Curbside Classic: Mitsubishi Debonair (1964-1986) – Continental Lite


Mitsubishi Motors Debonair and Mitsubishi Aircraft MU-2 Turboprop

(first posted 8/27/2016)  The ‘60s were Japan’s “go-go” years – it had rebuilt itself from the utter destruction of the previous World War, and its industries were humming.  As before the War, Japan’s economy was largely in the hands of several large conglomerates.  These conglomerates had numerous individual business entities – so there were lots of senior executives.  Company loyalty is a given in Japan, and these executives needed transportation – and for Mitsubishi Exec’s, (aircraft, cars/trucks, shipbuilding, chemicals, energy, electronics, financial, real estate), riding in a Toyota or Nissan just wouldn’t do – thus was born the Debonair.


Century                                                                           President

The Debonair, and later Nissan President (1965) and Toyota Century (1967) were part of Japan’s “Executive class” sedans, sold mainly to fleet operators of their respective parent corporation or affiliated companies and to the government.  They shuttled executives/politicians as they went about their very busy duties contributing to Japan’s economic miracle.  The cars were not generally marketed to the public, but if you knew the right person, one could be ordered.  They would also show up on the used car market.


The Debonair debuted in 1963, and with its slab sides and chrome-stripped fender peaks, clearly drew its inspiration from the Elwood Engel-penned early 1960’s Lincoln Continental.  This first generation model was built an incredible 22 years – from 1964 to 1986.  There were three changes during the production run.


The initial model, the A30, was powered by the KE64 1991cc straight six with dual carburetors, and was sold from 1964 to 70.


For 1971, a new “Saturn” series 6G34 straight six was installed, and in ‘73 the round taillights gave way to L shaped versions – this model was designated the A31.


The “Silent Shaft” 2.6L 4G54 four cylinder debuted in 1976 – this was the same engine recently highlighted in Paul’s Plymouth Arrow post.  The car remained basically unchanged until 1985, when only 205 rolled out in their last year.

deb 2-horz

2nd Gen                                                                              3rd Gen

The following generations (Debonairs were built until 1998) were more mainstream models marketed to both the public and business fleets.  The second generation was quite distinctive, to include an AMG model, but that’s a story for another post…


“Look at these sales figures – the Debonair is selling well.”