It’s time for new SUVs, fit for the Eighties. R&T compares them in the 1983 July issue.
Here is where your two door as well as some full size car buyers started to diaspper to. These seemed way cooler than a Chevy Celebrity coupe to most of my friends – this was my senior year in HS. A few years after this review, My mom was an early adopter, and moved out of her ’78 Caprice sedan – allowing the remaking kids at home to drive it and she bought a loaded Eddie Bauer Bronco II.
My aunt bought a 83 S-10 blazer in 1989. V6 with a four speed manual transmission
Silver over a blue vinyl interior including the floor.
She drove it for 10 years. It rarely needed work and it survived hauling all four of us kids to school for years. Great little wagon/ trucklet
I worked in sales at 2 different dealers in the late 80s, and almost to a one, every one of these S10 Blazers on the used lot (2-3 yrs old at the time) had major problems, especially oil leaks from the drivetrain or engine.
The Bronco II IMHO was much more reliable and better built, but also seen as smaller and less substantial than an S10 Blazer. This is in retrospect, mind you.
Truth be known, at intro time for both, I would have taken the S10 Blazer just because I saw it as a better designed & styled package.
I recall the situation similarly. The S-10 seemed like a much more modern package than the Bronco II. I don’t have much first hand knowledge of the S-10’s reliability.
My mom’s Bronco II felt like a primitive vehicle, tall and spindly, but its overlay of luxury with the Eddie Bauer interior, the larger engine, 4X4 and all the power toys – I think it even had an inflatable seat bolster – gave it a sort of upscale but rugged image – exactly what buyers were looking for as relief from Ford Tempos and such.
My mom was not a poser driving a 4X4. We live in snow country, and she moved to a rural acreage. The Bronco II proved reliable and long lived – it died in 1995 after a slow speed roll over into a ditch – she got too close to the edge of the road in a night time thunderstorm. She walked away from the accident and bought a 1995 Grand Cherokee that is still serving her well.
My mom is sort of the classic SUV driver – a string of full-size U.S. domestic cars in the ’60s and ’70s and dedication to SUVs in the 1980s until the present.
We had an ’84 Bronco II Eddie Bauer for about six months. Its handling was not good, feeling quite tippy, although I eventually came to trust it. And the ride was obviously not great due to the short wheelbase. But the interior was surprisingly nice, considerably better than anyhting in the GM twins.
I would have taken the Montero, but not as a family rig. There’s still several around here; they seem very well built, as was the case with most Japanese 4x4s, like the Trooper II, which is my favorite of the era.
In the early eighties that Mitsubishi, called the Pajero here, and the Nissan Patrol started the popularity and widespread use of 4x4s here. Of course there were the Land Rovers, Jeeps, Toyota Land Cruisers and the Mercedes G-Class. But these were all thin on the ground-rarities (Only old money drove Land Rovers, for example).
There was a 3-door SWB Montero/Pajero and a 5-door LWB. I can only remember them having a 2.5 liter 4-cylinder turbo diesel. The contemporary Nissan Patrol had a bigger and more powerful 6-cylinder diesel engine, plus it looked and felt a bit more heavy-duty.
The long and very successful era of Mitsubishi in the Dakar rally-raid (formerly known as Paris-Dakar) also started back then. Of course the professional factory cars had nothing to do with the ones you could find in the Mitsubishi showrooms.
But the private teams also did very well. Like the Tijsterman husband and wife-team below, who ended in the top ten in the eighties and always drove Mitsubishi Pajeros.
Here’s the current Mitsubishi Pajero model, the picture fully explains why this breed of vehicles has become so popular in the past decades. The text says that the payload capacity of the trailer is 3,900 kg (8,600 lbs) if the driver only has a car + trailer driver’s license. Technically it can handle 200 kg more.
The Mitsubishi has a massive 3.2 liter 16v 4-cylinder turbo + intercooler diesel, 200 hp. I don’t know anything in this vehicle- and weight segment with a bigger 4-cylinder.
My sister and BIL have just towed a tandem axle caravan 40,000 kms around Australia with a 3.2 diesel Pajero other than issues with the aftermarket towbar it was fitted with, (replaced with a factory type) the vehicle gave no problems.
The towing capacity of the Pajero is lower than 3,900 kg though!
This segment of SUVs (the Land Cruiser 150-series is another one) gets aftermarket air brakes and a heavy duty trailer coupling to increase the towing capacity.
Without them, in full standard factory trim, the registered towing capacity is 3,500 kg.
The trailer above weighs 1,100 kg, so its GVWR for a car + trailer driver’s license is 5,000 kg.
Here’s a nice gallery of Mitsubishi’s Dakar Pajeros (a record 12 wins) throughout the years:
Not long after the Chevy S10 Blazer, Ford Bronco II and Mitsubishi Montero “sports utility vehicles” were introduced, Jeep introduced the XJ Cherokee. One advantage the Cherokee had over the others were a 4-door body. Also, Isuzu introduced the Trooper II SUV with the asymmetrical back doors. And during 1984, Toyota introduced the 4 Runner. By 1986, the 2.8 liter V6 in the S10 Blazer went to TBI and the Bronco II’s V6 went to 2.9 liters and EFI. A year later in 1987 the Jeep Cherokee went to the 4 liter inline 6 (replacing the carbed Chevy based 2.8 liter V6) with EFI and 173-177 horsepower. And Nissan introduced the Pathfinder SUV.
I’m pretty sure Chrysler sold a variant of the Montero/Pajero at some point as the Dodge Raider.
They absolutely did. A high school friend had one.
I don’t know if the Raider ever got a 4-door version, though, like the Montero did. Thinking it might have only been available as the 2-door.
I think if I had been shopping these three 30 years ago it would have been a toss-up between the Ford and Chevy. Having driven the pickup trucks these were based on, the Chevy (in 2WD form) drove like a car while the Ranger was definitely “trucklike”. The Bronco II seems to look more like a toy vehicle while the Blazer, somehow, in typical for GM fashion, seems just a tad bit bigger than is/was necessary.
I’m a fan of Ford so would have leaned towards the Bronco II, but I would wonder all the time I owned it if I should have picked the Blazer instead.
It was definitely a Ford vs. Chevy decision where I live, I’m not even sure we had a Mitsubishi dealer within 500 miles of us.
You could walk to our Ford dealer in about 10 minutes, and the Chevy dealer in 15.
The 2WD S-10 and S-10 Blazer definitely benefited from some shared architecture with the G-body cars when it came to road manners.
Really strange that this road test did no acceleration, braking or handling testing, because of transmission differences?
The Montero was quite the price bargain. They were very popular, at least on the west coast at the time.
Probably part of the Mitsubishi’s price advantage was due to it’s being 4 cylinder powered while the other 2 here were 6 cylinder powered.
The reason why the Explorer was lengthened and widened over it’s Bronco II predecessor was that Ford was under legal attack for the Bronco’s predilection for rolling over. Unfortunately, the 2 door Explorer wasn’t appreciably better at resisting rollovers.
The reason Ford lengthened the Bronco into the Explorer was primarily because they saw where the market was going; that mid-sized SUVs were becoming the new station wagon, and the huge popularity of the Cherokee. Four doors and more room were essential to compete; the Bronco II was way too short. And of course, the market responded, and made the Explorer the top seller for many years.
Mitsubishi’s 4-cyl diesel was a later Bronco option, according to Wiki. But not many takers.
I have a friend that still has their Montero and it is still going strong. The Bronco looked like would roll over if a slight wind came up, yet it was the later and longer Explorer that got the heat for that, go figure. I hated the sound of the Bronco six. Back in the day if I had been affluent enough to afford a new one I most likely would have bought the Blazer, but that probably would have bitten me in the ass, financially speaking.
Bronco II got a lot of heat as far as roll-over risk.
In early 1990, I traded in my 1979 Caprice Classic sedan for a used 1987 S10 Blazer 4×4 with 2.8 V6 and 4 spd Auto O/D…If I knew then what I know now, I would have kept the Caprice and passed on the S10….The S10 felt crude….and it was underpowered and drank gas…..I only kept that S10 for a couple years before trading it in for a used 1991 Full Size Blazer…..I was much happier with that K Blazer and kept it nearly 9 years…..more room inside, more power, and gas mileage not much different from the underpowered S10
I had a 2 door ’88 S-10 Blazer, with a 4.3 “chopped” V6. It was one of the best vehicles I have ever had. It had very few issues in the 5 years I had it. A battery, a starter (Warranty), a little trim piece, and the one real problem with these things, a headlight switch. The switch was a piece of trash that doubled as a hand warmer. When it was five years old, we bought a Grand Cherokee, and a friend of mine bought the Blazer. He had it until 2010, when it became so rusted that driving it in the rain got you a rusty water shower. Two of his 3 kids learned to drive in it. It still had the original short block in it with way over 450,000 miles in it(the odometer had siezed up a long time before). The transmission had been done twice, it had been stolen twice, and severely trashed on one of those joyrides. Yet, it drove on, until the rot got too bad. It’s replacement, one of the first GMC Envoys(They shared the driveway for a long time)has over 300,000 miles on it, and is still going strong after a recent engine transplant. It died because my friend’s wife ignored the oil light until the engine was trashed when something had hit the oil pan and cracked it.
I know it’s a minor point, but being a Ford guy ( therefore never paying attention to anyone else’s design) the one thing I hate about the 82-88 Ranger/Bronco II twins is what I call the Kindergarten size lettering on the instruments. In fact I only will own 89 up models because of it.
I think the Blazer is the best-looking of the three, but probably the worst put-together based on the one I have a bit of experience with (a friend had one) and how few you see anymore. The Bronco II always looked tall and ungainly. The Montero, while also tall for its length, carries it off better.
If I were actually going off-road with any of them, I’d take the Montero without a doubt.
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