Another Kind of Dodge Challenger: The Mitsubishi Years, 1978-1984

The second-generation Dodge Challenger may not be so well-remembered today, but it was a well-built, fun-driving car. Here we take a quick look back at the Challengers that Mitsubishi built.



Discontinued in 1974 at the end of a successful five-year run, the Challenger returned to the Dodge lineup for 1978 in a completely new form—as a compact import coupe manufactured by Mitsubishi in Japan. This second-generation Challenger was an exercise in global badge engineering. With minor variations in trim, colors, and features, the same vehicle was marketed by Chrysler’s Plymouth division as the Sapporo, by Chrysler Australia as the popular Sigma, and in Japan as the Mitsubishi Galant Lambda.



With no V8 available, the second-generation Challenger, built on a petite 99-inch wheelbase, was marketed not as a muscle car but as a compact personal luxury coupe. Two four-cylinder engines were available, a standard 1.6 liter unit and an optional 2.6-liter four, both equipped with Mitsubishi’s Silent Shaft vibration balancer system. Buyers had their choice of a standard five-speed manual or an optional three-speed automatic transmission, and eventually the larger 2.6-liter four was made standard.

The emphasis on this latest Challenger was not on high performance but on the long list of luxury and convenience features, including a premium stereo, trip computer, memory seats, and an optional overhead console with digital clock. Other eye-catching features included two-tone paint and bold interior fabrics. Base price for the upmarket compact coupe was $5,665 for 1978, rising with inflation to $8,323 by 1983. Annual sales for the Dodge Challenger and Plymouth Sapparo combined averaged 25,000 to 30,000 units.



Dodge was far from shy about promoting the Challenger’s Japanese origin. Advertising taglines included “Dodge by Mitsubishi” and “from Japan to Dodge.”  In these years, the Motor City had earned a reputation for poor build quality, Chrysler in particular, while Japan’s star was rising in the automotive world. With the Challenger and its other import models, including the Colt and the compact D-50 Ram pickup, Dodge was trading on its product strengths.

In 1983, Dodge found itself with multiple sport compacts in the pipe, including the Charger, Daytona, and Conquest, so despite steady sales, the Challenger was discontinued. (A handful of holdovers were sold in model year 1984.) The name would not appear again until 2006 with the unveiling of a new Dodge Challenger concept at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.


6 thoughts on “Another Kind of Dodge Challenger: The Mitsubishi Years, 1978-1984

  1. Is it simply too expensive to trademark new model names whiles while still protecting the old ones? Or must companies re-use a trademarked name within a period of time else lose it? Detroit, and Chrysler in particular, has tarnished several model names although history shows this Challenger to be a better car than the Cougar station wagon.

  2. Technically this was the third generation as the Dodge Coronet had a Challenger model in1958 and 59

  3. Mitsubishi was probably one of the reasons Chrysler stayed afloat in the early to mid 80’s. With the changes to smaller more fuel efficient vehicles coming faster than Chrysler could adapt, Mitsubishi came to the rescue with engines and drivelines that were competitive to everyone else. We bought a minivan in the early 80’s, after driving all of them, we ended up with a Plymouth Voyager with the Mitsubishi 4 cyl, a much better engine than the Chrysler 4 cyl. While the rest of the minivan was so so Chrysler engineering, that little Mitsubishi never missed a beat. Was still running great when we traded for a later model Voyager with the Chrysler V6.
    I remember those Mitsubishi Challengers, always like the bodystyle. Weren’t many sold in my area, so they were seldom seen. Must not have caught on with the ricer crowd, they didn’t get saved. Probably got used up and thrown away, like most things nowadays.

  4. The Scorpion as badged in Oz was never a Sigma, but a Mitsubishi.
    Actually quite different to the Sigma as while the same base design most mechanical parts were different. japanese car v Australian manufactured.
    Decent cars in their day, but should never have had the Challenger badge!

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