Japanese Survivor: 1971 Dodge Colt

When they first appeared in European and North American markets, few people took cars from Japan seriously. They were often viewed with a degree of amusement and skepticism, and many people believed that they would disappear almost as quickly as they arrived. However, no one foresaw the juggernaut that was the Japanese car industry of the late 1960s and 1970s. A trickle of cars soon became a flood, and today, three out of the top ten global automobile manufacturers hail from that country. This 1971 Dodge Colt is one of those cars that contributed to the seismic shift in the automotive industry. Developed and built by Mitsubishi Motors, it is a tidy little survivor that only requires some minor work to take it to the next level. It is in excellent overall health, and it comes with a significant collection of paperwork that documents its history. Located in Salem, Oregon, you will find the Colt listed for sale here on Craigslist. The owner has set the sale price for the little Dodge at $8,900. I do have to say a big thank you to Barn Finder Gunter K for spotting the Colt for us.

Until recently, this Colt had belonged to the same family since new. It “yo-yoed” its way between various members of that clan, with each placing their own mark on it. The original owner ordered the Dodge in Sunburst Yellow with a Black vinyl top. It remained essentially untouched until the 1980s when the owner treated it to a cosmetic refresh. A new coat of yellow was applied, and the deteriorating vinyl top was removed. The owner replaced the vinyl with a coat of matte black paint, and that is one of the aspects of the interior that I would change if I were to buy this car. The existing paint has begun to deteriorate after three decades, so another repaint would be on the cards. Undertaking this task in a home workshop would be straightforward, but I’m unsure what I would do with the roof. Part of me believes that fresh vinyl should be applied, while my practical side says that the roof should receive a coat of the same Yellow that graces the rest of the vehicle. Apart from the roof, the rest of the Colt is as it was when it left the dealership. The chrome is in good order, the original hubcaps have no significant damage, and the glass is clean and clear.

We now reach that “however” moment because the Dodge does have some rust for the buyer to tackle. Thankfully, it appears to be largely superficial and hasn’t deteriorated to the point where it has become structural. It has hit the lower front fenders and the lower rear quarter panels. Addressing the problem should not be difficult, and some well-crafted patches should do the job nicely.

Lifting the hood of the Colt reveals a 1,597cc 4-cylinder engine that would be producing a neat 100hp. This is where we hit a slight downside with this car because a 3-speed automatic transmission backs the little four. How I wish that the original owner had followed the 4-speed pathway. Performance figures are all that you might expect, with the journey down the ¼ mile taking 18.9 seconds. The manual option would have knocked a staggering 1.4 seconds off that figure, so that should give you an insight into how profound the impact can be of bolting an auto behind a low-powered engine. If we look past that, the news seems to be very positive. The Colt has been meticulously maintained throughout its life, and the owner includes all of the documentation to support these claims. The owner’s grandson fitted a Webber carburetor back in 2013, and that has probably released a couple of welcome extra horses. The grandfather-and-grandson team has also installed a new exhaust, new brakes, and various other parts in recent times. The Colt runs and drives well and is ready to be enjoyed by its new owner.

When the original owner ordered the Colt, he chose to have the interior upholstered in Black vinyl. This survived relatively well for years, but it eventually reached the point where it needed attention. The inter-generational pair that I mentioned earlier set their minds to it and reupholstered the interior in a combination of Black leather and vinyl. While they were at it, they also produced and installed a custom console. What can be seen of the interior still presents well today, with no apparent issues visible on the seats, carpet, or other upholstered surfaces. Beyond the change of upholstery material, the interior remains unmolested.

One aspect of the interior which does show some deterioration is the dash. This is the worst area, which is in the upper center section. It features some nasty cracks and splits. Locating replacement pieces might prove to be difficult, but some patience might pay dividends. Alternatively, the buyer might choose to tackle a restoration themselves with a product like Polyvance. It will take some care and an eye for detail, but I can’t see why it wouldn’t be possible to have it looking fresh once again.

This 1971 Dodge Colt isn’t perfect, and it won’t appeal to everyone. However, the required restoration work should be relatively straightforward, and the results should be pretty rewarding. Don’t be too fast to write this one off because it does have one final ace up its sleeve. Think back and try to remember the last time that you saw a nice example plying our roads. The chances are that it will have been quite a few years ago. That makes this a little classic that is well worth preserving.


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  1. Matt G

    That price would make more sense without the rust and the automatic.

    Like 15
    • Pat Gambardella

      It would make a nice Sox &Martin Pro Stock tribute with a new Hellcat driveline.
      Way over priced. for what it is.

      Like 6
  2. Steve R

    The automatic transmission, primer Ed roof and rust will keep the price down. These are Japanese cars are rapidly gaining in popularity, but this has a bit too many issues, 50% of the asking price is more realistic.

    Steve R

    Like 1
  3. Mike

    This same car was on BaT twice in early 2020. One time at $4,600 (buyer backed out) and then at $8,000 (buyer also backed out). A little controversy in the comment section about people making huge knock out bids.


    Like 5
    • Jason

      Actually here is what happen, this is Jason from Denwerks. I have sold 257 Rigs on BaT, and it has been a fun time. This car, I did sell, for $8K so I thought, I contacted the guy right after the auction, and he is like, I don’t want it, basically said he didn’t win it, lol. I was like okay, very odd for a BaT auction honestly, so he got booted from BaT. But it is what it is, decided have to move on, what do you do, lol. I then relisted on BaT the next week, No Reserved, sold it to a gentleman in Colorado. He paid for it, no problems, actually great guy, I bought 2 other rigs from him afterwards, 1961 Willys Jeep (I still have it), and a 1972 IH 4×4 Truck. He asked to store the Colt here at our shop for a few months, then Covid hit. Its been sitting here ever since. He decided recently to sell the car, so he sent the title back to me and paperwork, and asked me to sell it, so here we go, Its for Sale!!!

      Like 5
      • Eric B

        Best of luck Jason. As I said further below, you’re one of the best sellers on there and seem to be a good honest guy. Keep doing you. Sometimes we all have to deal with the brain dead and they seem to keep multiplying lately.

        Like 3
  4. Mark

    My dad bought a red 71 4 door automatic in the fall of 73. When I got my license it became my car. Electrical issues galore. Usually had to smack the starter to get it to engage. Of course it never did that when it was taken in to a mechanic.

    Sold it to a neighbor in 1976. Bought it back when he put it up for sale in 1978. Much nicer car without all the electrical issues. We sold it to a second neihbor whose son blew the engine by not checking the oil. They only held 4 quarts.

    Nice car. Closest thing my dad ever bought to an “import”. Even though it technically was

    Like 2
  5. Steve

    I once bought one for $25 had no floors bad shocks and needed a brake job. Put in plywood floors did the shocks and brakes and drove it 150 miles every day for 2 years. In a couple of bad New York winters. Sold it to a junk yard for $25. Great little car

    Like 3
  6. Howard A Member

    These were uncertain times in America. I watched the “Cars that made America” on the History channel, full of glaring mistakes, in true Hollywood form, but got the message across. In the early 70’s, the Big 3 were scrambling to get in on the small car craze, and the rushed production of the Pinto and Vega covered Ford and GM, but Chrysler was left dangling and relied on imports to fill the gap until the Omni came out.( 1978) The History channel said it was the Plymouth Cricket that was Chryslers answer from England, when in fact, I think it was the Dodge Colt from Japan that had any sales. Chrysler found out, British cars had an iffy reputation, where as Asian cars were clearly the next big thing. Even still, cars like this were a tough sell in “AMC” town, like the author says, merely a passing fad we figured ( denial up the ying-yang), nothing to get upset about. Turns out, Chrysler had quite a run with the Mitsubishi products for several years until the Omni/Horizon/ mini-van changed everything. As with with most of these Asian cars made from ground up 1965 Chevy’s, the metal was thin and poor, rust developed within a couple years, and were junked on a daily basis. These motors became a choice for truckers as early APU’s. Rust aside, they were great cars.

  7. Eric B

    Ah yes, I knew this had to be in the pnw just from the first photo and thought it might be DENWERKS. Great seller on BAT, seems to be a good honest guy. Shows you just about every square inch of a car in photos and video. That’s a lot easier to do when you deal with clean cars though.

    Like 2
  8. Rick in Oregon

    I had a GT many moons ago, fun little car with some nice period like Mopar touches to it. This one’s price seems pretty optimistic considering the metal worm presence and its an automatic…….but you do not see them this clean at all anymore so WTH do I know. Bottom line is you’ll look far and wide to find parts!!

    Like 1
  9. Robert Eddins

    Pretty car. That rust is deeper than bubbling, it will need cutting, steel patching, body work, primed, repainted. The true cost will be a couple thousand more. It,s still a pretty car.

    Like 3
  10. John C.

    I have one of these, same year, He WILL get close to his asking price! Let a Spanish guy see the ad, they love these cars. Not many of them left in America.

  11. Noel A Del Rosario

    In 1972 I sold those for $2750.00 brand new.

    Like 1
    • Anthony D

      I did as well…in Ohio.The demand for them in the early ’70s was off the charts (gas shortage). People were paying over sticker and put on a waiting list. They outsold Vega and Pinto. Great little cars.

      Like 2
  12. George

    I know a couple that suffered head gasket failures around 60K miles. Was that common for other people?

    Like 1

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