I’m on a campaign to convince you that the Mitsubishi Montero is the greatest SUV of the ’90s. It’s not a particularly popular opinion–people keep laughing at me and climbing back into their lame old Land Cruisers, squawking about solid axles. But what if I told you the Montero could launch a freaking airplane off its back?!
In 1997, a Montero (known as the Shogun in England, or Pajero elsewhere) and a one-passenger airplane called a Cri-Cri were Voltron’d together to form... “The Flying Shogun.”
Actually I’m not totally sure if the SUV or just the plane or two as a pair got the full “Flying...” name. Let’s just assume the latter because it seems the coolest.
There’s not a wealth of information readily available about this obscure publicity stunt from 22 years ago, shockingly, but one of Mitsubishi’s British PR reps was kind enough to dig up some details from a since-unpublished blog post that used to be on the car company’s site.
According to Mitsubishi UK, the Shogun here was stock. The airplane carrying platform was just mounted to the SUV’s factory gutters like any other aftermarket roof rack would have been.
The Cri-Cri was not invented by Mitsubishi for this purpose. It was designed as an accessible home-buildable kit plane by French aeronautical engineer Michel Columban and has been flying, in various forms, since the 1970s, per AOPA.
Since it’s easy to build and inexpensive to operate, Cri-Cris are apparently considered good testbeds for experimental aviation tech. For example, the European Aeronautic Defense and Space Company was using one to show off electric airplane motors as recently as 2010.
You could construct your own Cri-Cri for about $20,000 according to older forum posts, though a cursory glance around classified ads didn’t turn up any for sale. According to one of the videos below, about 100 of these airplanes had been built when The Flying Shogun was doing its demonstrations. The coolest part of which, of course, was the fact that the plane could actually lift off right from the ground vehicle’s roof rack.
The driver and pilot were in communication via radio, and when the Shogun hit 70 mph, the plane could actually fly right off the rack and into the sky. “As we accelerate away I call the speed out, just a gentle squeeze of the stick, which allows the nose to raise up, then the aircraft climbs away from the roof,” said Pilot Tim Senior in a video.
It’s glorious, truly. And lucky us; there are a few videos of it in action on YouTube. The Cri-Cri and its little car buddy are featured in the first few minutes of this clip on kit planes:
Here’s another shot of the thing taking off:
And here are some aerial stunts. That little bird could really move!
According to those videos the Cri-Cri was 375 pounds. With a pilot and fuel. No wonder it was easy to mount on a 4x4.
Other important excerpts of info that Mitsubishi sent me:
“Out of this creation the Mitsubishi Flying Shogun Display Team was born and toured air shows and events across the UK throughout 1997 including the Royal International Air Tattoo at RAF Fairford.”
“...the aerodynamic qualities of the plane, platform and car had to be carefully tested, with the angling effect of the [airplane] wings and the platform requiring slight adjustment for the system to work perfectly.”
“The plane itself was a Cri-Cri which at the time was the smallest twin-engine aircraft. Its two, [single-cylinder] engines each with 18 horsepower was capable of a very impressive 170 mph!”
The only pictures the company could send me were low-rez scans, but enjoy anyway:
This particular Shogun version of the Montero had a claimed top speed of 112 mph and electronically-adjustable suspension, which was also available on the American Montero version. Heartbreakingly, the roof rack was never sold as a Mitsubishi dealer-added accessory. But it doesn’t look like it’d be all that hard to have built. And the Cri-Cri was designed to be done up in a recreational pilot’s garage.
I can already hear you saying I should try to convince David Tracy to build one for me. And I agree.