Those in the know will all tell you that Nippon classics – or J-tin – is the new black in the classic car scene. Furthermore, seventies-defining wedge design has been trendy for a while now. And it seems that coupés just can’t go out of style – seemingly encompassing all that is perceived cool and stylish. Now combine the three to achieve a seventies wedge-designed coupé from Japan, and you’ll be left with something quite exotic, and surely rather expensive too? Nope, quite the contrary. But for you and me, that’s purely a good thing.
By the mid-seventies, Mitsubishi found it prudent to replace their – at the time not particularly successful, but perhaps for that very reason, now very rare and sought after – Mitsubishi FTO. While the FTO was a very compact coupé with a thoroughly sporty and almost aggressive image, Mitsubishi went down the path of a more elegant and reasonably practical coupé with its successor.
In February 1975, they introduced the new Mitsubishi Celeste as a sharp but not too flamboyant wedge, incorporating a big rear hatch in the fastback design. It had of course become the norm for major car manufacturers to base their headline-grabbing but low-volume coupés on their more staid saloons and hatchbacks in order to keep cost down. Mitsubishi naturally took the same approach with their Celeste being based on the chassis of the first-generation Lancer A70, which had been introduced only two years earlier. As such – just like its predecessor – the Celeste remained rear-wheel-drive, and was initially available with either 1.4 or 1.6 liter engines offering 92hp and 100hp respectively, with only the range-topping 1600 GS-R pushing out 110hp.
While the Celeste wasn’t the most sporting ride, it was still generally well received by the press, and sold in respectable numbers across the globe under a variety of names such as the Mitsubishi Lancer Celeste, the Mitsubishi Colt Celeste, the Chrysler Lancer in Australia and not least the Plymouth Arrow in America and the Dodge Arrow in Canada. Within its home market, it was pitted against cars such as the Datsun Sunny 140Y Coupé, the Toyota Trueno/Levin and for that matter, the lesser-engined Toyota Celica too. In the case of the two Toyotas, both were certainly of a sportier nature, but they lacked the practicality of the hatchback. In Europe, the Celeste took up the fight against the lesser-engined Ford Capri’s and Opel Manta’s.
While the driving characteristics might not have been the most astonishing in its class, the build quality was everything that the Japanese had become renown for – reliable and sturdy. The interiors – while typically Japanese plastic-fantastic – were also fairly well appointed with a very full instrumentation to aid the sporty pretentions, followed up with a three-spoke steering wheel, and some quite tasteful seat materials, which while differing slightly from year to year included subtle plaid cloth centers.
In June 1977, the Celeste received its first facelift, though it was largely limited to cleaner engines dubbed MCA-Jet engines, a bit of new trim for the interiors, differently styled steel wheels, and unfortunately losing those funky boomerang rear lights in favour of ordinary rectangular units. Already in April 1978 a second minor facelift made its way onto the Celeste with the round headlights being replaced by square units, and not least, a set of larger and not as flush fitting bumpers in order to live up to ever increasing safety regulations.
By early 1979, the regular two- and four-door Lancer A70 was discontinued as the new second-generation Lancer EX took over. However, the Celeste soldiered on a bit longer, and even received its last stab at sportiness that same year, when they dropped the bigger 2-liter Astron engine into it to create the Celeste 2000 GT. However, ever stricter emission controls somewhat spoiled the fun as the bigger 2-lter engine only managed 105hp thereby not even matching the previous performance model 1600 GS-R. Still, strong torque from the 2-liter engine, alloy wheels, and not least a generous splashing of go-faster stripes ensured that the 2000 GT bowed out with dignity, when the Celeste was finally discontinued in July 1981, in preparation for the front-wheel-drive Mitsubishi Cordia taking over the following year.
The particular Celeste 1600 ST which we’ve found here is a RHD UK-market car, which is currently privately for sale in Northern Ireland. Being from 1979, it’s the last incarnation of the Celeste. Both pictures and text from the article suggest that it’s in utterly perfect condition with only two owners, a mere 62,500 miles on her, and still highly original. The seller goes on to say that it’s had a respray, and that it comes with factory manuals, old MOT certificates, dealer showroom books and numerous spare parts. The only thing obviously non-factory is the wide 13” Super Lite alloys which may or may not be to your liking. If not, then the original steel wheels are luckily still with the Celeste. Enjoy the pictures which we’ve borrowed from the advert:
The Celeste is up for sale at £ 8,750, and while I’m sure there will be those from the old guard who will be quick to point out that this is top money for a seventies Japanese car, I’ll just as quickly argue otherwise. Consider in collaboration with the current strong state of the classic car market, the points I started this article with: it’s a coupé; it’s a sharp wedge design; and not least, Nippon classics are finally receiving the recognition they have so long deserved. Add to that the low mileage and low ownership. And while any classic car should obviously always be very thoroughly inspected before purchase, consider also what appears to be a classic in beautiful and very original condition. All of this can be yours at well below £ 10 grand! I dare not think what it would be worth if it wore a blue oval…
Follow the link below to the full advert:
If only I had the necessary space (in both budget and garage alike…), I would personally love to make this Celeste mine. In my ownership, I would treat her to a set of factory and suitably seventies decals down both flanks, and then proceed to seek out a pair of original 4-spoke alloy wheels. Then, I would simply drive her far and wide, and enjoy having become a J-tin owner once again…
With our Saturday instalment of Prime Find of the Week, we’re offering our services to the classic car community, by passing on our favourite classic car for sale from the week that passed. This top-tip might help a first-time-buyer to own his first classic, or it could even be the perfect motivation for a multiple-classic-car-owner to expand his garage with something different. We’ll let us inspire by anything from a cheap project to a stunning concours exotic, and hope that you will do the same.
Just remember – Any Classic is Better than No Classic! We obviously invite our readers to help prospective buyers with your views and maybe even experiences of any given model we feature. Further to that, if you stumble across a classic which you feel we ought to feature as Prime Find of the Week, then please send us a link to firstname.lastname@example.org