One day while discussing the summer vacation to Norris Lake Tennessee with the enigmatic Izabel Fourman, she made a suggestion… more of a demand, really. You see, she had only just recently become familiar with the idea of sharing a ride anywhere with her two new pseudo-siblings. That meant the three of them jammed together in the backseat of any chosen vehicle. “UUUUUGGGHHHHH… YOU need to get something with a third row (eyes rolling).” she moaned at the prospect of spending 6 hours in a car with Ben and Collin.
“She’s kinda right.” I thought, after a mental review of recent excursions with the entire unit; replete with bickering, insults, threats, universe-ending minor body contact… and at least one physical internment. What i didn’t immediately recognize here was the gift wrapped opportunity for justified car shopping. See, I wasn’t exactly equipped for extended drives for five. The boys and I had been doing just fine with the Mini Cooper and Volvo wagon up until now. A third car? really? Most practical people would be figuring out which of the already excessive two vehicles in the garage to replace… or possibly both of them…
… but not this guy.
In North America, there are two obvious choices for a person in this position; the SUV and the Mini-van, both of which I loath. The former a product of gross impotence, the latter, a product of gross practicality (if that’s a thing. but I’m saying it, so it is.) and neither of them with a hint of character. No, what I want is a VAN! The first thing that came to mind was Volkswagen. I like the Vanagon, and the Syncro is a robust version that was available with 4WD. So that’s where my search began.
It didn’t take me long to realize that I was going to have a tough time finding something that I’d be happy with, even being willing to travel to the ends of the continent to drive it home. Nary a Syncro; nearly everything else was a Westfalia camper van, far too many miles, poor condition, or bus (bench seat) configuration… grumble grumble. What the hell else was there?? A full size Ford or GMC? No thank you! This was about the time I discovered classics.autotrader.com. I had no idea this existed, but after Googling for 4WD Vans, these weird looking things started showing up on their site. What the hell is a “Delica”??
A bit more digging landed me at delicausa.com … and the search was over. I fell in love immediately and knew I had to have one of these. After some emails and some phone calls, I was on a plane to Philadelphia with my oldest son to drive one home.
“What the hell is that?”
It’s a JDM (Japanese Domestic Market) 1991 Mitsubishi Delica L300 Exceed Turbo Diesel.
Collin and I flew to Philly on a Sunday night, and I planned to drive it home on Monday if all went well with the test drive and sale. I pulled Collin out of school for the day since I needed a co-pilot. See, there are tolls to be paid on the road to Columbus from Philly… and I’m driving from the right side, remember? So he was in charge of all drive-through orders and tolls. Pretty cool job for a sixth grader. When we arrived at Mendel’s Garage, aka delicausa.com, she was already sitting out front waiting for us with doors open wide, ready for the test drive.
Oddly enough, the driving-from-the-right thing was not nearly as big of an issue as I thought it would be. Sure, it takes some getting used to, but isn’t driving (well) all about adjustments anyway? I was so fascinated by the challenge of driving from the right, that I went right to pro-level and opted for the 5-speed manual. I had been driving the Mini Cooper for 2+ weeks prior shifting with the LEFT hand in preparation for this moment. So, a few trips across the very tight Philadelphia neighborhood around the dealer, not too dissimilar from German Village, and we were ready to go! When asked, which I always am, I sum it up like this; “You’ll figure it out in about 5 minutes… or you crash. No one wants to crash.”
“You’re driving on the wrong side!?”
No, I’m not.
It was going to be a long, plodding, trudge back to Columbus given that while this diesel workhorse has torque for days (off the line in 2nd gear, anyone?), it only makes about 100hp and is geared like a farm tractor… top (reasonable) speed: 65 mph. A trip like that needs a little spice to keep it from getting monotonous; first stop, Party City!!
“Is that thing legal??”
Yes, it is. Ever seen a mail truck?
Some interesting characteristics
- Cab-over or COE (Cab Over Engine)
- body style of truck, bus, or van that has a vertical front, “flat face” or a semi-hood, with the cab of the truck sitting above (or forward of) the front axle. This contrasts with a conventional truck where the engine is mounted in front of the driver.
- Right hand drive
- Imported from Japan
- Totally legal
- 2.5L Turbo Diesel
- Totally legal
- Four wheel drive w/ 2 speed transfer case.
- Seats 7 in a 2-2-3 configuration with captain’s chairs behind driver/passenger and 3rd row bench.
- All rear seats can be folded flat to accommodate sleeping, or hauling.
- Class 2 tow hitch/receiver.
- Increased window tint.
- Upgraded sound system.
- Lower temperature thermostat.
- Rear mounted roof ladder.
- Side dump exhaust/muffler.
- New rear flooring.
- Remote key-less entry.