While Mitsubishi works toward a future under the control of its new owner, Nissan/Renault, the annual Mitsubishi Owners’ Day at the company’s U.S. headquarters in Southern California has become a reminder of all the great cars, trucks and SUVs the company made in the past, instead of a showcase for the cool cars that should still be in showrooms.
“Brings back memories of the era when Mitsubishi had the most notably unique and iconic cars,” said Moto Miwa, Japanese car enthusiast, founder of Club 4AG and the man who we would say brought drifting to America. “The ‘80s-‘90s had Galant VR4, GTO/3000GT/Stealth, the bulletproof Pajero/Montero, the stylish Starion/Conquest; the Eclipse/Laser/Talon which brought the turbocharger to everyone; GTO Spyders that were just downright rated-X; Tredia and Cordia which were the signature of their era, too, and the Mirage/Colt Turbo that out-punched the Civic and AE86 in its day.”
Mitsubishi did have a nice arrangement of the four nameplates it still sells here in the U.S.: the Outlander and Outlander Sport SUVs and the Mirage hatchback and Mirage G4 sedan. The Lancer is still lingering in showrooms but its days are numbered. Mitsubishi needs more product!
Though it sold almost a million vehicles worldwide last year, Mitsu failed to crack 100,000 here in the United States for the second year in a row. The model range has shrunk to just those four mentioned above. Dealers and consumers are waiting for something –- a truck, a sedan, a hovercraft — to be plucked from the Nissan and Renault menagerie and return Mitsubishi to its glory days. Mitsubishi sells the L200 pickup truck in other markets, but that Thai-built truck might not meet U.S. safety standards. There are any number of Nissan and/or Renault-built sedans that could be perfectly fine U.S.-spec Mitsubishis, but there is no word on any of them. We are pretty sure Mitsu’s model line expansion will consist of a plug-in hybrid Outlander and something called an Eclipse Cross compact crossover. But there is no new Evo, 3000GT or Starion anywhere on the horizon.
Arvin Padiernous’ 2011 Evo X won Peoples’ Choice
That didn’t keep the Mitsu faithful from making the pilgrimage to Cypress.
At Mitsubishi Owners’ Day, there was almost nothing but Evos. The acreage of parking around MMNA’s big headquarters building on Katella Ave. in Cypress, Calif. was almost door-to-door Evos. Mitsubishi doesn’t choose which cars take part in the annual fest, Mitsu enthusiasts do. And their favorite car was clearly the performance-minded Evo.
People’s Choice this year went to – ta da! – an Evo. It was far from stock. In fact, if you can find a stock Evo anywhere in the world, wrap it in shrink wrap and bury it in a basement. Arvin Padiernous of Team Emperor Motorsports has owned his 2011 Evo X for five years. In that time he’s “pretty much changed everything in the engine bay.” It was recently rated at 350 hp at the wheels, he said, but that was on a conservative dyno.
“It could hit 400 hp if I go to a different dyno,” he said.
Then, like a NASCAR driver, he rattled off all the sponsors’ parts on it: Chargespeed fenders, Voltex Type 5 wing, Spec V something or other (sorry sponsors). The car will be at SEMA in his sponsor’s booth, so look for it there.
Dennis Aquino’s 1977 Mitsubishi Colt won the Judges’ Choice award
Another winner, the Judges’ Choice award with matching piston-and-conrod trophy, went to Dennis Aquino’s 1977 Lancer Colt, all done up in original WRC colors and stickers. He’s had it since 2012, when he bought it from a friend who saw it in a backyard for $800. It’s been in a couple shows already but this is its first win.
Next to Aquino’s Colt was Rodel Solo’s most excellent 4×4 L300 Delica van. Solo said the L300s are very popular in the Phillipines, where he has seen many of them, reminding us that Mitsubishis are very popular throughout all of Southeast Asia. One reason Nissan bought a controlling interest in the carmaker was to gain a foothold for Nissans in the region. If we could drive one vehicle away from the show…
One row over from Solo’s L300 were the Pajeros and Monteros. All were decked out for camping and serious off-roading. Troy Dezracer (probably not his real name but then neither is Cher’s) drove his very sound-looking ’89 Montero all the way from Scottsdale.
“When I bought it in Sacramento it was classified as a gross polluter,” Dezracer said. He’s fixed it up since then.
Dezracer has been desert racing (hence his “name,” we’re guessing) since 1983.
“Three-wheelers, motorcycles, quads, Jeeps, buggies,” he said. “Anything with wheels on it I raced in the desert.”
He brought an ’89 Montero to the show which he uses for desert exploring. He owns another one for rock crawling. He has slowed down on the racing to get his back fixed. The desert gets a reprieve, however temporary.
Rodel Solo’s L300 Delica
Next to Dezracer was a newer Montero, Rainier Aguilos’ 2006 model, with fab bumpers, crawling gears, a high-lift jack and just about everything necessary to survive off the grid, which he did on his drive down from the Bay Area, camping near Big Bear Lake.
There were parts makers and engine builders onhand, too. Road Race Engineering set up a four-wheel dyno to see who was king of the cams this year. An Evo X cranked out 1050 whp. Everyone cheered.
While making boring cars that sell to the masses seems to be the way to thrive in the auto industry, making cars that have character and are a blast to drive is what inspires fierce brand loyalty. Aspire to an Evo when you’re young and maybe you’ll buy a Delica when you get a family. While we wait for Mitsubishi to reinvent itself under Nissan/Renault’s tutelage, we hope they keep that in mind.
In the meantime, there was a lot of happy, soulful celebrating about the cars Mitsubishi enthusiasts love. Our friend Mike Kojima brought his Evo IX.
“Oh man, taking the EVO IX out of storage and driving it to MOD made me remember what a great, fast and fun to drive car this is,” said Kojima, president and motorsports engineer at GFOS Concepts Inc. and former engineer at Falken, Nissan and TRD. “5000 rpm, wide wall of powerband, fast, responsive steering, anchor-like brakes and a ton of cornering grip. I had a big grin and wasted a bunch of gas… until I noticed my tags had expired.”
Mitsubishi: don’t let your tags expire! Bring us some more cool cars with character!