1997 Mitsubishi Eclipse
The house in the background of this photo was built in Salt Lake City, Utah around 1890. One hundred years later in Normal, Illinois, the first generation of the “Diamond Star Motors” trio of sporty hatchbacks was built as a joint venture between Chrysler and Mitsubishi. Sold as Plymouth Laser, Eagle Talon and Mitsubishi Eclipse models, and powered by a variety of normally-aspirated and turbocharged four-cylinders, available as front- or all-wheel drive, they competed in a crowded segment populated by such others as the Ford Probe/Mazda MX6 twins, the Toyota Celica, and Nissan 240sx. What the DSM cars had on most in that class was the aforementioned powerful turbo engine and all-wheel drive. With horsepower ratings up to 190, the DSMs generally outgunned the competition by 40 or more horses, placing their performance more on par with the next class of sporty vehicles, anchored by the pony cars – Ford Mustang and Chevrolet Camaro. That performance, paired with reasonable prices, made the trio a popular pick in the early 90s.
But by the time the second generation was released for the ’95 model year, those pony cars had started to separate themselves from the rest of the sporty hatchback crowd. A horsepower war was brewing between Chevy and Ford, and their V8 engines were finally starting to put out the sort of power that many expected after years of malaise-era emissions-choked disappointments. Meanwhile, the popularity of the SUV was starting to put the pinch on the sporty hatchback and personal luxury coupe markets – those looking for status symbols wanted to be seen in a rugged truck rather than a low-slung coupe.
The Mitsubishi Eclipse pictured today is one of those second-generation models. Introduced in 1995, the trio of DSMs had shrunk to just a duo as the Plymouth version was dropped. By the end of the twentieth century, the Mitsubishi stood alone where three cars previously did as the Eagle brand was phased out by the Chrysler Corporation. The Eclipse soldiered on until August 2011, when the plug was pulled after a short run of 2012 models.
Despite being introduced during the latter days of the Golden Age of Hatchbacks, the DSM family was ultimately a victim of changing tastes as buyers stayed away from sporty coupes in droves and switched over to SUVs. The trio also plainly illustrated the dangers of brand engineering – the Laser and Talon models, despite their only slight differences, competed directly, often in the very same showroom – while still pitted against the Eclipse as well. The Eclipse version also suffered from an extreme case of model bloat – the original base model weighed in at a feathery 2600 pounds, while the final version tipped the scales at over 3400.
First generation models are rarely seen anymore, while second generation cars are well into the secondary market and often are victims of some… interesting modifications. Newer cars seem to be generally well kept and there is a strong group of supporters for the remaining cars. This particular car is in pretty good shape, obviously a daily driver, but free of Pep Boys accessories and a fart-can exhaust. With decent maintenance, this car should be a reliable transportation appliance for quite some time – Mitsubishis of this age seem to resist the tin worm pretty well, and oil-burning issues seem to be limited to V6s.
If you like the photo above, check out the desktop version – scaled to fit a 1680×1050 screen, it’s been ‘shopped just a bit to offer a more artistic look. You can click on it below for the full-sized version, or go to the Wallpapers page to see others available.