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  • Drew Dowdell
    Drew Dowdell

    The Phases of the Eclipse

      An Eclipse is an awesome sight if you can catch it at the right time before it fades into a memory. We're talking, of course, of the Mitsubishi Eclipse.

    In 1989, Mitsubishi released a new model called the Eclipse.  It was a sporty, affordable, front-wheel drive semi-successor to the Mitsubishi Starion.  The Starion line was split in two, with the Eclipse taking the affordable sports hatchback segment to compete with the Toyota Celica and Honda Prelude, while the new Mitsubishi 3000GT, introduced the following year, moved upmarket to compete with the Toyota Supra and Nissan 300ZX. Built in Normal, Illinois, in collaboration with Chrysler, the Eclipse was also sold as the Eagle Talon and Plymouth Laser and was related in platform with the Mitsubishi Galant.  In its second generation, the Eclipse became an icon in the tuning world before fading away to a shadow of its former self in the final two generations.

    1989 Mitsubishi EclipseFirst Generation Mitsubishi Eclipse (1989 – 1994)

    The original Eclipse could satisfy the budget-minded and sports car-minded customers alike.  At the base end, the grocery-getter version of the Eclipse was powered by a 92 horsepower 1.8-liter 4-cylinder.  Those wanting a bit more could opt for a 135-horsepower 2.0-liter dual overhead cam unit. If a buyer was dedicated to rowing their own gears and wanted an all-wheel drive, there was a manual-transmission-only version of this engine that bumped output higher to 150 horsepower. While none of these were barn burners, in a car weighing a mere 2,500 pounds, they could move pretty well. Remember that a larger and heavier 1989 Ford Taurus with a V6 had just 140 horsepower at the time.

    1989 Mitsubishi Eclipse interiorThe real fun began once a buyer started looking at the Eclipse GS Turbo or GSX models, with the primary difference between the two being the addition of all-wheel drive.  When equipped with a manual transmission, the Eclipse GS Turbo or GSX produced 190 – 195 horsepower, depending on the year.  Cars equipped with 4-speed automatics were downrated with smaller turbochargers to 180 horsepower, but whichever transmission you picked, the turbo-charged Eclipse had more horsepower than the base V8 in a 1989 Chevy Camaro and less weight to lug around.  The GS Turbo weighed in at 2,745 lbs, and the all-wheel drive GSX was a still-svelte 3,095 lb. Handling on the GSX models was further improved with limited slip center and rear differentials.

    1993 Mitsubishi EclipseDebuting with pop-up headlamps in 1989, Mitsubishi refreshed the popular Eclipse for 1992 with exposed aero headlamps. The interior was laid out in a driver-oriented fighter cockpit style, and having driven several, I remember them being very comfortable.  Most were equipped with a gray or black interior, but if a buyer wandered across the street to the Jeep-Eagle dealer, they could find an identical Eagle Talon with a handsome tan and black two-tone.

    Second Generation Mitsubishi Eclipse (1995 – 1999)

    1995 Mitsubishi Eclipse SpyderRedesigned for the 1995 model year, the second-generation Mitsubishi Eclipse became the icon of its time and the most popular of all generations of Eclipse.  Still built in cooperation with Chrysler, the Plymouth Laser was dropped, and the Eclipse / Talon was now a cousin of the larger Chrysler Sebring Coupe, and Dodge Avenger coupe.

    While the car remained the same overall length, Mitsubishi repackaged the interior for more room. The cockpit-style gauges and center stack were smoothed into a rounder and more luxury-oriented driver-centric layout. A convertible was added to the lineup (Eclipse only) as the Eclipse Spyder.

    Mitsubishi nudged the Eclipse upmarket by dropping the budget-friendly base trim for the first year. Starting with the RS trim, the Eclipse was powered by a Chrysler-built DOHC 2.0-liter shared with the recently introduced Dodge/Plymouth Neon. This unit produced 140 horsepower / 130 lb-ft of torque and was mated to a 5-speed manual transmission or 4-speed automatic.  The GS trim kept this same powertrain but added 4-wheel disk brakes, cruise control, 16-inch wheels, a rear wiper, and more. Spyder GS models got a larger 2.4-liter Mitsubishi-built 4-cylinder with 141 horsepower and 163 lb-ft of torque, to handle the extra weight of the convertible.

    As with the prior generation, the real fun began when buyers started looking at turbo-equipped models. All turbo-powered second-generation Eclipses are powered by a new version of the Mitsubishi 4G63 4-cylinder. Mitsubishi switched to smaller turbos but increased the compression ratio to reduce turbo lag and raise output to 210 horsepower (205 in automatics) and 214 lb-ft of torque at 3,000 rpm. These were better numbers than nearly every 6-cylinder on the market at the time and even beat the torque output of the 3-liter V8 in the BMW 530i at the time by offering the same amount of torque 1,500 rpm sooner.

    1998 Mitsubishi Eclipse interiorThis engine, which was also used in the Lancer Evolution in overseas markets, is incredibly popular with tuners because of the wide array of modifications available. Owners could tune the engine up to 270 hp and 228 lb.-ft of torque using OEM parts. Indeed, in the final two years of this generation, Mitsubishi quietly updated the engine with some Lancer Evolution parts, including a tuned crankshaft, better crankshaft bearings, and an updated ECU tune.

    The use of balance shafts and timing belts rather than chains made these engines extremely smooth running and happy to rev. The downside to this was that these are interference engines, and a timing belt failure could mean bent valves.

    Like before, the GSX model added all-wheel drive, upgraded brakes, and an optional limited-slip differential.  To the dismay of this author, Mitsubishi never offered a GSX Spyder.

    In 1997, both the Eclipse and Talon received exterior styling updates to look more aggressive and new interior color choices. But though incredibly popular, the generation ended after just four model years. The Eagle Talon was Eagle’s last vehicle as Chrysler phased out the brand. I personally spent a lot of time behind the wheel of a turbo Talon and remember those drives fondly.

    Third Generation Mitsubishi Eclipse (2000 – 2005)

    2000 Mitsubishi EclipseThe year 2000 was a change for everyone and that included the Eclipse. The third-generation Eclipse lost most of the qualities that made the prior two generations so revered.  Size and weight were up significantly, gone were the potent turbo-charged powertrains, gone was all-wheel drive, and the suspension was softened up to give a more comfortable ride. Thankfully, the Spyder remained an option.

    Again, sharing a platform with the Mitsubishi Galant sedan, the platform was also being used for larger coupes at Chrysler and Dodge with the Sebring Coupe and Dodge Stratus.  Power from the base 2.4-liter 4-cylinder came in at 147 horsepower, while a new 3.0-liter 24-valve single overhead cam V6 came in the GT trim with 205 horsepower. This was later revised down to 200 horsepower in 2001 to meet emissions standards and then back up to 210 horsepower in 2002 with a new GTS trim.

    Mitsubishi even experimented with an electric Eclipse EV prototype in 2001. Carrying an early lithium-ion battery, the Eclipse EV was able to complete a 249-mile circuit around Shikoku, Japan, on a single charge.

    While initially popular, the car’s lack of sportiness and the public’s migration to sport utility vehicles caused Eclipse sales to fade.

    Fourth Generation Mitsubishi Eclipse (2006 – 2012)

    2006 Mitsubishi EclipseThe final generation of the Eclipse debuted in 2006. Now, on an all-new platform, the Eclipse was again sharing its chassis with the Galant and, with some foreshadowing thrown in, the new Mitsubishi Endeavor crossover as well.

    Overall length was up by three inches, but weight increased by around 400 lbs.  All-wheel drive was still absent, though an AWD hybrid-electric concept was produced. The Spyder debuted a year later.

    Powered by a new SOHC 16-valve 2.4-liter cylinder with 162 horsepower, the base 2006 Eclipse GS had a worse power-to-weight ratio than its 135 horsepower older sibling from 1995.  The V6 grew in size to 3.8 liters and 265 horsepower, but performance as a sports car was lacking owing to the ballooning weight, with the V6 coupe weighing in just 37 pounds shy of a 2006 Cadillac CTS sedan.

    Sales cratered, and production of the 2012 model year ended early, stopping in August 2011.

    2018 Mitsubishi EclipseMitsubishi Eclipse Cross (2018 – Present)

    Unrelated in any way to the sports coupes of yesteryear, Mitsubishi introduced the awkwardly named and awkward looking Eclipse Cross in 2017 for the 2018 model year.  It is a budget-minded small crossover with no sporting intentions whatsoever from its 152-horsepower turbocharged 4-cylinder and CVT transmission.

    The Eclipse made an indelible mark on the sport compact landscape in its 23 years on the planet. Just under a million copies of the four generations were built. Unfortunately, it seems like this is one Eclipse we will never see the likes of again.

     

     

     

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    Had three iterations of it. (1) 1993 Plymouth Laser (first car that was in my name) purchased used in '95, (1) Eagle Talon ESi 5 Spd Manual purchased slightly used in '96 (traded the Laser for it) and then another Talon ESi in 2005 (also 5 Spd manual). Sadly not one AWD TSi in the driveway but I have driven a few and they are sneaky loads of fun!

     

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    IMG_0037.JPG

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    9 minutes ago, surreal1272 said:

    Had three iterations of it. (1) 1993 Plymouth Laser (first car that was in my name) purchased used in '95, (1) Eagle Talon ESi 5 Spd Manual purchased slightly used in '96 (traded the Laser for it) and then another Talon ESi in 2005 (also 5 Spd manual). Sadly not one AWD TSi in the driveway but I have driven a few and they are sneaky loads of fun!

     

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    IMG_0037.JPG

    As much of a land yacht kinda guy as I am, I've wanted a '98/'99 Eclipse GSX or Talon TSi AWD since they were new.

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    Sadly, a real dearth of affordable coupes today.  So many out there in the 90s. Had a coworker with one from around '97 that was a purply blue, had another coworker in the early 00s that had a silver 01 or so.   Nice little cars and w/ AWD made good year round cars in Colorado.

    Rode in them in lunch trips and one particular memory w/ the '97 was to see perhaps the worst movie of the last 30 years, 'Battlefield Earth'...4 coworkers stuffed in the Eclipse, got stuck in afternoon traffic,  got in the theatre during trailers and ended up in the front row on the side..so watched a movie with lots of odd camera angles from an angle.

    Edited by Robert Hall
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    22 minutes ago, David said:

    I always liked the Talon TSi AWD, was wanting to buy one, but life happens with a wife and kids. :lol:

    For what? To wear as a shoe? 

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    Speaking of 90s Mitsubishis, when I was at a startup in 2001 a coworker had a sweet red 3000 GT V-4 Spyder.  That was a sweet car...don't think I've seen one since then..

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    Just now, David said:

    True, was a tight fit, but fun to test drive. :P 

    Reminds me of when I test drove a 1990 Miata when they first came out...my late older brother was a Mazda/VW salesman then, we were around the same size and it was a tight fit w both of us in w/ the top up...

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    32 minutes ago, Robert Hall said:

    Reminds me of when I test drove a 1990 Miata when they first came out...my late older brother was a Mazda/VW salesman then, we were around the same size and it was a tight fit w both of us in w/ the top up...

    The fun crazy stuff we do when we are Shreck Size!!!

    shrek GIF

    Me in small cars!

    Snag_3d39acf.png

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    3 hours ago, Drew Dowdell said:

    As much of a land yacht kinda guy as I am, I've wanted a '98/'99 Eclipse GSX or Talon TSi AWD since they were new.

    Such fun with AWD but that and the turbo are why I never owned one. I got my first speeding ticket in an '81 Chevette. I would have lost my license in a month with either variation of the turbo AWD models.

    42 minutes ago, David said:

    The fun crazy stuff we do when we are Shreck Size!!!

    shrek GIF

    Me in small cars!

    Snag_3d39acf.png

    Yeah, those were definitely not for anyone taller than myself and I'm 5'10". You would need a shoehorn and KY jelly to get in and out of those lol. 

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    The only pics I have of the interior of any of mine. This was taken in 2008, about four months after I moved to AZ and then had to sell it (was not made for the off road driving to my job at the time lol). Of course, like about every car I have owned, I swapped the factory stereo out. Had a really nice Panasonic head unit plus I had a six piece set of Infinity Kappa Speakers and one 10" JL Audio W6 Subwoofer (powered by a Directed D mono block amp) in the car. Sounded so damn good in there and I wanted to pull the speakers before I sold it but they were required to stay in for me to make the sale lol. Such is life sometimes.

    image.jpeg.75db91ab8da994dd11349b138626e6de.jpegimage.jpeg.83ca1dbc016d914572fcf6e0dde3d9ca.jpeg

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