HIS AND HERS MITSUBISHI PAJEROS
We’ve all had relationships that we knew should end. Ours just so happened to be with a 2001 Jeep Cherokee. Although we inherited the vehicle from a late family member, it simply became a never-ending project, and we were ready to move on. I’d been raised on the Mitsubishi brand, and we had a 1989 right-hand-drive Mitsubishi Delica Star Wagon in the driveway along with the XJ. So, I thought -let’s try to ﬁnd a Montero, Mitsubishi’s best-known and most capable SUV. Little did I know that we’d eventually end up with two short-wheelbase JDM right-hand-drive turbodiesel Pajeros in place of one XJ. The Pajero is, for all intents and purposes, a Mitsubishi Montero. However, ours are two-door, diesel, right-hand-drive derivatives. Due to some language reasons, Spanish-speaking countries (and those close to them) got Monteros vs. Pajeros. (We’ll let you look up what it means.) The Pajero and Montero debuted in the mid-1980s as a rugged body-on-frame SUV, with the second generation debuting in 1991 globally, although the North American market didn’t get the revised Montero style until 1992. We were newly ﬂush with cash (to the whopping tune of $8,500) after our XJ sale. We were looking locally for a Montero; however, we weren’t ﬁnding the specs or mileage range we wanted. We expanded our search to other parts of the U.S. as we’d travel for the right rig. Eventually, Andy stumbled upon a 1992 JDM Mitsubishi Pajero XR-II. It was a short wheelbase model, which North America never got. It had a 2.5-liter 4D56 turbodiesel engine, the Super Select transfer case, and the all-important ﬁ ve-speed manual (which we both required). It even had cool Ralliart graphics (Ralliart was Mitsubishi’s in-house tuner). It was listed for sale on craigslist in Denver, Colorado, but the ad said it was in Houston, Texas. That raised red ﬂags. But it was legit. On top of it, a good friend had already seen the vehicle, and happily went back and did a live video walkaround of it for us. Armed with one-way tickets, a roll of Gorilla tape, a fat pack of zip ties, and simple tools, we ﬂew to Houston from Portland, Oregon, on February 17, 2018, to check it out. We took it for a quick test drive, bought it, then drove it back home on moderately sketchy old all-terrain tires.
DOUBLE THE TROUBLE, DOUBLE THE FUN
Approximately nine months later, a friend of ours in Austin, Texas, messaged us on Facebook saying there was a short-wheelbase Pajero for sale by him. It was a 1991 Pajero XP—a narrow-body version without the larger fender ﬂares and other add-ons. It had low miles, a host of new parts, and was nearly half the price of our ﬁrst Pajero. Now attracted to oddball 4x4s, we agreed it needed to join our ﬂ eet. On November 29, 2018, we purchased another set of one-way tickets, headed to Texas, and drove this one back home. Whereas the XR-II Pajero was both our rig, the second one became more Mercedes’ vehicle. After all, the best way to learn is by doing. This Pajero would let her experience how to build, ﬁx, and drive a 4WD rig.
SUBTLE SIMILARITIES, SAME TRACTOR- LIKE ATTITUDE
Our two Pajeros are very similar, but not identical. Aside from the white Pajero’s XR-II over ﬂares, it also has a fender mirror for parking and side body-mounted turn-signal indicators. It also has a lower axle ratio of 4.875 vs. the XP’s 4.625. Otherwise, they were oﬀered nearly identically. The Pajeros of the early 1990s were quite ahead of their time. Both two-door, four-seat 4x4s featured automatic climate control systems as well as front and rear HVAC systems (this came with the factory-supplied winter package). They also included suspension or “bouncy” trucker-style driver’s seats and a well-appointed cabin that featured soft dash material, crank-open moon roof, and digital in-cabin temperature control. Despite them being older than the customized 1995 Suzuki Sidekick we used to own (aka The Teal Terror), they were far more luxurious, civilized and reﬁ ned. Both rigs were originally ﬁtted with a Mitsubishi 4D56 2.5-liter turbocharged and intercooled turbo diesel engine. It’s a mechanically injected mill originally producing about 100 horsepower and 170 lb.-ft. of torque. Both Pajeros also included the V5MT1 ﬁve-speed manual transmission—the same as the US-spec Monteros. Our Pajeros utilize a solid rear axle with coil springs and an independent front end with torsion bars. We outﬁtted both suspension systems identically by using Rancho RS 9000XL adjustable shocks on each corner and wound up the stock torsion bars. We also replaced the rear coils with new “used” coils from USDM long-wheelbase Monteros, which provided approximately 1.5” of lift.
DIFFERENT BUILD TYPES, EQUALLY ENTERTAINING
The white Pajero, aka the Ralli Tractor, runs
a tall and skinny tire setup of 255/85R16 BFGoodrich KM3 mud-terrain tires mounted on 16×8 Fifteen52 Turbomac HD Classic wheels with zero oﬀ set. The dark gray Pajero, aka the Terra Tractor, runs 285/75R16 Nitto Ridge Grapplers mounted on 16×7.5 Fifteen52 Analog wheels, also with a zero oﬀ set. This is, however, where the aftermarket similarities end. The white Pajero, our Ralli Tractor, has a custom-ﬁtted WARN Crawler front bumper originally designed for a Jeep Wrangler JK or
JL, as well as a WARN ZEON 8-S winch and Lightforce Striker LED auxiliary lights. It also has JW Speaker LED headlamps and a factory-supplied Mitsubishi Pajero hood protector. The Terra Tractor showcases an aftermarket Pajero-dedicated ARB bumper (procured from Australia directly). It also includes a WARN M8-S winch behind it with big Lightforce Genesis LED lamps sitting atop of it. Both Pajeros have custom-fabricated rock sliders by Wanderlust Overland in Oregon City, Oregon. Although the sliders may look the same, their roof cargo systems diﬀer. The white Ralli Tractor is currently running Packasport Day Tripper cargo box whereas the gray Terra Tractor has a Rhino Rack Pioneer platform rack, which houses MAXTRAX traction boards, a DMOS Delta shovel, and an ARB 2000 awning.
1991 MITSUBISHI PAJERO XP – #TERRATRACTOR
ENGINE / DRIVETRAIN
THE ARCTIC ALCAN 5000 RALLY
Along with recovery-ready add-ons, the Terra Tractor Pajero has a hidden treasure: a Long Range Automotive auxiliary fuel tank imported via Idaho’s Long Range America (installed by Wanderlust Overland). This gives Mercedes’ Pajero about 500 miles of range -a critical component when we competed with it in the 2020 Alcan 5000 Rally. Additionally, twin OPTIMA YELLOWTOP batteries, a Webasto Thermo Top Evo coolant heater and an aftermarket oil pan heater ensured solid starts in below-zero temps whereas heated scheel-mann Vario F orthopedic seats kept us warm and our backs pain-free during the 5,120-mile-long event.We, along with nearly 40 other Alcan 5000 Rally teams, experienced temps as low as -42 Fahrenheit while everyone rallied the Arctic winter competition. The 2020 Alcan 5000 Rally started in Kirkland, Washington, and wound its way deep into Canada (to the Arctic Ocean and Tuktoyaktuk). Ralliers then turned south to Whitehorse and west to Fairbanks and Anchorage, Alaska, to complete the 10-day time/speed/distance endurance rally. Those brave enough to tackle the event’s extreme optional challenges (which included the Pajero and us) added 146 miles of legitimate ice roads on the McKenzie River and a daunting trek from Fairbanks to Coldfoot, Alaska, and back to their mileage totals. Our 1991 Terra Tractor Pajero performed perfectly during the extreme competition. With a slow and steady demeanor, we accomplished our rally goal: successfully ﬁ nish the 2020 Alcan 5000 Rally under our own power without mechanical issues. Running as a tribute car to honor the late, great legendary racer Rod Hall, we eﬀectively recreated the same track as he did in 1986 while piloting a similar vehicle, a Dodge Raider, during the summer rally. The Pajero and us ﬁ nished on route, successfully completing the competition, and garnering multiple awards.
REVITALIZING THE RALLI TRACTOR
Overall, the Pajeros have been a great platform for us. They’ve been nearly 100% dependable, reliable, and capable of our needs. However, a couple of years ago, due to a fouled thermostat (something we should’ve replaced), the Ralli Tractor’s block suﬀered a fatal crack. Rather than part the SUV out, we had a brand-new Hyundai D4BF turbo diesel engine installed. Hyundai bought the rights to the 4D56 diesel engine some time ago and still makes them as the D4BF powerplant. With newer metallurgy, a water-cooled Garret turbo, and other niceties, this brought new life to our ’92 Pajero. Plus, it sounds really good with the 2.5” exhaust system. Since its heart transplant, our white Pajero has been driven to and wheeled in Moab and has been used
in numerous winch training clinics across the Paciﬁ c Northwest. JDM vehicles, such as our Mitsubishi Pajeros, oﬀer a unique take on 4x4s. They’re unique and quirky, but still dependable and not too bad when it comes to parts. All it takes to own one of these right-hand-drive tractor-like 4x4s is a bit of know-how, patience, willingness to research issues, and understanding that projects can be twice as expensive as anticipated. However, despite knowing this, we have no intention of parting with our JDM duo any time soon.
1992 MITSUBISHI PAJERO XR-II – #RALLITRACTOR
ENGINE / DRIVETRAIN