So, when’s the last time you saw one of these? I had actually forgotten about these trucks until I saw this one a week or two ago. The Mistubishi Mighty Max (née L200) ended its U.S. run over fifteen years ago. Today, few are left here in Rustville, so I had to stop and investigate.
The Mighty Max initially debuted in 1978 as the L200/Forte. For those of us in the States, these first-gen models may be better-known as the Dodge D50 and Plymouth Arrow (CC here), both appearing in the States in 1979 as captive imports for C-P and Dodge dealers.
After over a decade of being a provider of subcompact cars for Chrysler Corporation, Mitsu struck off on their own in the U.S. with Mitsubishi-badged variants in 1982. That included the mini-truck, which was given the unusual name of Mighty Max. Perhaps the Mistubishi marketeers were thinking along the lines of the Mighty Mite–or maybe Atom Ant?
I always associated them with a certain CONTOL secret agent, as I regularly watched Get Smart on Nick at Nite back when these trucks were available. I really don’t think Max would have given up his red Sunbeam Tiger for one of these, however. Regardless, the Mighty Max and its badge-engineered Mopar siblings carried on until 1987 when the second-gen debuted–though the Plymouth version disappeared after ’82.
It was still boxy, but for the late ’80s was quite contemporary, looking quite similar to the Mazda B-Series, Toyota Pickup and other small trucks available at the time. U.S. versions came with either 2.0- or 2.6-liter inline carbureted four-cylinders. Four wheel drive was also available, as well as an automatic transmission. Between 1987 and the end nine years later, these trucks did not change much. Most were rather functionally-equipped, with regular cab, bench seat and power nothing. I do not recall ever seeing a dolled-up version, but maybe that was just in my region. On the other hand, I remember seeing tons of well-equipped Toyotas, Rangers, S-10s and B2000s.
While the Mitsu trucklet was discontinued in the U.S. after the 1996 model year, the L200 was redesigned for its home and ROW markets that same year, and continues to this day as the L200/Triton. Of course, that one is not available here, because no one wants small pickups any more. And with Mitsubishi’s current image (or lack thereof) in the States, it is unlikely we’ll ever see them. But survivors like this one remind us of a time when people actually liked–and purchased!–small pickups.