A Blast from the Past That Still Turns Heads Today
Imagine if I challenged you to name a Dodge model that was, at some point, sold in South Africa. Would your mind instantly go to the Caliber or the Journey? Sadly, Dodge hasn't exactly been the talk of the town in our country, with only a handful of family cars that didn't quite make a splash.
The 70s were a time when America was churning out jaw-dropping, awe-inspiring muscle cars that could easily grace the walls of any teenage boy's bedroom. But sadly, South Africa missed out on all the high-octane action. Or did we? Thanks to a unique collaboration between two powerhouse brands, we were gifted a little gem of a sports car that still has our older generations waxing nostalgic.
The Dodge Colt GS is a rally-inspired sports coupe which originated from a time when Chrysler and Mitsubishi collaborated in a relationship-building exercise to manufacture a rally car which could compete with and tackle other popular sports cars like the AMC Gremlin, Chevrolet Vega and Ford Pinto. During the early 70s, there was a massive shift in the automotive mindset as the fuel crisis forced manufacturers to produce exciting yet frugal vehicles. This was an interesting change specifically for American automotive producers, as their forte was in the enormous engine variety.
Picture this: when the Dodge Colt entered the South African market, it was welcomed with open arms and became an instant fan favourite. Think of it as the modern-day equivalent of the GTI – a car perfect for die-hard enthusiasts without costing an arm and a leg. And the one I got to test was particularly special...
The Dodge Colt GS or Grand Sport is a fascinating sports car. With a heritage in rally racing, it's no surprise that it is a purpose-built sports car, from its engine to its specific ride height and small yet nimble shape paired with rear-wheel-drive. The Dodge Colt is perfectly set up to be a fun driver's car, especially given the era from which it stems. It came with a 1.6-litre naturally aspirated Saturn racing motor from Mitsubishi with upgraded SU carburettors. It was unique to the GS and produced an impressive, for the time, 82 kW, 7 kW more than the standard model. In its prime, it would do 0-100 km/h in a blistering 10.5 seconds.
This particular car was one of the first 100 Dodge Colts to arrive in South Africa straight from Japan. A small Japanese pattern embroidered into the back of the seats celebrates the car's heritage. With only 4,600 units ever produced of this model, seeing one of these in the flesh is a real treat that few will ever have the pleasure of experiencing. As I observed the attention this car received from bystanders, I realised just how popular this little sports car was among older enthusiasts who remember its glory days and are thrilled to see it again.
Unfortunately, most of the Dodge Colts were sold by the coast, meaning that many of these cars have fallen to the plague of rust over the years. Finding one of these Dodge Colts, especially one in its original condition like our test model, is rare. This particular Colt is so well looked after that the paint and engine are still original. With only 70,000 km on the clock, the owner, Kreson, has cherished this little car for 17 years and has no intention of ever getting rid of it. The Dodge Colt was, after all, the first car he ever owned and although it wasn't this particular unit, the vehicle itself holds a special place in his heart, and rightly so.
The Dodge Colt is a car bursting with character. The sound of its throaty engine fills the air as you confidently throw it out of a corner, and despite its relatively high ground clearance, the car glides over speed bumps and gravel roads as if they were non-existent. The small, lightweight body of the car makes for an incredibly enjoyable driving experience. While the interior may be a bit cramped, its old-school dials and slides for the fans are a nice throwback touch. The various wooden trim pieces throughout the car give it a unique and timeless look that's hard to find in modern vehicles.
Although the backseat space may be limited, the Dodge Colt has the power to transport you back to a time when being a car enthusiast meant something entirely different. It was an era when automakers were pushing the boundaries of what was possible, creating anything but ordinary cars. And that's precisely what the Colt is – a small, lightweight car with a punchy motor that captured the imaginations of anyone with a drop of petrol in their veins - the kind of people who salivate at the sound of a revving engine... Even today, seeing one on the road is enough to bring a smile to any car enthusiast's face. It's a shame they don't make them like they used to.