The Mitsubishi Montero suffers from also-ran syndrome in the United States; it doesn’t enjoy the level of nostalgic love people have for the Ford Bronco or Toyota Land Cruiser. But Mitsubishi’s SUV basically dominated the Dakar Rally, arguably the toughest event in off-road racing, longer than anyone. Mitsubishi apparently still has some of its early champ trucks lying around, and got some drivers together for a little reflection.
The Montero, or actually the Pajero as it’s known outside the U.S., is finally being sunsetted by Mitsubishi. The SUV has been dead in America for over a decade, but the rest of the world got fourth generation around 2006 which the company only recently announced it was going to discontinue.
(But, fun fact: a revised version of the second-generation Montero lives on in China as the Leopaard Q6. We’ll have to circle back to that fascinating situation in another blog.)
Anyway, this blog is about this “The Spirit Of Pajero” video in which a handful of former Mitsubishi Dakar Rally racers got together to be reunited with their old vehicles and ostensibly say goodbye to the model and sell the generally uninteresting Final Edition.
Unfortunately for those of you who don’t speak French or Japanese, you kind of need to to understand this video. But you can kind of get the gist thanks to Google’s auto-translating subtitles. The visuals make it worth watching regardless–these are the best-resolution images of Mitsubishi’s actual Dakar-competing vehicles I’ve ever seen.
Patrick Zaniroli raced the Dakar three times and won in a Pajero in 1985. Luc Alphand raced a bunch and won in a Pajero in 2006. Hiroshi Masuoka won in 2002 and 2003, and raced in 21 Dakars.
It’s really cool to see these cars and their former keepers through a modern camera lens, and see the obvious emotional responses they bring out in their former drivers. At the same time, I can’t help but think, why the hell can’t Mitsubishi do a better job capitalizing on its incredible off-road heritage here in America? The company’s clearly more about it in Japan.
I wasn’t holding out much hope that Mitsubishi would bring a new sweet 4x4 stateside anytime soon, but now, we know for sure that it’s definitely not happening. So I guess I’ll have to hang onto my ’98 Montero until it’s rattled to bits. And when that happens, maybe I can rebuild it with Leopaard parts!