Mitsubishi Motors is holding a Dakar Rally exhibition from March 24th to the end of June 2021 at the Mitsubishi Motors Headquarters 1F Showroom (3-1-1, Shibaura, Minato-ku, Tokyo).
Mitsubishi Motors has participated in the Dakar Rally 26 times in total from 1983 to 2009, and has won a total of 12 times. In addition to exhibiting the powerful photo panels of the time, the 2002 winner Pajero (driver Hiroshi Masuoka’s actual vehicle) is on display. From the traces of the battle that remain in the vehicle, you can see the enthusiasm of the time. I would like you to check it for yourself.
Unfortunately, the showroom is temporarily closed during the state of emergency, so please check the official website below for the status of reopening and opening.
■ Mitsubishi Motors Headquarters Showroom Official Site
To commemorate this Dakar Rally exhibition, we asked Hiroshi Masuoka, who won the first overall Japanese title in 2002 and 2003, about his memories and episodes with the Pajero. Mr. Masuoka (born in Saitama Prefecture in 1960) is the champion of the desert, driving the Pajero and participating in the Dakar Rally 21 times in total.
What is the charm of Pajero?
The Pajero was released when I was 22 (1982). Since I was born in this world, I’ve always been a Pajero of the Mitsubishi team. I’ve been watching the Pajero for a long time, including the first Pajero, the second generation, and the third and fourth generations that were the basis of this exhibition car, so for me the Pajero is really like a family. It’s like a child.
It has evolved all the time every year, and it has improved and improved. I’ve been watching it for a long time, and I exchanged opinions with the development team and became stronger. There aren’t many cars on the market that can run the Dakar Rally without having to mess with it so much. It’s broken or I can’t run. I think the fact that the Pajero was trained in actual battles is a big factor.
The reason why it became a monocoque body from the 3rd generation
For example, the third-generation Pajero on display has become a monocoque body (a monocoque body with a built-in frame structure). That was the biggest change from the second generation. Until then, these off-road type cars had a ladder frame system (with a separate frame structure). After all, in a sense, I could see the limits. At that time, I had the impression that a monocoque was better for driving at higher speeds and running on rough roads in a stable manner.
[Image]Successive Pajero … From the 3rd generation to a monocoque body
The reason is that the rudder frame and ladder type frame are equipped with an engine and suspension, and the body is placed on it and fastened at 8 or 10 places, but after all there is a “twist”. It happens. At high speeds, the sense of stability becomes insufficient, and especially when running a rally, cracks occur in the rudder frame and the mount part of the body. Since the body and frame are connected only by “dots”, the burden is inevitably heavy. If you run hard like the Dakar Rally, it will crack.
It was decided that a monocoque would be better for more stable running, so from the 3rd generation it became a monocoque body. The point is that connecting by “dots” is a conventional construction method when it comes to buildings. It’s like connecting a pillar and a beam, so it’s a “point”, isn’t it? When it comes to monocoque, you receive everything on the “face”, so it’s 2×4 (two by four). Therefore, if a building has excellent earthquake resistance, it is definitely 2×4. Keeping the strength on the surface makes it lighter, and the stronger the body, the better the straight-line stability at high speeds.
At that time, Pajero adopted a monocoque body for the first time in these types of cars (commercially available in 1999). After that, other companies have become monocoques. After all, if you run on a bad road, it will twist considerably. With the rudder frame method, there is a time lag between the time the steering is turned and the time the car starts to turn, eliminating the feeling of directness. I’m more of a “monocoque”. However, the merit of the rudder frame can be seen immediately when something happens. It’s easy to see the bends and gaps (looking from below). Also, when it comes to attaching a winch, the rudder frame is better.
At that time, the Pajero had evolved steadily since the first generation, and we still had to improve high-speed driving, and even with these off-road type 4WDs, more than 90% are on-road. The monocoque structure is more suitable for safe and comfortable driving on the road.
A memorable car “Pajero Evolution” with two cars
From the 3rd generation, it became a monocoque body and an independent suspension, but before that, there was a commercial car “Pajero Evolution (1997)” that combined an independent suspension with a rudder frame. This was a homologation model for participating in the Dakar Rally and was a limited edition car. I transferred to the Pajero in private, and returned after reaching the 4th generation. I got two cars on the Pajero Evolution. The first one was a new car, but the second one got a good used car.
The engine is a specially developed 3.5-liter variable valve. It’s the same as the 3rd generation race car on display. It’s really special and it costs a lot of money. It was a very interesting car with a short wheelbase and a wide tread, using aluminum for the suspension parts and suspending the four wheels independently. It bends well and moves faithfully to the basics. So I liked it and wanted to ride it again. That’s how attractive the car is. It’s like, “Well, is this the Pajero?” The number was small and the aero parts were cool.
The last one I got on was donated to Mitsubishi Auto Gallery in Okazaki City, Aichi Prefecture. The Pajero Evolution wasn’t in the company, so I’ll give it to you. If you want to see your own car, it’s in Okazaki. However, the price is rising tremendously now (in the used car market), so I thought I lost it (laughs).
I want to revive Pajero!
After all, for Mitsubishi Motors, Pajero and Lancer are, in a sense, two big signs. Both have disappeared, and now they are electrified and become Outlander and Eclipse Cross (the lineup in Japan). But after all, I think there are definitely people who want to ride a model that runs even better. In a sense, I think the Pajero is a car that can definitely reach its destination on any road surface and in any weather conditions.
Of course, whether it is Delica or Eclipse Cross, it inherits the know-how of running, so it has very high running performance. Pajero reigns at the top, so I would like to revive it (in Japan) in the future. I also travel around the world through promotion and PR activities, but I think there are people who need it and areas where they need it. Pajero is like our pronoun. I would like to do my best so that someday customers will say, “I did Mitsubishi after all.”
Well, it is a car that has peace of mind, genuine running performance, and driving force, so it is absolutely necessary for experts to choose the one that really needs it and the one who has it as a hobby. The words may overlap, but for now I’ll do my best to provide it. If possible, I would like to return to motor sports. After all, it’s a place where everyone can see the performance.
* Pajero’s model for Japan was discontinued in August 2019, but production for overseas is continuing, and it is on sale in the Middle East, China, Australia, etc.