An improved engine, body and instrumentation sees the new Mitsubishi Pajero build on a niche it first carved out in the 1980s.

Story By Ian Glover

Way back in the 1970s when recreational four-wheel driving in Australia was in chronological nappies, the term “four-wheel-drive” was synonymous with one word: pain. Suspensions felt like they’d been copied from French Revolutionary tumbrels and engines were all torque and no action. They were also incredibly noisy and there was no soundproofing, so having any sort of conversation with your passengers was impossible unless you all used megaphones. The steering wandered more than an advanced Alzheimer’s case and the seats were like parking your buttocks on someone’s luggage. You could always tell a four-wheel driver because his left leg was massively more muscled than the right – a legacy of using a clutch that had probably originally been designed for a road roller – and the right leg was always longer, stretched because it spent its entire time holding the foot flat to the floor. However, there was one exalted, privileged group. Its members all had bulging wallets. They were the Range Rover owners, who could go even further off the beaten track than other four-wheel drivers, and in complete comfort. It was an iniquitous social and mechanical inequality that persisted well into the 1980s. Then, in 1983, the Mitsubishi Pajero arrived on Australian shores, having been released in Japan late the year before. While it lacked the wheel travel (particularly at the rear) to go where Patrols, Cruisers and especially Range Rovers ventured, its on-board gentility saw it immediately grab a sizeable market share. At first available only as a short-wheel base (SWB), the introduction of the long-wheel base (LWB) station-wagon version broadened its appeal, and, as track after track was closed off, denying hardcore four wheelers their sport, outback touring gained rapidly in popularity, and here, the Pajero – affordable, reliable and comfortable – really had a niche; one it has held right through to today.

This story excerpt is from Issue #64

Outback Magazine: Apr/May 2009