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.
a friend in high school had the ram 50 clone of this truck. he was driving me home on a narrow no divider road in texas when we came upon an armadillo innocently attempting to cross the road. i will never forget when he yelled “OOPS”, swerved the truck and then a loud sickening CRUNCH echo’d in the tinny cabin as the armadillo met its inevitable bitter end.
As bad as this is, I don’t even think this is even the worst named variant. I had a friend in high school who had a Dodge identical to the photo truck, his was badged as a “Ram 50”, and he would always tell people he drove a Dodge Ram, I’d correct him and tell them it was actually Mitsubishi Mighty Max, much to his chagrin.
But back to the worst name, the 4wd Dodge version was known as the “Power Ram” in some years. Innuendo included…
If you think Mighty Max is strange you should see some of the Boom Boom Hello Kitty Super Happy Funtime Vroom Vroom names they use on some of the JDM stuff.
Mitsubishi used to have a pretty full line up of cars and they have had a several successful entries in the US market, but for the last decade or so it seems that they have started that “long goodbye” out of the US market, I don’t think they even sell any passenger cars like the Galant or Diamante any more, at least they dont advertise it, the Eclipse is gone, they only seem to sell a couple of small SUV’s and thats it. Do they stil even sell the Lancer?
They’re still selling cars. I’m mostly aware of this because a local dealer had a lot full of them a couple months ago…looked like a dump site for shipments to other Mitsu dealers, wherever they may be.
I think they’re down to Lancer, Mirage, and Outlander now. I believe the Galant has been discontinued.
Yeah, the Outlanders and Lancer are it right now (besides the ridiculous i-Miev), they discontinued the Galant and Raider in the last couple years. The US is getting the Mirage next year, so that should be…something. I live in a city of about 1 million, we have a Fiat and Maserati dealers, multiple Mercedes and Porsche dealers, but we haven’t had a Mitsubishi dealer in about 7 years, nearest one is about 200 miles away. They are walking dead right now…
Occasionally when stuck in Houston traffic I play a mental mini-game of “Count the Mitsubishi,” which gets surprisingly hard at times. See also: “Count the pre-1990.”
I’ve seen the first Mitsubishi ad on (U.S.) television in ages yesterday . . . advertising the Outlander. They may have a chance still in America.
The ONLY late model Galants I’ve seen in the flesh were (are) rentals in Hawaii and Guam. They look pretty plain (and with the flat “Wal Mart” wheel covers made of low-rent plastic) . . . cheap. Oddly enough, I’d want a Galant . . . . because of it’s lo-pro stance. Nobody would mess with it . . . nobody else would want it . . . . Unfortunately, the only dealer who sells (new) Mitsubishis in Honolulu County (Oahu) is Cutter . . . and they seem to stock only the utilitarian low end Lancers, a couple of ricer Evos and the i-Miev as electric cars are selling briskly in traffic-choked Honolulu.
Re: JDM model names – my favourite’s the ‘Mazda Bongo Friendee’.
I believe the Mighty Max is cited as the last carbureted automobile sold in the US, in either 1993 or model year 1993. It’s hard to keep such things straight.
I still see some of these around the Portland area, although mostly the rounder earlier model and mostly with Dodge badges. Regarding names, may favorite from Mitsubishi was the Minica Dangan Turbo, a Kei car whose nameplate was almost as wide as the car.
I had a coach in high school that had one way back when, and 4 speed, no radio , no air, barren except for the “optional” rear bumper he got. Anyway we used to pick it up and move it up on the sidewalk every afternoon. And every afternoon we ran.
It was largely the WWII generation, sensible chaps they were, that bought so many small trucks. They’d proven their manhood on the beaches of Normandy, not by the size of their pickup.
Not a bad as a name as the Nisan. Pantry boy
The Isuzu Light dump.
And the Mazda LaPuta..
Puta been the Spanish for, ahem, a lady of known repute.
Beginning in the early ’90’s, the Mighty Max was available with a Mitsubishi 3.0L V-6. There are Mitsubishi badged survivors in Hawaii, Guam and Saipan (I was back in the Mariannas for the first time in 20 years last week spending time on both Guam and Saipan).
The recent Marianas trip showed about a dozen of these still running around, although in pretty rusty shape, those on Saipan the worse for wear . . . but still plugging along.
I believe ’97 was the last year for the Mitusbishi pickup in the U.S.; Japanese built and volume lower than it’s competition at a period of a high yen killed off the export of these from Japan to America. Ditto the Isuzu pickups (although they’d solider on as re-badged Chevy S-10s/Colorados for awhile). The Dodge versions of these went by the wayside when the Dakota went on sale, although the overlap lasted a few years after the Dakota was at Dodge dealers.
It’s not a “real” Mitsubishi, but don’t forget the Raider, even if they only sold a handful.
We could wonder if Mitsubishi wanted to gamble on a toyline name and cartoon named Mighty Max? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mighty_Max_%28TV_series%29
It does go well with Tredia and Cordia, with Starion being their fearless leader!
I don’t think these trucks were referred to as “Mighty Max” outside of North America.
Maybe a bad name but they were pretty good trucks. Drove one when I first retired and was real happy with it. Know a guy that built a one ton mitsu pickup with the diesel. Mitsubishi never built one but this was one strong truck.
Nobody wants to buy a new mini truck anymore? I do…
Correction: The manufacturers don’t want to sell them.
Growing up, my neighbour had one of these. He was a traditional, practical European immigrant–it replaced a rust-ravaged early-’70s Datsun pickup. I liked its simplicity and it seemed to serve him well–they were in the process of moving when I visited my parents, and it was still his daily driver, a decade later.
Mitsu still sells a compact pickup in AUS (typical bloat included, though it could be worse). It will surprise no one here that it looks weird:
This size and style ute is the mainstream commercial vehicle in Australia, though Mitsubishi Triton doesn’t seem to sell that well. Mostly seems to be HiLux, Ford Ranger and Mazda B-Series that are the big sellers, with Holden Colorado/Isuzu D-max following up. I seem to see as many Great Walls as Tritons these days!
If those increasingly-popular Chinese utes make the same inroads that Japanese vehicles did 50 years ago, we’ll likely be writing CCs on them in a decade or so–and not only for the Australian market. Time will tell…