1960’s Mitsubishi Colts in Australia
A brief history
The year was 1965 and the first Mitsubishi Colt arrived on Australian shores in the form of the Mitsubishi Colt 1000. For the next four years, Dealers around Australia would import and promote the various models including the Colt 1000, 1000f, 1100 sedan and the more recognized 1100f known as the Fastback. One such Dealership was Martins Distributors in South Australia who advertised frequently in Adelaide’s local paper, the Advertiser.
The Managing Director of Mitsubishi in Australia, Doug Stewart, was asked in 1966 to evaluate the Colt 1000 Fastback on behalf of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries. After successful testing, cars were left in Australia for Australian Rally driver Colin Bond and Doug Stewart to test in competitive environments like the Southern Cross Rally. In 1967 Bond entered a 1000F in the Southern Cross Rally in New South Wales and finished fourth overall. It’s been said that Griffon Motors Australia in conjunction with Stewart and Bond suggested 38 changes to the Colt 1000f - Mitsubishi applied 36 of these changes to the later model Colts. In late 1968 the company released the new and improved 1100f with more hp and a sports model in the form of the 1100F-SS. By 1971 production of the Colts had ceased and Mitsubishi in conjunction with Chrysler were producing Galants for the Australian market. In the 1980’s the name Colt reappeared, however the cars were a far cry from their rear wheel drive imported predecessors.
Colts in Australia today
Only a handful of cars remain in Australia today and over 40 years after their production, Colt enthusiast Craig Fordham from South Australia finds himself owning 4 of them. Craig’s interest began when a friend put him in touch with the owner of a 1968 Colt 1100 Sedan several years ago. From there the fascination grew and Old Colts in Oz ( www.oldcolts.com.au ) was formed. Through the website, Craig has made contacts all over the world and has managed to acquire a nice collection of parts to compliment the fours cars. Although all of the cars wear the Colt name tag, each has its own personality with distinctively different styles and features.
1967 Mitsubishi Colt 1000 Sedan
The oldest car in Craig’s Collection is a 1967 Colt 1000 Sedan. The car came with the original books and was first purchased from Dick Martin’s Cars at Edwardstown in SA in 1967. Under the bonnet is a 977cc KE43 series engine which when new produced 51 bhp at 6,000 rpm and had a top speed of 69mph. Interesting items in the engine bay include an old paper cartridge style oil filter, tin rocker cover, water bag style washer bottle and a glass fuel filter. Driveline is a 4 speed, column shift manual gear box and she rolls on 13 inch wheels with drum brakes all round. The hubcaps on the 1000 sedan are a centre-cap style which tap onto the standard wheels. The interior consists of a vinyl floor ( no carpet ), bench seat, and most of the door skins still have the plastic on them from new. Optional extras in the Colt 1000 were a radio, Heater, Defroster, Cigarette Lighter and white wall tyres. Craig’s model contains the Heater which works well but the other options were left out. The exterior sports factory guard mirrors, a big chrome grille, protruding door handles and the same tail light configuration as the later model 1100 Sedans. Although the 1000 has the smallest engine in Craig’s collection, it drives well and with only 42,000 original miles on the odometer, it provides a nice comfortable and reliable ride.
1968 Mitsubishi Colt 1100 Sedan
The 1100 sedan has the same body shape as the 1000 but with some minor differences. This 1100 was rescued from a paddock about 6 years ago and it was a one owner car with the original books. The car also came from Dick Martin’s Cars in SA and the service history books contain the dealer stamps from back when it was new. Since the purchase, the interior has been retrimmed back to standard and the brakes have had an overhaul. Apart from that, the car is in its original condition including the paintwork. The 1100 Sedan sports a 1088cc KE44 motor which produced 58bhp when new. The top speed was recorded as 77.7 mph and peak power was at 6000rpm. Similar to the 1000 sedan, the engine bay includes an old paper cartridge style oil filter, tin rocker cover, water bag style washer bottle and a glass fuel filter. Driveline is a 4 speed, column shift manual gear box and it sits on 13 inch, 4 stud wheels with drum brakes all round. The hubcaps on the 1100 sedan are also a centre-cap style. Options available from factory were a radio, heater, defroster, cigarette lighter, clock, carpet, front arm rest, lockable glove box, sun visor, guard mirrors, additional body moulding and white wall tyres. Only the white wall tyres, carpet and radio are present in this car. Differences between the 1100 sedan and the 1000 Sedan include the 1100 has a smaller grille, sunken door handles, different dash and the front bench seat mounts differently. The boot is identical in both cars and each contain a factory tool bag and jack.
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1969 Mitsubishi Colt 1100f 2 door
The white 2 door in Craig’s collection was advertised on an online car site for sale and at the time Craig only had the 1100 sedan so he had plenty of room for it. The car was on it’s third owner but going back a couple of years, history shows it was a one owner car for most of its life. The car was regularly serviced at Motorlab in Unley SA and the original owner sold the car to one of the Motorlab mechanics. Soon after it was a daily driven car until it found its way into Craig’s shed in Adelaide’s southern suburbs. Rolling off the production line, the 1100f Colts made 58bhp @ 6000rpm from their 1088cc KE44 engines and had a top speed of 87 mph. Although the power from the engine is the same, the coupes are a little lighter, tipping the scales at 735kg as opposed to 800kg for the sedans. The rocker cover is alloy and the oil filter is the same metal surrounded style like you would find in engine bays today. Rolling stock are an unusual 12 inch, 5 stud wheel which makes finding replacements a bit difficult. Hubcaps are a centre style, similar to the sedans although they are more of a pointed unit in the centre. The car is the original colour although it does appear to have been resprayed at some point. Inside, the options available from the dealer were a heater-demister and two speed fan, cigarette lighter, radio, white wall tyres, windscreen washers and wipers. The radio, cigarette lighter and wipers are all present in this example.
1969 Mitsubishi Colt 1100f 3 door hatch
The most recent of Craig’s purchases is this original 1969 1100f hatchback. In a very surprising coincidence, this car was bought new by Gwen and Harry Kranz from Martins Distributors and also contains the original service books. Amazing that three of Craig’s cars were sold and serviced at the same dealership 40 years ago, garaged across the state and are now reunited in great running condition - a very rare accomplishment. The Kranz’s originally ordered a white 1100f but what arrived was more of a cream colour. The statistics are the same as those for the 2 door 1100f : 58bhp @ 6000rpm from it’s 1088cc KE44 engine and a top speed of 87 mph. The rocker cover is alloy and the oil filter is the same metal surrounded style like you would find today. The key difference in the two coupes is the hatchback which often goes un-noticed at first glance. Only when you see the cars side by side does the boot versus hatch stand out in comparison. The hubcaps on the hatch are a full wheel cover although this type did also appear on 2 doors as well. The wheels are 12 inch, 5 stud and the brakes are also drums all round. The interior is basically the same as the 2 door although the seat trim is a little different and the rear seat folds down. A highlight of the hatch is the picnic table spare wheel cover which is in great original condition. Underneath it is the original spare wheel complete with white wall tyre. The factory tool bag and jack can also be found.
On the surface the sedans and coupes look similar and with only 2 years separating the build dates, you could be forgiven for thinking the cars were fairly similar to drive. If you ask Craig though, he’ll tell you a different story. Each car is unique and although he won’t be able to hang on to them all forever, Craig says he would find it hard to part with any of them ; “The 1000 sedan feels like an old cruiser, nice and comfortable to drive and has a nostalgic feel with the guard mirrors and bench seat. The 1100 sedan has a little more power and the fresh carpet makes you feel at home. The column shift gear changes ensure that you don’t forget you’re driving a classic car. The 2 door 1100f is the sportiest of them all. The front bucket seats allow you to lean back a little and the replica twin outlet muffler gives it a sporty note. The four on the floor feels natural and being an 1100 means the 2 door has a bit of poke when needed. And lastly the hatchback has a really genuine, nostalgic feel to it. I reckon you can tell the car has been garaged all its life and well nurtured.” With 2 Bay to Birdwood Classic’s already under his belt and all four Colts on Historic registration, Craig says you’ll be seeing at least a couple of these cars hitting SA roads for many more years to come.
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