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1978 Plymouth Sapporo : Classic Cars

In 1976, Mitsubishi made a coupe version of the Galant Sigma, called the Galant Lambda. In 1978, it started to be sold as the Dodge Challenger and Plymouth Sapporo in the US, and the Chrysler Scorpion in Australia. The 1978 Sapporo rode on an extended wheelbase (99 vs 92 inches), with the same height and another couple of inches of width (65.6 inches). In 1981, there was a minor facelift, and in 1987, a four door version resembling the Galant was introduced. The Sapporo and Challenger were based closely on the Arrow, but had a longer wheelbase and overall length, and two inches more width.

In 1981, the Challenger, like the Colt wagon and D-50 Sport, used Mitsubishi’s 2.6 liter four-cylinder “silent shaft” engine, equipped with counter-rotating balance shafts. This engine had the MCA-JET system, essentially a third “jet” valve in the combustion chamber that opened with the intake valve to feed a very lean mixture of fuel and air into the combustion chamber when the engine was at low speed with the throttle nearly closed. This leaned the fuel-air mixture and caused more swirling in the combustion chamber for better burning and gas mileage. At higher engine speeds, air going through the jet valve moved slower (it went faster than the speed of sound at idle) and normal combustion took place.

While somewhat prone to oil burning, the 2.6 was a long-lasting engine that produced a decent amount of power. Challenger had standard power front disc brakes, with four wheel disc brakes available as part of a Road Wheel package. The standard transmission was a five-speed stick, with an optional four-speed automatic; standard tires were a relatively large, generous 195/70R14.

Standard features included bucket seats, a tachometer, temperature and oil gauges, ammeter, trip odometer, adjustable steering column, remote hood and deck release, electric rear window defroster, overhead console with clock and lights, carpeting, chimes instead of buzzers, tinted glass, locking gas cap, power brakes, power steering, dual horns, and four-speaker FM stereo. In short, it was a well-outfitted car.

The Challenger name had been used on a domestic muscle car for some years, making its appearance on a Mitsubishi somewhat insulting to the faithful. However, the Sapporo/Challenge quickly made a name for itself among some enthusiasts thanks to an advanced manual transmission and fast (for the time) engine.

In 1982, its final year, the Challenger/Sapporo gained concealed drip moldings around the windshield to reduce wind noise, noise-absorbing headliner, a double toe board with sound-absorbing fabric, along with a deeper trunk which required a different fuel tank design and relocated rear springs. Painted urethane bumpers were standard in this year, using steel backing plates.

More rubber isolators were used in the four-link suspension to improve the ride and noise, and the front suspension’s king pin offset was reduced to increase passenger room (it allowed the front wheelhouse to be smaller). The pivot point of the lower control arm was moved forward and a new soft bushing used on the upper end of the control arm strut, cutting harshness without affecting steering response or stability; in the rear, harshness was cut with a redesigned control arm bushing and larger, stiffer axle.

The driver’s seat gained an adjustable cushion, and both front seats got underseat storage trays. New heating ducts were added to help rear passengers.

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Sources : 1978 Plymouth Sapporo Photo | 1978 Plymouth Sapporo Article


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