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Motoring: Chrysler / Mitsubishi Sigma - 1977

During its second decade of manufacturing motor vehicles in Australia, Chrysler increasingly relied upon Japanese sourced Mitsubishi cars - commencing assembly of the Galant in 1972, then adding the Lancer and commercial vehicles. Interestingly, between 1972-5, the Galant was sold as the Valiant Galant. The association with Mitsubishi gave Chrysler Australia another winner- the 1977 Chrysler Sigma. With a range of 4 cylinder "Silent Shaft" engines, competitive pricing, 'Japanese' style and the availability of a luxurious SE version with optional leather trim (an innovative sales approach in its era), the Sigma marked Chrysler's sales comeback. Sigma soon became market leader in its class.

At this time, Chrysler US staged its retreat from Australia, progessively selling its interest in Chrysler Australia Ltd to Mitsubishi, finally departing in 1981. From then on, Mitsubishi continued to strengthen its place on the Australian motoring scene by refining the Sigma, which was built at the former Chrysler plant in South Australia. The Sigma was replaced in 1985 by the Magna, also built in Adelaide. The smaller, fully imported Colt and Lancer models were sold alongside the Magna.

The Mitsubishi takeover of Chrysler's manufacturing operations in Australia led to the introduction of a number of new models, the most notable of which were a pair of 2-door coupes - the Scorpion and its big brother, the Starion. The story goes that the Japanese bosses of Mitsubishi in Japan had been looking at producing a car that would go head to head with the Ford Mustang in the US, and asked their stateside bosses to suggest an appropriate name. 1985 Mitsubishi Starion

As the Mustang and others like it were known as Pony Cars, the name Stallion was suggested. When the car they developed was finally released it was given the suggested name, but with its Japanese pronunciation - Starion. This car reached Australia's shores in 1983 and fitted well into the growing 4-cylinder sports coupe market that had emerged with the withdrawal of the Big Three's 2-door sports sedans. The Starion was up against the Toyota Celica, Mazda RX-7 and Nissan's 280ZX, which had evolved from the humble 240Z.

Competition was tough and the Starion sold poorly; the Mazda dominated the low end of the market and the nissan the luxury end. Toyota got the lion's share in the middle. The Scorpion was a full imported 2-door variation of the locally built Sigma, and competed against the Toyota Corolla Seca and the Celica. It was replaced by the Lancer in the 1990s.

The Sigma
The Chrysler Sigma was a version of the Mitsubishi Galant automobile that was built by Chrysler Australia in Adelaide from 1977. When Mitsubishi Motors Australia (MMAL) took over Chrysler Australia's manufacturing facilities in 1980, they renamed the vehicle the Mitsubishi Sigma. The range was progressively discontinued and replaced by the Mitsubishi Magna, starting with the sedan in 1985 and the wagon in 1987.

The GE series Sigma was the first to introduce the Australian market to the Astron engine range. The 1.6-litre Saturn engine with four-speed manual transmission was also available in the base model, badged Sigma Galant. The Saturn engine was good for 56 kW (75 hp) of power. The mid-range model, the Sigma GL, came standard with the 1.85-litre Astron and four-speed manual, providing 60 kW (80 hp) .Both Galant and GL had an upgrade option to the 2.0-litre Astron engine standard with four-speed manual or optional five-speed manual or three-speed automatic. Outputs for the 2.0-litre were 64 kW (86 hp). The top-line model, the Sigma SE, offered the 2.0-litre and five-speed standard automatic remained an option. The Astron engines were initially imported,[3] with the Lonsdale, South Australia engine plant producing the Astron from October 1979.

From launch, Chrysler also offered a "Sportspack" option for the GL 2.0-litre. This included exterior striping, quartz-halogen high-beam headlights, a sports steering wheel, low-fuel warning light, tachometer and steel belted radial tyres. In March 1978, a Japanese-made, two-door coupe version called the Sigma Scorpion was released based on the Mitsubishi Galant Lambda. Although the Sigma Scorpion shared many common engine and mechanical components with the sedan, all body panels and most interior features were unique to the coupe. On 12 October 1978, a station wagon body variant of the Sigma was released available in Galant, GL, and SE trims.

On 28 April 1980, Chrysler unveiled the GH Sigma in Brisbane. Then on 30 April, Mitsubishi Corporation and Mitsubishi Motors jointly acquired Chrysler's remaining 65 percent share of Chrysler Australia (bringing the dual Mitsubishi ownership to 98.9 percent). On 1 October 1980, the GH range was rebadged from Chrysler Sigma to Mitsubishi Sigma, due to the renaming of Chrysler Australia to Mitsubishi Motors Australia (MMAL) following the buy-out. Released to the market on 12 May, the GH series saw a considerable facelift on both front and rear ends. While it was only introduced to Australia in 1980, the facelift actually appeared on the Japanese home market Galant models and on New Zealand assembled Mitsubishi Sigma models in 1979. Mitsubishi discontinued the GH series in February 1982.

The redesigned GJ Sigma was released in March 1982, based on the 1980 Japanese domestic market Mitsubishi Galant. While a complete redevelopment was done for the sedan models, the wagon models in fact were new only from the firewall forward the rest of the bodyshell was still GH based. The GK Series was released in March 1984. It was a comprehensive facelift, both outside and in. Externally the GK was changed by having a new bonnet and a shallower grille, while at the rear new taillight clusters (which had actually appeared in certain overseas markets in 1982) and rear valance were fitted, the registration plate being relocated below the bumper.

Released in July 1985, the GN was an update, but also a rationalization of the previous Sigma range due to only being offered in GL trim. This final generation of the Sigma ceased production in early 1987, due to the release of the Magna wagon models, completing the overall Magna range.

Chrysler Sigma Scropion 1979

Mitsubishi Starion

Mitsubishi Sigma GN

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