So the year was 1998. I had just gone through a self-imposed year of discipline since selling my Lancer in order to get good results at university along with saving my pennies from the part time job at Brash’s (remember them?). At some point it was time to enjoy the spoils of this and that time was now, I was going to buy a car!
The internet had certainly been invented by 1998, but it was pretty basic and not the number one choice for searching for cars for sale yet, I remember thinking ‘this search engine thing is pretty good’ but thought yahoo was going to triumph over google, oh well. So it was back to the trusty Trading-Post for my prospective new car.
To be honest, I don’t remember what other cars I considered at the time. I still only had $2,500 at a stretch to spend and I certainly wouldn’t be able to get something like my mates ’88 Honda CRX that I drooled over. Frankly, I was a bit surprised when I saw the ad for an ’84 Mitsubishi Cordia Turbo for only $2,500. The Cordia was the younger sibling of the much more famous and rear drive 2L Starion turbo, but it was a pretty good car in its own right. The police in the states of South Australia and New South Wales even used them as pursuit cars and there were stories passed around about what weapons these were. I had personal experience with these cars through the rich boyfriend of one of my sister’s friends. His family was loaded and I recall going for a run to the liquor store with him and being impressed. Surely this one for $2,500 couldn’t be any good.
A call was made and a visit to one of the less desirable areas of town revealed something of a surprise. It was really rather good. A red GSR turbo model, from the factory turned out 145hp (110kw) from the 1.8L Sirius engine and 220Nm of torque. The car only weighed 1,000kg so at the time it felt like a rocket in a straight line. It even had a Roadworthy Certificate, hurrah!! But since the world isn’t a Disney movie, there were things wrong with it at that price, the paint on the bonnet was fading and the main concern, the engine was blowing ALOT of smoke when on full boost. The seller was honest about the issue and suggested the rings were worn (which sounded right) but to be fair, there was alot of upside to the car, it was well below the price for others on the market and it had clearly been someones pride and joy at some stage evidenced by a $1,600 receipt for full replacement sports suspension in the late 80s.
I was smitten at the thought of having a ‘modern’ sports car and would have happily paid the asking price, but my mate, who is a bit of a haggler suggested to offer $2,200. It must have shown in my face that I would have bought it anyway, but the guy agreed and I was well chuffed with my new found ‘negotiating’ ability and the car it had just secured me.
I cherished that car, brought the paint back up to the best standard possible, changed the oil every 5,000km, all the easy bits to change were done, the interior was spotless and standard. I loved the way it sounded, the noise of the turbo winding up and surge in torque, the boost gauge flicking around to 8psi to confirm everything was working. I did love that car. It was a good car for a full time student.
To be objective with hindsight, it didn’t handle very well when corners were involved. The car used drive shafts of significantly different lengths to the left and right so it torque steered violently, plus with only the standard 13inch wheels, no LSD and turbo lag, getting traction out of corners was frustrating to say the least (I didn’t understand handling at the time and was probably pretty happy to just coast through corners then charge down the straight, nothing wrong with that).
It was about 8 months into the ownership experience that I was driving to work one day and was coming to a junction with a red light camera. The particular junction is not well sighted from the direction I was coming (Station Road, Indooroopilly for anyone from Brisbane, Australia) and shortly after rounding the bend the light went from green to yellow. Decision time, go for it and hope I get through, or brake hard and avoid any chance of a fine. I chose the latter, I chose wrong. Braking to stop in time, the large Ford Falcon station wagon behind obviously wasn’t expecting me to stop, or wasn’t paying attention/didn’t see the lights etc. what ever it was, a 2 tonne station wagon plowed into the back of my little sports coupe weighing half as much.
My Cordia still ran so I moved it to the kerb to inspect the damage and swap insurance details. I can’t remember if we did an instant synopsis of the cause. The guy who hit me was young like me and was really good about it. Thankfully he was also insured and what I thought was going to be an absolute disaster turned out to be an unexpected windfall when the insurance assessor wrote off my car and valued it at $5,000! Result!
So of course what would someone who loved their written off Cordia Turbo do with new found wealth? Well, go and buy another, almost identical Cordia Turbo of course. Identical on the outside maybe, but oh my word… I was entering the realm of seriously fast cars now (for 1998 that is of course).
My second Cordia Turbo (you’ll start to see a trend here) was also a 1985 model with the 110kw leaded petrol engine, found as you’d guess in the Trading Post (remember leaded petrol? it smelled so much nicer ), but this one had been treated to some pretty serious performance enhancements for the time. The engine had an aftermarket intercooler, engine oil cooler and variable boost control running 15psi as the default. It wouldn’t be incredibly fast by modern standards (0-62mph in about 6.5 and 1/4 mile in about 14.5) but at the time it could see off most things.
The most impressive thing about the car was the torque when the turbo spooled up. I remember the test drive taking a constant radius bend in 3rd gear when the boost kicked in, the tires struggling desperately for traction in the dry was something I had never come across. Not to mention the theatrics of the wastegate chatter as excess boost was released. I was sold straight away. I think the car was $3,900. It wasn’t as clean and tidy as my old one, so my plan was to change over the good bits.
Unfortunately, my second Cordia Turbo was like a bit of a fling. I loved it to start with, but the initial attraction was quickly eroded by the multitude of minor issues. A poorly fitting aftermarket sunroof, recurring minor electrical issues, a home-made short shifter with which the gear knob would occasionally come off in my hand and general untidiness of the engine bay all conspired to shake my confidence that it wouldn’t leave me stranded at the side of the road somewhere. It never actually let me down, but I always thought it was about to and I didn’t have a lot of spare cash to pay for contingencies.
The end result was that I listed it for sale again after only about 4 months. It sold pretty quickly for $3,900 without needing to supply a roadworthy certificate which was a bonus. Funnily, for a number of years after, whenever the topic of cars would come up after a few drinks, I would always carry on about how fast that car was and how I shouldn’t have sold it…
Anyway, onwards and upwards, I needed a car and had managed to save up a bit more cash through part time work while still studying, so I had about five and a half grand to spend, goodness knows why I spent it on my next car, a 1987 Nissan Exa.