Mighty Mitsu: 1980 Dodge Challenger


Every now and again, the odd period of time in which the Dodge Challenger was actually a Mitsubishi in drag gets brought up on these pages, or we choose to highlight the equally confusing Plymouth Sapparo. In today’s exploration into unusual brand alliances, we have chosen to present the former, a 1980 Dodge Challenger here on craigslist that’s been garage-bound since 2010.


Also known as a Mitsubishi Galant overseas, the Challenger offered little in the way of performance but plenty of pizzaz (just take a look at the interior) to try and convince buyers it had the spirit of the original. To be fair, it was generally considered a competent handler and well-equipped for the price, and I wouldn’t mind owning one. But if your dad or grandpa owned the real thing, well – I don’t think they’d have much interest in this version of the original muscle car.


The Challenger/Sapparo twins featured a 2.6L four-cylinder with the widely promoted “Balance Shaft” technology, which I’ve also seen referred to as “Silent Shaft” with the core tenets the same: eliminate the ugly vibrations commonly associated with four-cylinder engines of the era. In addition, the U.S. cars were also fitted with a “jet valve” that enabled a leaner-burning combustion process, a must-have in an era obsessed with fuel economy fixes.


And now for the best part: that funky interior! Whether you like these cars or not, the designers didn’t skimp on making them stand out from the crowd inside with memorable patterns like these. This Challenger looks to be in great condition inside and out, and once the mechanical issues are sorted that are contributing to the no-start condition, this could be a fun project. Just one problem: there’s no price listed. So, who’s going to call first?


  1. RayT Member

    Jeff: FYI, it’s “SappOro,” not “SappAro.”

  2. Howard A Member

    I had always thought these were some nice cars, but a mere shred of what the Challenger name meant.( look what you’ve been reduced to) I knew people that had these motors in their Chrysler mini-vans, and had great success. Not the fastest, but spin forever. Again, same old thing, serious rusters. You only got a couple years in the “salt bath” with these, which was a shame, these really were good cars. A plus with the 5 speed. Collectible? Hmm, maybe, but for now, be a great car to just drive.

    • Adam T45 Staff

      G’day from down under Howard A. I know where you’re coming from with this. In Australia Ford launched a 4-door sedan in 1967 called the Falcon GT. Over the ensuing 4 years they turned it into a beast, and by the following four years it had become a cream-puff joke! If you scroll down the page you’ll see a sedan version of the above Challenger (Sigma) fitted with a factory turbo four cylinder. In mild tune it had double the horsepower of the Challenger, and I’ve seen some with 300+ hp. Mitsubishi chose never to put this engine in the Challenger. In tuned form would this have been more up your street? if you say “yes” then I agree with you totally!

      Like 1
  3. Jeffro

    I had a friend in high school who was not a car guy. He bought one of these used. Neat car. He was confused as he compared this Challeger to the the Dodge Charger of Dukes of Hazzard. He hinted once of painting it orange with a confederate flag and 01 on side. I just shook my head and asked if he was actually drinking the bong water.

    Like 1
  4. D-Ozzie

    This was also basically the same motor that was in the Conquest/Starion, which can be built up to put out some serious HP. This little guy would live up to the nameplate with a built turbo version of the 2.6.

  5. Foxxy

    I had a friend back in the 80’s that put a small block chevy in one of these. It ran great, and with the rear drive wasn’t a real tough to plant the v8 in the car. I can think of a few engines that would work in this car today with plug and play ECM’s, and turbo that would wake this thing up.

  6. Vincent Stansbury

    I sent him a email on the price he’s asking 3000 for it.

    Like 1
    • Alex York

      I JUST bought the LAST remaining 1982 2.6L Dodge Challenger yesterday (Aug 10 2020 in Detroit Michigan).

      If you or anyone out there knows of where any more of these are at please call/text/email me:

      Alex 248-914-5678 zanderork@gmail.com

      [Mine is black on black in 95% perfect condition]

  7. Jubjub

    Wow, what a survivor. After they took the fun out of American cars, before they took it out of the imports too! Cars like these were run hard, put up wet and tossed out.

    Great shape, right color scheme, five speed, and that plaid!

    Seems usually the odd, clapped out, rusty, burgundy Sapporo with Aspen SE hubcaps, a landau top, opera lights and an automatic pop up for sale. Hope someone grabs this, gets it up and running, details under the hood and continues preserving.

  8. Rustytech Member

    Hi Howard Your dead on. I had a couple of these back in the day. They were great running cars, and handled like a sports car. After 4 or 5 years they began to rust badly. One of the first places rust appeared was the frame rail right under the drivers feet ( a very difficult fix). The 2.6l was a great running if noisy engine. I was the same engine that went into the Conquest and the turbo parts would fit with minor modifications. I don’t ever see this as a collectible, a fine driver for a good price, just keep it dry!

  9. William

    I had a 1979 challenger as my first car. It was orange and hideous, but i loved it!! It LOVED to vapor lock in the summer though. It locked in the middle of an intersection, i popped the hood, pulled the fuel line off the carb, put it back on, fired it up and drove across the street and bought a new toyota paseo.

  10. Alan (Michigan)

    The Mitsubishi cars that I am familiar with from the era had drains in the fuel tanks. That would help a lot. Blow out the lines with cleaner and compressed air,get it running.
    What is going on?
    The BF guys are hitting many of my hot buttons this week!
    (too many project cars already)

  11. Mike Reese

    Wow. I wanted one of those when they were new (well, the Sapporo version) and even put a deposit on one at Mr. Norm’s Grand-Spaulding Dodge in Chicago … my dad talked me out of it. Hey, maybe he was right, but I’ll never know now!

  12. CarNut from Winnipeg Member

    I had a 1982 Sapporo in about 1987. Kept it a couple years. Not a bad driver for the day. Pillarless roof was nice in summer with no A/C. Sold it to get a 1985 Prelude which felt light years ahead of the Mitsu. Could be a fun nostalgic cruiser.

  13. M/K

    i’m thinking of a 302 based stoker and world class 5 speed, make for a 5.0 mustang killer in “sheeps clothing”.

  14. HeadMaster1

    I’d say a 5.3 aluminum LS with a speed behind it. I think these came with 4-wheel disk brakes, so jus upgrade the fronts, stiffer springs/sway bars, tiny bit lower, and hide the dual exhaust……Totally fun car that would do decent on the street and get decent mileage too

  15. RJ

    I love it! Great color scheme in and out. The seats look super comfortable as well. $3,000 doesn’t seem too bad if it could be gotten running with ease.



    Like 1
  17. Eclipse

    Its got a (Baby) Hemi!

  18. Adam T45 Staff

    In Australia these were sold as a sports variant of a sedan called the Mitsubishi Sigma. These were mechanically close to identical, but carried the name Mitsubishi Scorpion. Great name, eh?

    • Mike Reese

      Wonder why they didn’t use either Sigma or Scorpion in the states … yeah, people knew the Challenger name, but not connected to a car of that type! Like Ford tossing the Taurus name for the Five Hundred. Dumb.

      • Adam T45 Staff

        I don’t really know why they didn’t use either name. Here’s another mystery for you: In 1981 Mitsubishi released a factory turbo version of the Sigma sedan in Australia. Given that all of the under-pinning and drive-train were shared between the two cars, you have to wonder why they never included the turbo engine in the Scorpion/Challenger. This would’ve made it a car whose performance matched the looks. This is a photo of the Sigma Turbo sedan from 1981.

        Like 1
      • Gagagarage

        Scorpion name was being used by Lancia in the US during the late 1970s.

  19. Gagagarage

    Learned to drive from an instructor who owned one identical to this car with the exception of an automatic transmission. No one had more fun in driving school! For the period, it was a cool looking car.

  20. Alex York

    I bought my 95% perfect 1982 Dodge Challenger 2.6L HEMI yesterday in Detroit Michigan! It’s black on black. If you or someone you know has one or has even seen one on the road or in a junk yard please call/text email me!
    I’m missing the rear left side panel trim piece. Thanks!

    Alex: 248-914-5678


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