It's also a favorite vehicle for drug lords and black market weapons dealers.
There have been many off-road 4x4's over the years and we can proudly claim that Jeep and Land Rover are the two favorite brands here at the CarBuzz office. However, there are still several other major automakers who have built some solid off-roaders that simply don't get enough credit. What is it exactly about them that sometimes they slip behind those aforementioned brands in terms of popularity and general sales numbers? There are likely many reasons, but now we want to profile one particular 4x4 that we've always had a thing for.
The Mitsubishi Pajero, also known as the Montero in the US, was first launched in prototype form way back in 1973 at the Tokyo Motor Show. Another concept followed in 1975 but it wasn't until 1981 did a production version debut at the same show. The first generation Pajero went on sale in 1982 and was originally sold as a three-door model on a short-wheelbase. Offered with a choice of either a metal or canvas top, Mitsubishi had a range of engine options that included something as small as a 2.0-liter gasoline four-pot to a 2.3-liter naturally-aspirated diesel and even a 3.0-liter gasoline V6.
What was kind of unique was that it was offered with an optional turbocharged diesel engine, power steering and a front double wishbone suspension complete with torsion bar springs - all of which were previously unseen on a Japanese 4x4. 1983 was when the Pajero began its motorsport career which later included events such as WRC and the Dakar Rally. The long-wheelbase version debuted that year as well and Mitsubishi continued to refine and upgrade the Pajero until 1991 when the second generation launched. Until this point, the Pajero sold very well and Mitsubishi knew to be careful not to mess too much with a good thing.
The second-gen model received a larger body which also included choices between a metal or canvas top as well as a semi high roof and high roof wagon. Both the short- and long-wheelbase models grew in size and the available engines also received power upgrades. The Pajero Evolution, which came in '97, was developed specifically to meet the T3 Class requirements for the Paris-Dakar Rally. Like Dodge did with the first-gen Pajero (called the Raider), Hyundai also sold a rebadged version of the Pajero, but only in South Korea and a few European countries.
1999 saw the introduction of the third generation model and unlike its predecessors, Mitsubishi gave it a series of luxury upgrades in order to help it compete better with the likes of the Land Rover Discovery and Toyota Land Cruiser. While it continued to sell well in many overseas markets, Mitsubishi's sales were struggling in the US and they ultimately decided to pull the Pajero/Montero from that market at the end of 2006. The fourth generation had its debut in 2006 as well, but it's still quickly losing ground to its competitors. Fortunately, there are plenty of off-road enthusiasts out there who still appreciate the Pajero.
When the owner of this 1983 Pajero first bought it, he knew right away that it needed some major work both mechanically and cosmetically. As you can see from his photos, the Pajero wasn't maintained very well by its previous owner, so he felt this warranted a restoration job. He started by swapping out its original engine with another 2.6-liter four-cylinder that was in better condition. Once that was in place he gave it a fresh paint job that really made all the difference. Fortunately, other mechanical bits such as the suspension and frame were still in solid condition despite many years of use.
At a time when people still buy SUVs as a fashion statement, it's nice to see a somewhat underappreciated 4x4 be given new life instead of simply being sent to the junk yard. Hopefully the owner will put it to proper use instead of just driving it around town.