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Bab's Project Pajero Evolution

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    Bab's Project Pajero Evolution

    If you've wondered why the Aristo hasn't had much love lately, it's because I've been playing with one of these for the past few months: it's a 1997 Pajero Evolution.

    It's a car that came onto my personal radar about 20 years ago, when I had an Integra Type R. I was sitting at the traffic lights when this hulking white shape rolled up. It would have been almost new at the time, so I was pretty chuffed to see one in the flesh. When the lights went green, the usual car enthusiast dialogue took place, and I was impressed to see that there wasn't anything in it at all up to 80km/h. We gave each other a friendly toot, but since then the Evo has been lodged at the back of my mind as something pretty cool looking, that went more than respectably for a big 4x4.

    Fast forward 20 years and mid pandemic, everything interesting and 90's JDM was rocketing up in price. I'd just bought the Aristo and was starting to have a little buyer’s remorse: with prices going up by the week, maybe I should have bought something a bit more expensive. I’d had my eye on a Pajero Evo at a Japanese dealer, it was manual, had 52,000km and was very reasonably priced at Y2.6 million yen. It had also been on sale for about six months, so I figured…the world hasn’t has “discovered” the Pajero Evo yet, and when I’m ready to buy, I’ll get this nice manual one.

    Literally a week after that thought crossed my mind, it got sold. Other manual cars on sale were being repriced in Y500,000 leaps, and the best cars were now price on application. In the blink of an eye, we went from my chosen car gathering dust on the dealer forecourt for 6 months, to a new world where the most expensive one was Y4.8 million yen. Well…it was for a week or so before it too, was repriced at price-on-application.

    Gulp. I’d missed the boat already. Then a car in Hong Kong came up, it was owned by a serial Mitsubishi collector who was advertising it at a reasonable price. And…here it is.

    But first, what exactly is a Pajero Evolution?

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    Mitsubishi had been competing in the Paris-Dakar desert rally since the mid 80s, and as the years progressed, their factory efforts got more and more serious. And with the great success of the Lancer Evolution on the WRC, Mitsubishi decided to build a similar homologation special for Dakar. 2600 Pajero Evos were made, 600 of which were manuals. Most are a 1997 build date, when the Evo was manufactured on the regular Pajero production line in a three month period. That wasn’t quite long enough to make the entire production run, so smaller number of cars would be made in other Mitsubishi plants in 1998 and 1999.

    The works rally cars hit the desert sand, and won the event 7 times in ten years, making Mitsubishi the winningest marque in the event history.

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    So what is a Pajero Evolution? It’s based on the second generation Pajero, which means it’s an oldschool body on frame 4x4. The biggest revisions would occur to the suspension; at the front the torsion bars and stamped steel wishbones would be replaced by much longer forged alloy wishbones and coilover shocks. The wishbones are huge, at some spots bigger than your forearm.

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    At the rear, the live axle was replaced by a 4 link double wishbone setup with coil springs. Overall, suspension travel was increased by three inches over stock, and the track was increased by five inches. However what this statistic doesn’t tell you, is that the Evo wheels had two inches less poke per side, so the suspension is actually nine inches wider from hub to hub than a regular Pajero. The Super Select 4x4 system from the regular version was maintained, but with torsen diffs front and rear, in addition to a lockable viscous centre.

    The 5 speed manual gearbox was taken from the turbodiesel Pajero, and the auto option was also a 5 speed with tipshift. The motor is based on the JDM version of the 6G74 3.5 V6, which was DOHC and 24 valves, but the Evo scored the addition of MIVEC variable valve timing, which in the 90s was like a Honda VTEC system, in that it the motor would switch to a bigger camshaft lobe at high rpms. Suitably equipped, the Evo was rated at 280ps at 6500rpm.

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    Now, it’s customary at this point to say that the 280ps thing was the result of the JDM gentleman’s agreement between manufacturers, and that the Evo actually pumps out somewhat more. However I believe the opposite is actually the case with the Pajero Evo; it’s the marketing department which typed in the power figure and the engine actually makes closer to 260. Nevertheless, in the era before M-edition BMW SUVs and Turbo Cayennes, this was pretty fast for a 4x4, as I discovered behind the wheel of my Integra all those years ago.

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    The rest of the package is somewhat dominated by the bodykit, and to be honest the way it looks is the best part of the Evo for most people. The underlying body is the NL-series widebody Pajero, which already has some modest flares, but the Evo adds plastic extensions which stick out three inches per side. Interestingly, the flares and side steps aren’t painted, they come in a sort of gelcoat, which doesn’t age too well (more of which anon).

    And while I don’t know if the rear spoiler does anything significant aerodynamically, they do at least round out the wild styling.

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    What most people can’t see are the strange, large teardrop devices on the roof. They are how the spoiler bolts to the roof, but they also didn’t have to be quite so big. So perhaps they might do something after all…
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    Compared to everything that’s going on outside, the interior is more modestly appointed. It’s all regular Pajero in there, except for a pair of Recaros (the rear seat and door cards are covered in Recaro cloth too) and the dash has a faux carbon finish, which I suspect was a Ralliart accessory at the time for regular Pajero. Oh, and the dash mounted compass in the Evo is digital, instead of the fluid/magnetic ball in the normal car.

    And that…brings us to the close of the first chapter.
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    Next instalment, we get stuck into mods and the inevitable maintenance and restoration.
    Last edited by Babalouie; 10-06-21, 10:47 PM.
    Japanese Nostalgic Car - Dedicated to classic japanese cars

    Hmm...dunno why some of the pic links ain't workin
    Japanese Nostalgic Car - Dedicated to classic japanese cars


      pics coming up ok for me... pretty cool, I do remember these from Dakar.
      RIP Simon - Ghost ride that whip in the clouds forever..


        i had a sick fasination for these back in the early 2000's when i saw one whilst living in Japan. I'd never seen a 3 door Pajero and the family had the aussie delivered 5 door in 98 which i loved due to the flared guards. Seeing a full Dakar spec one was awesome. So im loving the fact that you grabbed one of these. Its up there with the evo 9 wagon for coolness factor.
        Although i also had a fetish for a midnight purple legnum. Those things still haunt me......... Such a cool looking wagon with a TT v6
        Last edited by newguyoz; 10-06-21, 11:16 PM.
        "Cadillacs are more awesome than everything. All this newcomer needs is to post pics of tits somewhere and he will probably be the new king of PF. "


          Soooooooooooo fucking jealous.

          I'm sorry to see that Covid pricing is pushing their prices up, but I'm glad that you've got one.

          As an aside you aren't interested in revisiting your youth and getting a Type R again? 25 years old they should be ready to import. Or is it a case of been there done that and maybe rose coloured rear vision glasses let you think that Honda's were the best FWD car ever when a modern Golf GTi, Megan, Civic R or Focus ST would likely hose it?
          Last edited by Smudge; 10-06-21, 11:31 PM.


            Excellent purchase and great write up. Keen to see more pics underneath.
            2017 Ford Ranger XLT (Jeep Wrangler recovery vehicle)
            2007 KTM 250 SX

            Originally posted by Monza
            I've never considered myself the type of guy to eat arse but I am currently reviewing that policy


              Great buy and great car.
              Mmmmmmmmm beer.

              Originally posted by ALLMTR
              You had one fucking job, Imran. One. Now look, there's Flibberty Gibbets all up in here, seeing straight through your ruse. One. Fucking. Job!


                I was eyeing these off 12 months ago.

                Good buy.
                .... because every driver experiences the destructive potential of the effortless surge of power available through the smallest of body movements.

                Dr Hoon

                DrNick is king!!!! No, Mark Webber is now! Long live the king!... hold on a minute mate, Ricci is in charge now


                  These things are brilliant, top buy.

                  For some reason I was reminded of that weird 90's Jackie Chan movie where pretty much every single car was a Mitsubishi:


                  But it turns out that was released two years before the Pajero Evo. Must have been a bunch of other SWB Pajeros in it.


                    As a Dakar fan I've know about these things but never even seen a photo of one.

                    Epic, absolutely epic that you have one. Well done
                    "That which does not kill you, will make you very, very sick" - so says mizones mum


                      I think I saw this in traffic a few weeks ago. Maybe? Was veeerrryy tidy
                      Originally posted by Marlin
                      Chickens will slip under water in the cover of darkness like a seal team and FUCK YOU UP.


                        Awesome. Looking forward to another Babs build.
                        The MX5 Noujet (its up market) | The Hilux Complete Nugget
                        I never saw a wild thing sorry for itself. A small bird will drop frozen dead from a bough without ever having felt sorry for itself. - D.H.Lawrence


                          Love these cars....

                          so how long before snorkel, ARB bumper and winch?

                          The Gentlemen's Club
                          Midnight Rocker


                            Seen this in person. Looks awesome, especially with the new wheels.

                            Babs - let me know if you need an E1-3 to tow. :D
                            "If you can make black marks on a straight from the time you turn out of a corner until the braking point of the next turn, then you have enough horsepower." - Mark Donahue Penske Porsche 917

                            "In Japan we no give fark for Subaru" - Trust Japan Technical Director
                            (TM - AVENGE)

                            "You can never have enough power. I remember when we had Group B cars... THEN we had enough power!"
                            Juha Kankkunen - Rally of Argentina '02


                              Awesome, that wheelbase, ride height and grunt would make it a riot to drive.
                              Last edited by JGTC; 11-06-21, 12:54 PM.