Mitsubishi Pajero Evolution: An Ode to the Dakar Winner

Mitsubishi Pajero Evolution: An Ode to the Dakar Winner

Aivaras Grigelevičius

From 1997 to 1999, Mitsubishi – one of Japan’s largest car makers – produced the Mitsubishi Pajero Evolution, an SUV designed for true enthusiasts. It was a street-legal vehicle that was invincible at the Dakar Rally for years.

Mitsubishi first raced from Paris to Dakar, in what is called the most complicated rally in the world, in 1985, showing up with three Pajeros. At the time, many expected the newcomers to go back home with their heads hanging, but that didn’t happen. In fact, the newcomers won the Dakar Rally, taking first and second place!

From 1985 to 2007, Mitsubishi brought trophies back from Dakar 12 times, with seven of those victories won in succession. If Lancia is considered to this day to be the absolute leader in terms of World Rally Championship victories, it’s Mitsubishi that holds this title at the legendary Dakar Rally.

Mitsubishi Pajero Evolution
Mitsubishi Pajero Evolution
©Mitsubishi archive
Mitsubishi Pajero Evolution
Mitsubishi Pajero Evolution
©Mitsubishi archive

Pajero on Steroids

When the managers at Mitsubishi began thinking about a new version of the Pajero designed for motor sport, they immediately went with the three-door body style, which had a shorter wheelbase. There were several reasons behind this selection: lower weight, better manoeuvrability, and more space to modify the vehicle as needed.

You’ll immediately notice that the road going version of the Pajero Evolution differs from the standard model because of its wider fender flares and more aggressive-looking body details. Were they only added for looks? Partly.

Mitsubishi Pajero Evolution
Mitsubishi Pajero Evolution
©Mitsubishi archive
Mitsubishi Pajero Evolution
Mitsubishi Pajero Evolution
©Mitsubishi archive

Under the wider fenders there was a completely new chassis. Back then, the standard Pajero models came out of the factory with a dependent suspension in front and a leaf spring in back. Meanwhile, the Pajero Evolution sported a double wishbone in front, and multi-link suspension in the back.

The new model also had a much wider track, wider tyres, and significantly stiffer shock absorbers, which cost twice as much as the ones in the standard Pajero models.

Interior of the Mitsubishi Pajero Evolution
Interior of the Mitsubishi Pajero Evolution
©Mitsubishi archive
Interior of the Mitsubishi Pajero Evolution
Interior of the Mitsubishi Pajero Evolution
©Mitsubishi archive

280 Wild Horses 

It wasn’t just the new body parts or sportier seats that set the limited edition Pajero Evolution apart from the standard Pajero SUVs. Mitsubishi’s engineers added a huge amount of new parts that are unique to the Pajero Evolution model.

For example, the 6-cylinder, 3.5-litre, 280-horsepower (6G74) engine up in front had forged pistons and an air intake system specially designed for this model. Even the alternator had nothing in common with the standard Pajero.

Mitsubishi Pajero Evolution
Mitsubishi Pajero Evolution
©Mitsubishi archive
Mitsubishi Pajero Evolution
Mitsubishi Pajero Evolution
©Mitsubishi archive

Since the Pajero was classified as a sport utility vehicle, it’s not surprising that Mitsubishi gave its new model four-wheel drive, the parameters of which could be changed while sitting behind the wheel. Depending on the mode, the vehicle could be driven by only the rear wheels or all four. In the latter mode, the engine power was split 50/50 between the front and rear axles.

Mitsubishi Pajero Evolution
Mitsubishi Pajero Evolution
©Mitsubishi archive
Mitsubishi Pajero Evolution
Mitsubishi Pajero Evolution
©Mitsubishi archive

Like many of these types of projects, the Japanese car maker produced a limited number of Pajero Evolutions – 2,500 in all. One of the Pajero Evolution’s greatest advantages is the price. You can park a Pajero Evolution in your garage for a relatively small amount – EUR 18,000.

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