Aptly-named Shogun is intrinsic to Mitsubishi model lineage
Known as a commander, a powerful general, in the Japanese hierarchy, Shogun was given a head start (not just in the UK) on the back of James Clavell’s novel and 1980 TV mini-series of the same name. Featuring a sometime ‘heart-throb’ in the lead role (actor Richard Chamberlain), it was a gripping tale of a shipwrecked British navigator on the coast of feudal Japan and his rise through the ranks of the controlling shogun dynasty. The series was a tremendous success.
However, it may surprise you to know that the Mitsubishi Shogun was known by the more alliterative name of Montero in some markets and Pajero in others. When adapted to be a Hyundai model during the South Korean manufacturer’s developmental period, it was also badged as Galloper. Another version of it, the Dodge Raider, was produced during Mitsubishi’s joint venture exercise with Chrysler.
It is not a ‘throwaway’ suggestion to state that Shogun enjoyed a magnificent early reputation that it never lost. The model’s roots lie in the 1934 PX33 prototype 4x4 produced by Mitsubishi that could not be exploited until some time after the end of WW2. The first examples of 1982 were short wheelbase, three-doors, with a choice of metal, or canvas tops, but it was a range that would grow rapidly and was among the first in class to feature a powerful turbo-diesel engine and independent front suspension.
Inevitably, the UK’s farming community became an early adopter, appreciative of the greater sophistication of the Mitsubishi multi-surface vehicle, over other 4x4s. When the company decided to enter the annual ‘destruction’ event, known as the Paris-Dakar Rally (1983), winning it in 1985 and then enjoying a run of seven outright victories, the model’s fate became enshrined and its broader acceptance by both working organisations and the leisure sector ensued in close order, along with a raft of aftermarket suppliers. Bigger alloys, winching equipment, suspension modifications and so on served to enhance the Shogun’s unbreakable image.
It took almost a decade before the second generation arrived, which was larger, even more luxurious but no less practical for professionals. Its technological count was also growing in equal measure, leading the 4x4 sector with its ‘shift-on-the-fly’ SuperSelect 4x4 transmission (it could flick between two and four-wheel drive at speeds of up to 62mph), a multi-mode antilock braking system and even electronically controlled damping.
Towards the end of its run (1997), an Evolution version added an even punchier engine and independent rear suspension as a road-going celebration of Mitsubishi’s rally successes. Rare and now attracting a collectability status, along with rising values, it could be said to have inspired a raft of up-market and sportier 4x4s for other manufacturers that might never have dreamt about such options before.
The third generation Shogun was introduced in 1999, again introducing a raft of improvements that would culminate in the fourth and current generation that debuted in 2006. While a new Shogun Sport has been introduced more recently and the Shogun Pinin (a mini version) remains remembered fondly, the Shogun model name is synonymous with solid build quality and the traditional 4x4 values beloved by many customers.
Luscombe’s summary: Think Mitsubishi and Shogun also comes to mind. There are some farmers that still use their original Mark One Shoguns, which underscores the resilience and reliability inherent to the brand.
Next week: Tredia, Cordia and Mitsubishi’s innovative SuperShift gearbox.
Mitsubishi manufacturing world-wide
To be a world player in manufacturing terms demands that production needs to be centred in specific markets, highlights Iain Robertson, and from the 1980s, Mitsubishi fostered a number of joint venture exercises that broadened its appeal.
While Daihatsu and Suzuki had already ventured into China, Mitsubishi became the third Japanese carmaker to invest heavily in its fast-growing market in 1986. Mitsubishi forged a partnership with Liuzhou Automotive to manufacture cars in that country, largely for domestic consumption. The Chinese arrangement led to four additional production partnerships (from 2006) that still exist in that country.
In the mid-1980s period, the interminable battle against import restrictions to the vital North American market was ended, when Mitsubishi broke ground in Normal, Illinois, for a joint-venture deal with its long-time US sales partner, Chrysler. It would be the base for the market specific Mitsubishi Eclipse, Eagle Talon and Plymouth Laser models. Unfortunately, it was a short-lived project, with Chrysler gradually reducing its shareholding to 3% in 1992, selling off the remaining stake in 1993.
In the 1990s, Mitsubishi entered a partnership with Volvo and the Dutch government at Born, Holland, where the respective Carisma and S40/V40 models would be produced. The same plant would also manufacture the Colt hatchback alongside the smart forfour model, during the ill-fated DaimlerChrysler years. However, a partnership with French PSA Group led to the combined production of the Peugeot 4007 and Citroen C-Crosser, which were badge-engineered versions of the Mitsubishi Outlander, also at the Dutch factory. Mitsubishi’s connection with the Dutch plant ended in 2012.
For a very brief period, Mitsubishis were also made in Australia. The Lonsdale models were sold for a couple of years in the UK, before the facility was abandoned. While no longer represented in the UK market, the sometime popular Proton, produced in Malaysia, could not have existed without Mitsubishi, in a 22-year partnership. From the mid-1980s, until 2003, Mitsubishi enjoyed a joint production exercise with Hyundai. Mitsubishi also produced cars in collaboration with Indian manufacturer, Hindustan (the company that produced the 1950s Morris Oxford for many years), while it shared a South African facility, with Ford and Mazda, where the Delica 4x4 MPV was produced.
Luscombe’s summary: Mitsubishi’s colourful past has seen many deals and joint-ventures being struck world-wide, as the brand grew both in prominence and market share.
Next week: Shogun Sport’s chassis underpins its reputation.
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