Junkyard Gem: 1978 Plymouth Sapporo

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Chrysler began selling rebadged Mitsubishis in the United States in the 1971 model year, when the first Mitsubishi Colt Galants appeared as Dodge Colts here. This relationship prospered as the decade progressed, and the Galant Lambda coupe acquired Plymouth Sapporo and Dodge Challenger badges and went on sale in North America for the 1978 model year. We’ve seen a MitsuChallenger in this series, and now it’s time for an example of its Plymouth sibling, found in a Colorado yard last month.

Thanks to the increasingly good reputation of reliable and fuel-efficient Japanese machinery in the United States during the 1970s, the “manufactured in Japan” plaque became a selling point for these cars.

The Sapporo had a 1.6-liter straight-four as its base engine, but this car has the optional 2.6-liter Astron. Its 105-horsepower output was fairly serious stuff for a small car in 1978. Later on, turbocharged Astrons powered the legendary Mitsubishi Starions, while naturally-aspirated versions went into Chrysler’s K-Cars.

The interior sports tri-tone bucket seats, racy-looking steering wheel, and full gauges.

In the late 1970s through early 1980s, you needed opera lights on your car to be truly classy. The Chrysler Cordoba had them, the Lincoln Continental Town Car had them, the Oldsmobile Toronado had them, and this Sapporo has them.

AM/FM stereo radios (or any radio, for that matter) and power remote mirrors were expensive options on most cars in 1978.

The 1972 Winter Olympics took place in Sapporo, Japan, so the name had some recognition. Mitsubishi didn’t start selling cars under its own badging here until the 1983 model year, and the Galant (sedan only) didn’t arrive on these shores until 1985.

The interior in this one got pretty well roasted from long-term outdoor parking (apparently in Nebraska, if we are to judge by the 2002 license plate I found inside the car). These cars aren’t worth very much even in good condition, and so I still find numerous Malaise Era sporty Chryslerbishis during my junkyard travels.

What a deal!

In the Sapporo’s homeland, the TV ads for the Galant Lambda were less about cheapness and more about the glamorous Lambda lifestyle.

The opera lights weren’t just for Americans.

The great ride in the Galant Lambda caused passenger hallucinations, apparently.

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Saurabh Shukla

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