It’s not often you get to drive, let alone own, the car that you’ve idolized since you were a teen. But NZ Performance Car’s Rene Vermeer is able to do just that with his 1991 Mitsubishi GTO

I’ve owned a lot of cars in my short time on this various-coloured globe called Earth. I’ve owned most Japanese makes and models, even a couple of European icons, such as the Audi 90 Quattro that I had for my first car. After owning at least 30 cars, you must be wondering why I’ve ended up with such a behemoth vehicle — this 1991 Mitsubishi GTO twin-turbo manual. If you’re reading this, you’ve most likely played the iconic and original Gran Turismo One on the first PlayStation platform released, and you’ll have a good understanding of how sought after these Japanese supercars were. The sleek coupe wasn't short on power for its time, a large 3000cc V6 engine with two TD-04 turbos, two intercoolers, and four tailpipes all helped the GTO churn out an extremely impressive 206kW, and a monstrous, diesel-like 427Nm of torque at 2700rpm at a measly 7psi of boost. What this torque equates to is a 1600kg-odd vehicle that can accelerate to 100kmh in 5.5 seconds and run the quarter mile in 13.8 seconds, which is not bad going for a factory brick.

Why would I possibly own such a vehicle nowadays though? They’re not common to modify, the engines are known to explode at random (common in America where the octane rating is lower), they’re prone to have electrics fail, and they’re heavy. All of this said, I still bought one anyway, and I’ll tell you why.

Have you seen a GTO on the streets in the last month? Probably not, they’re that rare nowadays. I used to actively seek them out at car meets and the like, usually to no avail. There is no other Japanese car that gives me the tingles when spotted like the GTO (apart from midnight purple R33 GT-R Skylines), so I knew I had to own one. From previous experience, the best place to purchase a car you’re seeking is the car clubs which they commonly end up in, so I signed up to and put the word out that I was interested in purchasing a red, twin-turbo, and manual model with low kilometres — I wasn’t asking for much right?

Within a couple of days, my prayers were answered; a friendly club member mentioned he had what I was looking for with low mileage, and it was for sale. I’m just going to put it out there, there is no other performance car in the world that can do what the GTO is capable of for what I paid, which was only a measly $4100. It had two turbos, active aero, 131,000kms, and a decent set of feet — oh, and it is manual.

Some say you should never meet your teenage hero, but don’t listen to them. My first drive in the GTO was nothing but glorious. Those twin turbos, the electric seats, the active aero, the gauges, the torque, and the howl of the aftermarket exhaust system all contributed to one of the most memorable drives that I’ve ever had. Definitely meet your teenage hero.

The first thing I did when I got it home was give it a thorough wash, and what this revealed was that the factory red paint, although dent free, was starting to fade in areas. The next day, I sent the GTO off to The Gloss Master on Auckland’s North Shore and had the paint treated — the results were astounding; never have I seen such a vivid red before. I was delighted with the results.

Seeing as my daily driver didn’t really need a set of fancy Work Emotions, I decided to switch them over to the Mitsi one night (in the dark and on the gravel). Measuring 18x8.5 inches all round, with a +36 offset, they fit quite nicely — although a 5mm spacer had to be installed up front to clear the GTO’s large four-pot caliper.

According to the Mitsubishi GTO gurus, the facelift version makes more power than my model due to the increase in boost pressure. How the increase in boost pressure is achieved is as simple as removing a restrictor in the boost solenoid. Obviously this is the first thing I wanted to do, but to monitor the boost increase, I decided to install a boost gauge. My favourite gauges of all time are the A’PEXi EL series gauges. They’re 60mm, electric, and look damn nice, so this was what I installed. I even wired the gauge into the factory gauge-cluster dimmer circuit so it can be dimmed with everything else in the interior. Choice.

With the restrictor removed, I did see a noticeable boost and torque increase. I’d definitely recommend this free mod on your pre-facelift GTO. The increase in boost pressure was made much more evident after installing the A’PEXi pod filter. And yes, it sounds awesome.

I’ll keep you all posted with how the build is going — at the moment I’m trying to decide what size tyres I am going to run. Life is hard.

René Vermeer

Dutch, French, or just a Kiwi, René isn’t quite sure, but he does know he has a passion for Japanese vehicles like no other. A well-seasoned Gran Turismo player dating back to his single-digit days, René has a comprehensive knowledge of a wide range of performance vehicles and has owned more than 30 performance cars here in New Zealand, ranging from Nissans to Hondas. A lover of photography, you’ll find him either peeping under someone’s bonnet to snap a detailed shot, or on the side of the racetrack, perfecting his panning.