. Is that like culty? Is this a cult car or are you actually explaining that this the ECONOMY because that's what's written all over this little runt (it does stand for Economy actually).
Now we're getting to the bottom of this basket of lies!
This car is the definition of both Captive Import and Brand Engineering. It was the '70s and '80s when American automakers were at their lowest ebb producing tired, weak dinosaurs held together with glue and tape that the idea was hatched; why not buy reliable and tiny Japanese cars, slap our American names on them, and sell them to a public still staunchly Patriotic enough that they refused to buy the same cars from Japanese dealers? It worked beautifully.
This Colt is 100% Mitsubishi Mirage. It was also known as the Dodge Colt, the Plymouth Champ, and eventually the Eagle Summit among others.
Anyone for some nostalgic '80s movie racism on this topic is encouraged to watch the 1986 groaner Gung Ho! starring Norm from Cheers, Batman, and everybodys favorite Japanese comic relief Gedde Watanabe (you know; Long Duk Dong from 16 Candles). Never mind that Mr. Watanabe is originally from Utah. This movie perfectly captures the xenophobia of the domestic reaction to captive imports. 35% of people on Rotten Tomatoes can't be wrong!
Parkability is very high on the list of why to own this little bucket. In fact it is the list.
Talk about Hyperbole!
I research automotive minutiae almost as a profession but I can't find a single hint of what this claim means anywhere online. The perks of the S.E. probably consisted of the stripes and a cup holder, maybe a radio.
I'll slowly back away from this tiny car and let it keep doing its thing on the streets of the East Village. This example has a 1.5 liter 4 cylinder good for only 68 horsepower, but parking in the most dense neighborhoods in the city is worth plenty, as is gassing up monthly or less.
I have a fondness for these super boxy '80s Japanese cars built pre airbags and powered by the smallest carburetors you've ever seen. The generation before this one had an optional transmission called the Twin Stick. It had 8 forward and 2 reverse gears due to an additional shifter for the transfer case. If I stumbled upon one of those I would be very tempted to make a foolish purchase. The last cars to offer the Twin Stick were the Tredia and Cordia; talk about forgotten cars!

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