Monday, April 20, 2009

Nostalgic Subcompact: Tall wagon triplets—Mitsubishi Expo LRV, Eagle Summit Wagon, and Plymouth Colt Vista

Mitsubishi Expo LRV
The Mitsubishi Expo LRV (Light Recreational Vehicle) was my first car, and was the vehicle that really got me into subcompact cars. It was the first vehicle I ever really worked on an modified (yes, I added some mods to mine ... more on that later). I even ran a Web site called the "Mitsubishi Expo LRV Pages," which included a gallery and forum for this vehicle.

Eagle Summit WagonThe Tall Wagon
When released to the U.S. market in 1992, the Mitsubishi Expo LRV, Eagle Summit Wagon, and Plymouth Colt Vista triplets were pretty unique to the U.S. market, and were closest to a class of vehicle that included cars such as the Nissan Stanza Wagon, the Dodge Colt Vista, the Honda Civic Wagon, and the hard-to-remember Nissan Axxes. However, other than the Axxes, the previous tall wagons had ceased to exist in the U.S. This bodystyle was (and is) popular in other parts of the world, and was sold as the Mitsubishi RVR (Recreational Vehicle Runner) and Space Runner elsewhere. It seemed tall wagons weren't popular in U.S. market, but Mitsubishi was going to give it a go one more time.

All three vehicles were about the same size as a first-generation Scion xB, but featured a sliding side door like a mini van instead of four traditional doors. Under the Mitsubishi brand, there was also the Mitsubishi Expo (no "LRV," just Expo), which was a bigger version with four doors.

Powertrain
The vehicles were powered with the SOHC Mitsubishi 4G93 1.8-liter engine generating 113 hp. and 118 ft./lbs. or torque. It was available with an automatic or five-speed transmission, and all-wheel drive was an option, too. Fuel economy was rated at 21/26 for the FWD model with five speed; 18/24 with the AWD and automatic.

The next year, the Expo LRV and its cousins, gained a SOHC 4G64 2.4-liter engine on all models, sans the base version, which maintained the 1.8-liter mill. This bumped horsepower up to 136, and torque up to 145 ft./lbs. and made the vehicle quite a bit faster. Fuel economy went to 19/26 with the larger engine.

Mitsubishi RVR Hyper Sports GearAs a side note, the Mitsubishi RVR/Space Runner was available with other engines including a diesel, the non-turbo 4G63 out of the Eclipse, and the turbocharged 4G63T found in the Eclipse and EVO. In fact, there was a version called the Mitsubishi RVR Hyper Sports Gear (at left) that was essentially an Evolution III wearing an Expo/RVR body. Do want.

Chassis
All three tall wagons rode on a 99.2" wheelbase (168.5 overall length) and weighed in at about 2,700 lbs (FWD). The vehicles had front and rear independent suspensions, too, although the suspension was very soft, which didn't help cornering (we used to joke that "LRV" stood for "Likely to Roll oVer"). Rolling stock consisted of 14" steel wheels with an alloy option. However, the ride wasn't bad at all. My '92 Expo LRV had four-wheel disc brakes and ABS, which was optional.

Interior
The interior was the highlight of these vehicles; not because it was ultra luxurious, but because it was ultra versatile.

Open the sliding rear door and there was a bench seat that could seat three. When it came time to haul cargo, the bench worked its magic: The back could fold down, it could fold down and flip forward, or it could be completely removed. I was able to get stuff in my Expo LRV that my mom wasn't able to get in her much larger 1997 Montero Sport.

Nothing too special about the front passenger's compartment. Two comfortable, albeit, unsupportive bucket seats up front. The 1992 model year had no airbags but did have the much-loathed motorized seatbelts. In addition, the '92 model year didn't have a tachometer. I believe subsequent years did, though.

In 1993, the vehicles got a passenger's side air bag; 1994 years got dual bags.

In 1992, there were a decent amount of options, too, including cruise, power windows/locks, rear defrost, AM/FM/Cassette, air conditioning, roof rack, power sunroof, rear window wiper, and more.

I remember the vehicle was praised by Car & Driver, and was referred to several times as a great alternative to larger vehicles due to its great cargo capacity.

Regardless of any praise, options, or performance, these vehicles may have proved too niche at the time for the U.S. market ...

Plymouth Colt Vista WagonThe demise of the tall wagon triplets
Things started to fall off for these vehicles early on: 1993 was the last model year for the Plymouth Colt Vista wagon. The following year was the last for the Mitsubishi Expo LRV, although the full-size Expo continued on to 1995. The last to go was the Eagle Summit Wagon, which lasted until the 1996 model year.

The automotive market essentially went five years before another tall wagon came to market: That tall wagon was the PT Cruiser in 2001. Then, in 2004, Scion introduced the xB and xA, which were also tall wagons.

My Mitsubishi Expo LRV
Unfortunately, I don't have any photos of my old Mitsubishi Expo LRV. I had a ton of them for my old Web site, but no more. My Expo LRV was the "sport" version in Barbados Blue with Gray cladding, and the 14" steel wheels. It was a FWD version with a manual transmission and no tach and no rear windshield wiper. (To get the rear wiper, at least on 1992 versions, you had to get an automatic transmission.)

When I started the Mitsubishi Expo LRV Pages in 1996 or 1997, I believe, I ran across other fans of these vehicles. One person even had begun to modify his. I followed his lead and installed a custom-bent 2.5" cat-back exhaust system with the Midas "high-performance" muffler (e.g. a non-straight-through muffler without fiberglass); I modified the airbox and installed a K&N drop-in filter. At 19 years of age, I thought it sounded great. However, I look back and it did sound like a weed eater. I eventually had a resonator installed in the exhaust system which helped.

After nearly 120,000 miles on my Expo LRV, I traded it in on a 1999 Nissan Sentra SE Limited, which was much cooler. However, it wasn't nearly as versatile. Eventually, I went the way of the tall wagon again in 2005 and bought an xB. However, they say you always remember your first, and my Expo LRV was my first car.

My dream project car has always been to have an Expo LRV with the 4G63 turbo engine from the Eclipse. It'd make a smokin' sleeper. Some day.

LINKS
1993 Mitsubishi Expo LRV Review by Cars.com
Internet Archive for my Mitsubishi Expo LRV Pages site
Edmunds.com (good amount of Expo info there)

39 comments:

Jake said...

Hey, great post. My first car was a 96 or 97 Ford Aspire with just 19000 miles on it. It was a red 2-door, bone-stock heat-and-keys stripper and I loved every inch of it, except for the fact that the Aspire logo on the back was a sticker with pink scripty font. That was pretty embarrassing.

However, ever since then, I've only driven compact or subcompact cars - I consider my current Jeep Cherokee compact since it has an overall length of under 170 inches. There's nothing like a small car for maneuverability, practicality and workable dimensions. Thanks for posting this, anyway, the Mazda5 is about the closest thing on the market today to a compact with a sliding door.

Thirty-Nine said...

The Cherokee is an amazingly maneuverable vehicle. My father has a 2001 and had a 1990 with nearly 220,000 miles on it. They have pretty amazing turning circles and are fantastic off road.

I love the Mazda5. If I needed a larger vehicle that could hold seven people, it'd be a 5 for sure. Plus it's available with a manual transmission.

FYI, the largest car I've ever owned would have to be either a 1998 Honda Prelude SH or a 1999 Nissan Sentra SE Limited. Neither of which are very big!

Eric said...

I can't believe you left out the 8-ball shifter knob in your list of mods :)

Thirty-Nine said...

It was a two-ball shifter knob, thank you very much!

D2M said...

Ah, we still drive these in Misawa! I see these all over the place. In fact, I think a friend of mine has one.

That's all I have to say. :D

Elaine said...

I am still driving my 93 Vista and I LOVE it. It's worrying me what I will get to replace it when the time comes - it's the perfect vehicle for someone who needs to haul cargo one day and people the next. Am determined to keep it going as long as possible!
Elaine

Elaine said...

I am still driving my 93 Vista wagon and I love it! It's the perfect car for someone who has to haul cargo one day and passengers the next, equal head & leg room for front & back seats, good mileage, less cumbersome than a minivan. I am trying hard to keep it going for as long as I can, since there is nothing really comarable out there!

1BadVan said...

I currently own a 96 Eagle Summit Wagon AWD 5 spd in great shape exterior/interior. This is my project vehicle and I plan to keep it. It has to be the most versatile little wagon I've seen. I just rebuilt the motor in it and going to turbo the 4g64 motor (popular build with DSM crowd). Alot of Montero, Galant and DSM parts fit this also. These little wagons have a small "cult" following, but are very hard to find in good shape. I love this little thing, it is shorter than my 86 Monte Carlo, but sits 5 and has even more room with the bench seat reclined or removed.I think if they would bring a newer version to the US market now, they would sell like hot cakes.

Thirty-Nine said...

1BadVan: Keep me updated on the project! I'd love to see what you do with the vehicle!

Ford Car Parts said...

Yeah beyond being ugly they all look so top heavy. Kind of like the cone head era of cars.

TnyGoddess said...

I still own my '93 Expo LRV, however it's been parked for a few years and I am currently waiting on a bro-n-law to just do some work on it to get it back on the road after a head-on collision took out my Mazda6 last October. I held onto my Expo because it's the coolest little van and was fun driving and since I am disabled it was perfect transporting a scooter or wheelchair. Glad to find your page and see the other Expo fans out there;)

Beastlee said...

The white Hyper Sports Gear R in the 3rd picture is actually our car. a great car and soon to have a few choice modifications :)

If anyone can get point me in the right direction of parts for it I'd appreciate it!

prolix said...

Hey my very first comment on your site. ,I have been reading your blog for a while and thought I would completely pop in and drop a friendly note. . It is great stuff indeed.

Exhaust Shops

Anonymous said...

I still have a 1993 Plymouth Colt Vista SE, although I have replaced everything on it, and it is susceptible to rust at the wheel wells... Can anyone suggest contemporary alternatives to this car? I can find nothing as nimble, compact, with the great storage, interior viewing and high positioning that this car has.

Thanks!

Andy Lilienthal said...

The closest thing I can suggest is the Suzuki SX4, Kia Rio, or Nissan Cube. You could look at the Scion xB, but the xB is going to be a tad bigger. None will have the LRV's sliding door, but they're they'll be the closest. You could also check out the 2004-2006 Scion xB which is nearly identical in dimensions.

smitty said...

Despite recent claims for pretenders to the title, the original "Swiss Army Knife of Cars" was the 5-speed 4WD version of the 1984-93 Dodge/Plymouth Colt Vista mini-wagon. Besides a carrying capacity of up to seven PLUS some bags, the 4WD Vista had heavy-duty brakes, lots of ground clearance, and a quite sophisticated long-travel suspension that would take its owner far beyond the reach of any soccer-mom's minivan, but back on pavement it would deliver mid-20s mpg as a daily commuter. There is a brand-new (est. Dec, 2011)site for enthusiasts, www.coltvista.com

Andy Lilienthal said...

Woo hoo! Finally, another dedicated Colt Vista/Eagle Summit Wagon/Mitsubishi Expo site. Thanks for sharing.

ColtVista.com

Anonymous said...

I have two! I have a 1992 AWD Mitsubishi Expo for winter... I love it! best car ever in the snow.. handles like a dream. Then I have a 1994 Colt Vista for daily driving (it has less rust and looks a little nicer the Mitsi). I LOVE THESE CARS. I would buy more if I could find them! They handle well, run great, I sit up higher in them and for a short girl that is awesome and they're are just cute fun cars that last. And the AWD rivals Subaru any day! plus you can pick them up for around $500 bucks in pretty decent shape... if you do a lot of searching. They are very underestimated and undervalued and I like it that way, I'll just keep buying them from people who dont realize what they've got! Space Rockets RULE! :)

Anonymous said...

I discovered them when I was given a worn out, sick '93 Eagle Summit. I now have 3 of these cars (including the now refurbed '93). They are extremely well executed. Mine are all 1.8L 5 speed (no accident) and routinely get 30-36 MPG.

I really enjoy the package of versatility, handling, fuel economy and longevity! Everything works on all of them, whereas my younger Chrysler minivan has stuff falling off it regularly.

Hats off to Mitsubishi for building an excellent automobile.

Charlie McCurdy said...

Glad to hear other people love these little MPVs. I have a 95 Summit wagon AWD with the extras. These are hard to find info for and parts. I bought mine in 2002 and still drive it daily, it is my business car. I looked a few years ago, when I blew a cylinder, to find something similar. I couldn't find anything with the same interior versatility and so good in the snow (I live in the boonies of WA state). Instead of spending $30,000 on what I didn't want, I spent $5,000 replacing everything under the hood, new brakes, suspension, tires, and alignment with a 7 year warranty on the new engine. Now all I need is paint and hubcaps.

John Boanerges Redman said...

I just went from N.H. to Richmond, Va to get my 3rd Summit. This and the 2nd one are AWD models. I replaced #2 because of serious rust issues. I have saved all the good parts which are dry stored and for sale. The 1st one is still 'running' but has serious electrical issues and is tired from 350K miles. It's my 'farm car'. From #2 I have doors and hatch. I have auto tranny w/ OD. I'm keeping the engine. I have fenders. I have computers and all four corners of wheel/suspension (w/ ABS). I have both air bags. I have rear diff and transfer case and drive shaft. John Redman, Antrim, NH

Anonymous said...

I think fondly of mine.....it's been a while but was truly a great, versatile car. I loved the fact I could completely remove the seat and haul a boatload of stuff. Brings a tear to my eye thinking about it....

Anonymous said...

I need a rear differential for 92 Plymouth Colt Vista AWD 2.4L

This is Mitsubishi part MB598240 and has 2.8 gear ratio.

If you have one or know where I can get on with less than 100,000 miles on the car, please call me at (775) 841-1193 and leave a message. I will call back asap.

Thanks!!!

Kimberly Crews said...

I finally let go of my Mitsubishi Expo LRV this year. I loved that car. It had well over 200,000 miles on it and mechanics would always offer to buy it.

Is there anything like it out there today?
Kim

jessica wrigley said...

I have a 92 Plymouth Colt Vista 1.8L. I love this car but I can never find parts for it. I would like to sell it and get a bigger car as my family is growing. What should I sell my car for? Missing the plastic covering in the hat h and the plastic covering under the steering column. Fuel injecters were just replaced and the body and interior is in great condition. What is someone's guess on how much I should let this baby go.for?

Todd L. said...

Two years ago I was given a 1992 Plymouth Colt Vista 2.4 automatic with 66,000 miles. No rust. I put new tie rods on it and replaced the timing belt. It does weird things such as it refuses to shift into 3rd until it's warmed up. But it never failed to start, even at -15. It gets over 30 mpg highway. Two daughters are learning to drive with it.

Dave Hancey said...

After surviving prostate cancer and total knee surgery, my dad asked me to find him a car that "was a little easier to get into." That was 1992 and I saw an ad in People magazine for a brand new car---a Mitsubishi Expo LRV that looked perfect for him! He purchased one that had 11 miles on it and happily drove it for 3 1/2 years until he passed away. I inherited it and LOVE HER!!! Her name is Mitzi and she has seen me thru A LOT:-) Two small children, a divorce, re-marriage, two more children, lacrosse games, vacations, EVERYTHING. Through the years she has had a few things go wrong, but really not much...and I married a mechanic so that's been a blessing! This year on Jan 3 her heater core cracked, fixed that. Two weeks later her radiator blew, fixed that. Then on Feb 3 her engine died---I mean dead died. I thought we were to part company forever and I cried serious tears. We towed her home and were going to have a viewing and funeral and the next morning my husband called and said, "I found an engine in New Mexico!" Hot dang!!! She has now had a facelift, makeover, boob job, new paint and is running sweeter than ever. Mitzi is my connection to my dad and I truly love her with all my heart! Best. Car. EVER!!!

Andy Lilienthal said...

Great story, Dave; thanks for sharing! When my Expo LRV got "sick," it kept breaking CV joints, and it was beginning to nickel and dime me. Now, however, I'd love to get another one as a project!

Dave Hancey said...

Let me clear something up - the post is from my wife Laurel! I cried only when I had to do all the work.....
Dave

®i†@ said...

The first (and last) car that I bought new is my current one - a 1995 Eagle Summit Wagon, 1.8L, DL. I love this thing to pieces. I've been calling it "Lazarus" since getting it through a few stages of death recently. A new head gasket didn't hurt, of course. Currently on the hunt for a master cylinder replacement, or a repair kit. Have any of you used http://autopartmaster.com/ ? I'm about to buy the (cheaper) repair kit and see how it goes, but was concerned about the legitimacy of the site.

Thanks for the great post!

Anonymous said...

My '92 Colt Vista was my all time favorite car. I loved the versatility and smooth drive, and the panoramic view. I still mourn it. Mine got much better gas mileage than the statistics claim. If this vehicle made a comeback, I'd buy one immediately. Especially if it were AWD.

Unknown said...

still have mine in 2016

Anonymous said...

I am still driving my 93 Colt Vista as a daily work car (243K miles). I do a fair amount of mobile mechanic work and this hauls lots of tools and equipment in the back. Only drawback is, all the weight in the back takes the weight off the front tires, so I don't have as good of traction in the snow or even rain as I would in a normal setup. I picked it up for $400 and had to clean and seal the gas tank, replace the head gasket and I swapped out the auto for a standard transaxle. It had been sitting for about 4 years. One of the easiest cars to work on I have come across, and I work on lots of different cars. Getting harder to find replacement parts too. I can usually find what I need at Rockauto.com, but sometimes I need to get creative in my search. Also have replaced the timing belt twice already. If anyone needs it, I have an automatic transaxle out of a 92 Eagle summit wagon, 2.4 engine. It was working when I pulled it out of a wrecked car with ~82K miles. Only thing I don't like about it are those automatic seat belts! I have disabled mine and just fasten them manually, since I could not depend on them to work.
There I go, rambling again,
mjschne@bigfoot.com
Mike S.

Gary Cameron said...

I have a 93 and it's awesome. Somehow you should message me and we can connect.

Dave Hancey said...

Just finished painting and putting in a used engine with 36k miles on it. The original one finally overheated and my wife didn't get it turned off in time. As everything is pretty much new except part of the transmission, I reset the odometer to zero and now my wife thinks she has a new vehicle again!
Her father gave it to her before he passed away so she does not want to let it go. It has been a very good car and just keeps on going.��

JoeWorf said...

Currently have a 1993 Eagle Summit DL. It's the 1.8 with a 5-speed. Bought it about 2 years ago after having been "jonesing" for one since a buddy bought one new and I fell in love with it. I purposely shied away from the automatics after reading all the bad press and am glad I did. I love this thing to death due to the pure funkiness and versatility of it. Sadly, I'm on the verge of getting rid of it. Just too many other cars to justify hanging on to it. I'd love to see it go to a worthy fan, so if anyone has any interest post back before I change my mind (again) :-)

Dave Hancey said...

JoeWorf, Where is the car located out of curiosity?

Thanks-Dave

Kaila Fischer said...

My first car is a 92' Eagle Summit wagon, puchased for me in 2002 by my dad for my college and university days. Surprise! I still drive it today. Unfortunately, it just died down the street, which brought me online today to look up information. I have upgraded to a Cadillac srx, but could never part ways with my "summi". We've had our arguments. The sliding door fell off once, wipers quitting, the cancer of rust, its died before, to be reincarnated by my dad. It came back with more options like automatic windows, power locks and air! I have part cars sitting in storage in case I ever need them. But today, I just can't help but think, I just might need to get a new car. I always joked I'd put in limo Seating and "supe" it up for the world of wheels show. Today, I just need to get from A-B. And that won't happen with "Summi". Well off to walk the two blocks to get the rest of my groceries out of it before they perish in the sun, along with my dreams of summit living longer than I. I'm sure at 450,000+ kms (I am Canadian) I should let it RIP.... But I am sure he will rise from ashes far before my caddy will.

Anonymous said...

I recently bought a 1993 Plymouth Colt Vista SE with the 2.4 motor, auto trans, and has only 88,000 original miles. One prior owner and inside and out like new. New AC unit too. Bought it as an extra car but so much fun driving, has taken over as my primary car. Love it and only complaint is that auto trans won't shift into 3rd gear until car warmed up a little. Has overdrive 4th gear but that is no problem.
Not sure if was my transmission or tmc unit, but learned is a common issue for these automatics and 3rd gear.Friends see this car and say, what a cool little van. Plan on keeping it for a long time.