From Okazaki, with love: The rich automotive history of Mitsubishi

Car museum visits are always a treat for me. These opportunities give you a window into the past; a chance to see and touch the cars that made their mark in automotive history.

While I haven't been to a lot, I am fortunate to have visited some good ones like the Petersen Museum in Los Angeles, Nissan Zama Garage in Kanagawa, Toyota Megaweb in Tokyo, and R Garage in La Union.

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Mitsubishi Motors gave us a special treat during our recent visit to their Okazaki plant to get our first taste of the all-new Mitsubishi Triton global pickup, they opened the doors to their Auto Gallery. Having been renovated recently with new rules in place, the lucky members of the Philippine delegation were given a free pass for photos of and with some of the display cars.

Mitsubishi Auto Gallery image

Mitsubishi Auto Gallery (MAG) rotates the cars on display as it doesn't have that much floor space to fit all of Mitsubishi's iconic cars. During our visit, the displays ranged from mainstay heritage cars such as the Mitsubishi Model A, Japan's first series production car, all the way from 1917; and the PX-33, Japan's first 4WD diesel passenger car prototype from 1936. The three-wheeled Leo "Kei car" from 1959 was also a unique sight, it was reminiscent of 3-wheeled Piaggios and Lambrettas of that era.

Mitsubishi Auto Gallery image

Mitsubishi Motors seemed to find it fit to put up their MAG at their Okazaki plant which functions as their main R&D facility. 

Mitsubishi Auto Gallery image

We also saw the first-generation Delica from 1969, quite contrasting to the new Delica D:X Concept that took center stage at the Japan Mobility Show. For the unengaged, this Delica can be considered the grandfather of the "immortal" L300 in the Philippines.

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Another car that caught our eyes was this silver Mitsubishi Galant VR-4 (Viscous Realtime 4WD), a car built as a homologation requirement for participation in the World Rally Championship. The Galant VR-4 is considered Mitsubishi's first high-performance 4WD which touted the "Dynamic Four" Mitsubishi AWC which featured a center differential-type full-time four-wheel drive system (this system incorporated a viscous coupling unit), a four-wheel steering system, four-wheel independent suspension, and a four-wheel ABS. In 1987, the first total integration of these systems was considered highly advanced in the automotive world.

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This first-generation 1982 Mitsubishi Pajero 3-door was quite a sight. While not officially released in the Philippine market in this version, the Pajero is considered one of the most popular SUV nameplates in the country. It's global success has earned it much popularity as well and it was recently inducted into the Japan Automobile Hall of Fame.

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Mitsubishi has a strong motorsport heritage with its Ralliart high-performance and motorsport division. The 2002 Dakar Rally-winning Mitsubishi Pajero driven by Hiroshi Masuoka was one of the highlights, along with the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution VI, and the legendary Lancer 1600 GSR driven to victory by Jovinder "The Flying Sikh" Singh in the 1974 East African Safari Rally proving the new Lancer's prowess in what could be considered the world's most grueling race with its "car breaker" monicker.

Mitsubishi Auto Gallery image

Having just reopened for public viewing after a short hiatus during the pandemic, MAG at the Mitsubishi Motors Okazaki plant is available for scheduled visits once again. If you are a Mitsubishi fan and do find yourself in the vicinity, a train ride to Okazaki might be worth your trip. Remember to book in advance.