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Captive Import: 1971 Dodge Colt

In 1970-71, Ford, Chevrolet, and AMC went head-to-head with the imports in the subcompact car market. Perhaps to save money (or they didn’t think the imports would have staying power), Chrysler went another direction, using captive imports instead.  Case-in-point is the Dodge Colt which was built by Mitsubishi Motors in Japan but marketed in the U.S. beginning in 1971. Plymouth would do the same using the same name. This first-year Colt is in Monrovia, California and the listing here on craigslist is the seller’s third attempt to sell the auto as the first two tries ended with deadbeat buyers. The asking price this time is $8,750. Thanks for the pint-size tip, Pat L.!

The first generation of the Dodge Colt was a Mitsubishi Colt Galant. Available in multiple body styles, the Colt had a unibody layout with a front-mounted engine and rear-wheel drive. It was powered by a 97.5 cubic inch inline-4 which was rated at about one horse per cubic inch. So, with a minimum of investment (and the sales would reflect that), the Colt competed with the Pinto, Vega, and Gremlin from these shores and the likes of the Toyota Corolla, Honda Civic, and Datsun 1200 from the other side of the globe.

While the seller’s little car looks quite presentable and runs well, it has a few little bumps and bruises which are not unexpected after 51 years. The seller found this beauty in Oregon and had it shipped to him in California, where it has a current title and registration. We don’t know how long the seller has had the vehicle, but he’s tried to sell it twice on Bring A Trailer in the past year and both sales were a dud.

At 59,000 miles, it looks as though the intent from Day 1 was for this car to survive for several decades. They were seen as basic transportation in the 1970s and were used up quickly and discarded. This example is the sporty 2-door hardtop, which would be the one to have if you were on a search for an example of these Americanized imports (but it is an automatic). For more information about the car as well as some extra photos, check out both of the earlier listings for this car. The current ad is shy on photos, perhaps reflecting the seller’s dismay at not being able to move the Dodge.

Comments

  1. angliagt angliagt Member

    How many times are you going to feature this?
    I submitted a cheap Honda CRX,but looks like I was
    turned down (again).

    Like 3
  2. Howard A Member

    Say what you will, people like my old man said in a traffic jam once, “If you had an American car, I’d let you in, but a foreign car( referring to these,) you can just wait”,,,Yeah, the old man was pretty vocal, you see where it comes from. The Omni was a couple years away yet( 1978) and by 1971, the other car makers already had their own home made cars, Chrysler was still dragging its feet. These fit the bill, it was relatively unknown name ,,Mistsubwhoshi? But many were sold at “Dodge City” on Burleigh Ave. right next to Chargers, and at under $2grand, many were sold. I doubt many knew, or cared where it came from, it was cheap, dependable, and never needed gas, a pretty big “hot button” in the 70s. Thing is, S.Cal is about the only place you’ll find one, although, I have seen 1 or 2 in my area. While its unusualness(?) is the attraction, make no mistake, they were cheap, tinny cars I’d never spend this much on.

    Like 3
    • Mikefromthehammer

      My deceased father-in-law would have cared. Mitsubishi made the Zero fighter plane and Chuck flew Hurricanes and Spitfires with both the RCAF and while being seconded to the RAF. He flew photo-recon in India (with the RAF) over to Burma in an unarmed and unarmoured Hurricane (built for speed not battle). He may have seen some in the distance but would have given them a wide berth. We still have the map of Burma that had been sewn in as the lining of his flight jacket (in case he had to bail out. Luckily he never did, or he might not have fathered my wife in the Fifties.

      Like 9
      • Big C

        My dad was the same way. Japanese cars were given no quarter on the road. And, were not allowed in our driveway! As one young man found out, when he came to pick my sister up for a first date in his Toyota Corolla. Much hilarity ensued.

        Like 1
    • Lothar... of the Hill People

      Howard-

      These are still tinny cars but not so cheap anymore, at least for ones that haven’t rusted.

      I see the late-70’s influx of foreign-made cars being sold here at “American”-brand dealers as a compromise… of course the manufacturing was not in the U.S. which is sad but the formerly “Big Three”, their stockholders, their dealerships and service departments, staffed by Americans, etc. all got some action out of these sales anyways.

      These kinds of little, economical cars are what gave Big Three an indicator of what some buyers wanted. Unfortunately Honda and Toyota made huge gains while they were still trying to figure things out.

      Sometimes I think we should forget about the “global economy” and have a rule of no product going coming in the US, with very few exceptions. We have the resources here and the manpower to make our own stuff. Imagine never seeing “MADE IN CHINA” ever again. I know… it’ll never happen. :)

      PS- Howard, unless you moved, you and I must be in the same state given your Dodge City reference. I’m a Slinger kid originally, now in the Oshkosh area. On Wisconsin!

      Like 4
    • Bruce

      Hi Howard. You always bring a smile to my face with your comments. Your father was right.

      Like 2
  3. ThunderRob

    In 1971 Plymouth actually used the Hillman Avenger as it’s captive import..the Cricket,after 1973 the Plymouth switched to the Misubishi also.

    Like 8
  4. Davy Boy

    Don’t exactly remember the year but my ex had a mid 70’s 5 speed Dodge version of this and I drove it from Salt Lake City Ut. to Elko Nv. several times and that thing buzzed along great every time. Good gas mileage and never had to downshift on any hill. Much better than you’d think for a throw away car.

  5. Wayne

    Having owned a Cricket/Avenger, the Colt is a superior car.
    Also being an ex-Pro-Rally driver and enthusiast. This was a strong and well built car. SCCA pro-rally drivers probably accounted for as much Colt decimation as did the rust!

    Like 3
    • Robin Tomlin

      My Plymouth Cricket also has great rally pedigree across the pond. But yes, poor build quality bedeviled the Cricket, mainly because Plymouth had the workers in the UK tweak the car for the US market and the standard that the Avenger was built suffered.

      Like 1
  6. Rosseaux

    What quality of service did buyers get when they purchased these? Were they different enough from standard Dodge products that mechanics had to get special training or is an engine just an engine no matter who makes it? I was less than thrilled with how Chrysler handled servicing my Fiat (they *really* didn’t want to deal with it) so I wonder if captive import buyers faced the same problem 50 years ago.

    Like 3
    • Howard A Member

      That’s a good question. I know Opel suffered the same fate at Buick dealers, as did all the imports at American dealers. Capri too at L-M dealers. The workers held a grudge akin them claiming they stole sales from the American cars, and they were right. We won’t even get into what AMC workers thought of the Alliance. I was there.

      Like 4
    • karl

      On the East Coast they didnt last long enough to get quality service. These rusted out horribly , even more than the rotbox Vegas did. Japanese steel was a favorite food of the tin worm back then.

  7. OIL SLICK

    I had one as a daily, but it was a stick and no plastic roof. It was great on gas, but was a fart box. Nothing to impress the ladies, but never let me down.

  8. Eric Larson

    I’d almost bet I knew the original owner in Oregon as this looks exactly like the car he had forever. He was frozen in time and I don’t think he bought anything new after 1971, even clothes. If it is his car it’s from the Eugene, Oregon area.

    Like 4
  9. John C

    I have one of these cars, same year, good condition, converted from automatic to stick, original paint, low miles, brought it east from Cali, no rust, has factory AC, had it about 10 years now, take it to car shows once in a while, I turned down an offer of $6k 2 years ago. He’s a little high priced on this one but if the right person see it he will sell it with no problem. There’s not many of the 1971-73 ones left in the USA that’s for sure.

    Like 2
  10. Ben T.

    I had a ’78 Colt. Loved it. But when I went to pick up my war vet Dad at Logan Airport, he would not happily ride in it. Drove him to where he could rent a Ford….. If I were still in Cali, I’d be interested. I miss mine.

  11. BONE

    “the Colt had a unibody layout with a front-mounted engine and rear-wheel drive. ” like every other compact car in the U.S. at that time – except for the Beetle

    Like 2
  12. Rick in Oregon Rick in Oregon

    This car has been for sale for some time. The automatic would lose my interest. These have got to difficult to get parts for this day in age. I had the GT version years ago and it was a nice little car. They did adopt some Mopar styling cues in their design which appealed to me. $8700 seems a bit ambitious but as dad has always said “ there’s a butt for every seat”.

    Like 1
  13. Emel

    95 HP with an automatic transmission.
    These things just putted along….literally probably got pushed off the
    freeways & turnpikes.

    A car to go to the grocery store in…provided it’s not Uphill to get there. lol

  14. Terrry

    Plymouth also marketed the Cricket, a British Morris import at the same time. It competed with the Colt but not well.

    • Robin Tomlin

      The Cricket was a product of Chysler UK not British Leyland.

      Like 1
  15. PRA4SNW PRA4SNW Member

    So, if the sales at BAT are to be believed, someone lost $3,400 on this car in the span of 2 weeks.

  16. Brad460 Member

    I had a 78 Plymouth Arrow in high school in the 80s with this same engine and auto transmission. By then we were on net HP figures and mine was rated at 69 hp, if memory is correct. Slow doesn’t begin to describe it. Reliable but 65 mph was about the max it would comfortably do.

    As a joke I put a turbo badge on the back and one would be surprised how many people would think it was even possible.

    With its rarity hopefully this one can be preserved

    Like 2
    • Gerald Ramey Jr

      Your Plymouth Arrow with the turbo badge reminds of something that happened to me once. I got hired at General Motors in January of 1995 and a few months later I bought my first new car: a 1995 Dodge Avenger! Yeah, I know, I worked at GM and I bought a Dodge! That’s okay, some guys I hired in with bought new Fords! Anyway, I was out in my Avenger one day when another Avenger pulled up beside of me and the driver yelled, “Hey Buddy! Wanna drag?” I looked over and noticed he’d peeled off the “DOHC 2.0” on the side and replaced them with the new, at that time, “HEMI MAGNUM” badge from the new, at that time, Dodge trucks. I found it pretty amusing!

      Like 2

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