CC Outtake: 1979-86 Mitsubishi L200/D-50 – The Pickup Of Many Names

(first posted 5/1/2018)    Even the hardiest of cars and trucks have to expire eventually and it’s pretty hard to think of something hardier than a simple, old, Japanese pickup. It’s a rare sight to see these old Mitsubishi utes – pardon me, force of habit, we call all pickups here “utes” – as even they have to pack it in eventually. How refreshing to see this one still in use: a simple old pickup towing a simple old boat. How even more refreshing to see a similar pickup just a few doors down.

I had just parked my car and was walking to Brisbane’s best Mexican restaurant, La Quinta, when I spotted this charming scene. I knew right away it was a Mitsubishi but the name eluded me. Was it Triton, as its descendant is marketed in Australia today? No, that name came later.

Look closely and you’ll see the classic three-diamond badge on the grille and a name on the fender: L200 Express. That pegs this Mitsubishi as being from 1980 or later. Although badged Forte back in Japan, Mitsubishi had become just as involved with Chrysler Australia as they had that company’s corporate parent and therefore the Forte was launched here as the Chrysler D-50. For 1980 it became the Chrysler L200 Express – to establish a kinship with the also newly launched L300 Express van – and then late in 1980, when Mitsubishi bought out Chrysler’s Australian operations, it switched the Chrysler badge for a Mitsubishi one.

Yes, much like in North America, there were plenty of Mitsubishis being sold here with Chrysler badges. The peculiar thing is the Mitsubishi Galant, for example, was first launched here as the Chrysler Valiant Galant. Eventually Mitsubishi realized the Valiant name wasn’t exactly synonymous with small, economical cars and ditched the Valant prefix. Another peculiar naming oddity: Chrysler sold ute versions of its Valiant under the Chrysler Valiant name but also simultaneously as a Dodge. By its final year, 1976, the blandly named Dodge utility was the only car here under the Dodge name.

But back to this L200. Or, as North Americans would know it, the Dodge D-50. And then from 1981, the Dodge Ram D-50. Oh, and for several years, the Plymouth Arrow truck. Today, the L200 name is still used in many markets worldwide, as is the Triton name the pickup picked up in its second generation. Today, too, the pickup market is dramatically different from the early 1980s. Basic, single cab utes are still found in fleets but the market has shifted to crew cab utes in increasingly higher levels of trim, like this Volkswagen Amarok. Predominantly powered by four-, five- and six-cylinder diesel engines, vehicles like the Amarok, Ford Ranger, Holden/Chevrolet Colorado and Nissan Navara have become not only boat towers and construction site goers, but also family vehicles.

Not everyone wants a new, flashy, crew cab ute, however. Just down the street, I saw another old Mitsubishi. What is this, Eugene, Oregon? The fender badges on this one say D-50 and 2000, signifying this is powered by the 93 hp 2.0 Astron four-cylinder. The Mitsubishi was also available with a smaller 1.6 as well as a larger 2.6 Astron.

Ah, but this little Mitsu is suffering from an identity crisis. It doesn’t appear to be wearing its original tailgate, instead having received one from a later (1981+) four-wheel-drive L200 powered by the 2.3 diesel engine.

Based on the D-50 badge, this Mitsubishi must be a 1979 Chrysler D-50. Well, no matter what name it wears, it’s still a pleasure to see an old workhorse still in use. Lately, I’ve spotted a Ford Courier and a Mazda B-Series from the 1970s, as well as an old Datsun 720. All that’s left to complete the set is an old Hilux–now where did they all go?

Maybe I’ll end up finding two of them on the same street, too!

Photographed in Bulimba, Brisbane, QLD in April 2018.