The great Mitsubishi Pajero – one of only three iconic full-size offroaders offered to the world by Japan – will cease production later this year. It’s the end of an era for the three-diamond marque.
Now you might well be asking why ViaRETRO is bothered reporting on Mitsubishi not developing a new Pajero for the 2020 model year? We’re hardly known to report on anything even remotely current in the world of automobiles. And truth be told, I strongly doubt any of the ViaRETRO team will miss the soon to be deceased 4th generation Pajero. I equally doubt we would have even noticed the launch of a new 5th generation Pajero, if they had actually gone ahead and developed one. So what’s all the fuss about then? Well, anyone who claims to appreciate cars of yesteryear really ought to sit up and pay attention when the nameplate of an accomplished lineage which has remained in unbroken production for all of 37 years suddenly comes to an end. In my personal opinion, that’s quite tragic.
Arguably, the roots were sewn way back in 1953 when Mitsubishi started assembling license manufactured Willys Jeeps which were marketed as the Mitsubishi J-series. This in fact continued on a small scale right up until 1998. But in the meantime, Mitsubishi tested the waters by showing their concept Mitsubishi Pajero at the 1973 Tokyo Motor Show – even if it was really little more than a slightly restyled and funkier Mitsubishi J-series. Then five years later, in 1978, they displayed the Pajero II prototype which was much more like it, as it largely resembled the two-door open version of the Pajero which they finally launched in May 1982. Primarily known as the Pajero, it was however marketed as the Shogun in the UK and the Montero across the pond in the North America.
As any proper offroad vehicle should have, the Pajero had a separate chassis with the body bolted to it. However, quite unusually for a 4×4, the Pajero was given a double wishbone front suspension with torsion bar springs which offered a better ride quality on the road than normally expected from an offroader. Initially the Pajero was only available in the two-door short-wheel-base version with either a softtop or a fixed metal roof. But after less than a year’s production, Mitsubishi cleverly upped the game by launching the five-door long-wheel-base version of the Pajero in February 1983 – thereby taking on both the well-established Toyota Land Cruiser J60-series and not least the long-wheel-base Nissan Patrol 160-series, both of which had entered production in 1980. The long-wheel-base version of the Pajero was even available with three different roof styles – the standard or the optional semi-high roof or the high roof.
A variety of petrol and diesel engines were available ranging from a 2-litre 4-cylinder petrol to the range-topping 3-litre V6 SOHC, while the oil-burners came in either 2.3 or 2.5-litre form with the aid of a turbo being an option on the smaller engine and standard on the bigger. Transmission was either a 5-speed manual or the optional 4-speed automatic, while drive was always through the part-time four-wheel-drive system.
Admitted, as a full-size offroader, the Pajaro probably never quite managed to match the status of the all-conquering Land Cruiser. But what really set the Pajero apart, and in some respects catapulted it way beyond the Land Cruiser and any other 4×4, was when Mitsubishi chose to enter the gruelling Paris – Dakar Rally with a team of mildly tuned and factory-backed Pajeros in January 1983. On only their third attempt in 1985, Mitsubishi won the world’s toughest rally. More wins followed culminating in all of seven wins in a row between 2001 and 2007, and with a total of 12 wins, Mitsubishi is still to this day the most winning marque of the legendary Paris – Dakar Rally. Land Cruiser and Patrol…? Pfff… eat dust!
By 1991 the 2nd generation Pajero was introduced. While it was almost an entirely new car, it looked very much like the original Pajero only with all the edges being a bit more polished and rounder. While it’s probably still a bit too new for ViaRETRO, I must confess that I quite like it. Then came the 3rd and 4th generation. Hmmmm… yeah, whatever…
But despite those later Pajeros doing nothing much for me at all, I must confess that I was truly saddened late last month as I learnt of Mitsubishi’s press release stating that the Pajero range would be discontinued, as they have no successor for the 4th generation model which is to cease production in August of this year. After 37 years of production and more than three million offroaders sold across the globe, the Pajero is to finally reach the end of the dirt track.
But besides the sentimental aspect of Mitsubishi killing off a model name which has been with us for almost four decades, will this actually influence us classic car enthusiasts in any way? Possibly not. Though one might argue that it could cause a sudden rise in market values for unmolested early Pajeros. What do our ViaRETRO readers think? Will interest in 1st generation Pajeros rise as the model ceases to exist? Will demand suddenly surpass supply? Please feel free to discuss in the comments area below.
While I distract you with that discussion, I’ll play it safe and keep a sharp lookout for my future Pajero. It’ll need to be the ultimate spec of course: Original and unmolested, 1st generation, long-wheel-base, high roof, 3-litre V6, manual transmission and preferably in champagne metallic with vivid eighties decals down the flanks…