Junkyard Find: 1988 Dodge Colt DL 4WD Wagon

1988 Dodge Colt 4WD Wagon in California junkyard, LH front view - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsChrysler sold various Mitsubishis badged as Dodge or Plymouth Colts from the 1971 model year all the way through 1994.

Here’s a Mirage-based fifth-generation Colt in California, the final model year for the Colt station wagon, and it sports both a five-speed manual transmission and the very rare all-wheel-drive powertrain.

1989 Dodge Colt 4WD Wagon in California junkyard, rear view - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsAmerican car buyers could get a Mitsubishi Chariot MPV with Colt Vista badging for the 1983-1991 model years, but the true Colt wagons never sold very well over here. 1988 was the last year for the North American Colt wagon.

1989 Dodge Colt 4WD Wagon in California junkyard, hatch badge - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThe four-wheel-drive/all-wheel-drive distinction hadn’t been established by automotive-industry marketing wizards by 1988, but this Colt has a genuine center-diff-equipped AWD system that — unlike the earlier generation of Japanese 4WD cars — didn’t require the driver to switch to front-wheel-drive for dry pavement.

1989 Dodge Colt 4WD Wagon in California junkyard, steering wheel - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsBy the early 1990s, North Americans could buy cars made by Toyota, Nissan, Honda, and Subaru with power going to all four wheels all the time, no driver decisions needed. Subaru was a little late to that party, while Audi/Volkswagen and American Motors got into the all-wheel-drive game much earlier.

1989 Dodge Colt 4WD Wagon in California junkyard, hatch badge - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsA car like this would have made a lot of sense in the icy Sierras, and I found this car in a yard just about exactly halfway between Carson City and San Francisco. Michael Hohl Automotive is still around, all these years later.

1989 Dodge Colt 4WD Wagon in California junkyard, instrument cluster - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsNot quite 200,000 miles, but close enough.

1989 Dodge Colt 4WD Wagon in California junkyard, manual gearshift - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThe Colt was very affordable, and few Colt purchasers felt willing to squander extra money on an automatic transmission. This attitude changed around the time the Neon replaced the Colt, especially when the price of slushboxes plummeted.

1989 Dodge Colt 4WD Wagon in California junkyard, HVAC controls - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsOf course, the original buyer of this Colt did prove willing to pay for air conditioning, so maybe the five-speed was selected due to personal preference, not Thin Wallet Syndrome.

1989 Dodge Colt 4WD Wagon in California junkyard, ashtray - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsPerhaps this car was a runner at the end, but the intense stale-Marlboro stench would have put off most members of the very small pool of used-car shoppers willing to drive a cramped three-pedal vehicle with 31 years under its belt.


Disappointingly, Chrysler didn’t push the “Cyclone” branding for Mitsubishi engines over here.

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