THIS snub-nosed, boxy Bushmaster began its automotive career in Japan as a stock-white Mitsubishi Delica.
Some 45,000km later it landed in Australia, where the Delica 4x4 lads at Platinum Vehicle Sales transformed the people-mover into an adventure-mobile. They’re keen to show how these second-hand imports can be customised for individual requirements and the matte-orange Mitsubishi Delica Bushmaster here is one with the lot – plus a bit more.
It has 44,895km on the clock and, with pretty much everything thrown at it, a $58,888 price tag. Sounds a bit rich until you start adding it up. There’s a straight, corrosion-free body covered with an orange and grey wrap, and there’s also a 35mm suspension lift sitting on good-looking 16-inch CSA black alloy wheels shod with Maxxis 980 Bravo AT tyres.
The sidesteps are the lowest points of the rig and provide some protection for the engine, transmission and drivetrain; but they’re a fraction too low for hang-ups in the rough. Standard Delica ground clearance is – on a vehicle using a platform similar to Mitsubishi’s Outlander – 210mm.
Up front is a JAOS nudge bar, while a roof-wide light bar sits up top, along with a rooftop tent and a side awning mounted on a trio of Whispbar roof racks. Down the back of the 4.7-metre-long van sits a tow bar and a ladder on the one-piece, lift-up tailgate.
With three rows of seats, the Delica is touted as an eight-seater, but seven would be more comfortable. The back row can be folded up to the sides for extra cargo space, while laying the two back rows down flat provides space for a double bed.
Curtains for all back windows are part of the deal, and the sliding rear doors have electric assistance for opening and closing.
Japanese luxo touches continue inside with black leather seats and a veritable forest of high-gloss ‘timber’ trim finishes for the dashboard. Two big gloveboxes and a smallish infotainment screen for audio and satellite navigation fill up the dashboard.
Controls, in particular the shift lever for the six-speed auto, fall nicely to hand. Don’t expect much in the way of English script on the sat-nav – the radio will also throw up a couple of Japanese frequencies before settling on a local station.
Fire up this Delica’s 2.4-litre petrol engine, tucked away in that snub nose (there’s a 2.2-litre turbo-diesel option) and head on out. It’s a familiar powerplant found in other Mitsubishi models such as Lancer and Outlander, and it pushes out 125kW at 6000rpm and 230Nm. Helped along by paddle-shifters for the CVT transmission, the Bushmaster had no trouble keeping up with town or highway traffic.
In standard trim it weighs 1800kg. Fuel consumption on a combined run without too much 4WDing should see it sit around 10.0L/100km. There’s an 80-litre fuel tank and the handbook recommends 95RON. Services are six months or every 10,000km.
With gusty winds and a light steering feel there was no escaping the Bushmaster’s high ride height – the tent option takes its overall height beyond two metres and, at an indicated 100km/h, the light bar sets up a little whistle.
However, the front-drive van settles into a safe and comfortable gait on forest tracks where there’s no wind factor. Ride comfort is good over minor corrugations, and the high ride height provides great visibility to the front and sides.
The extra-short bonnet makes it easier to look out for pitfalls on the track, while also making it easier to turn in tight spots. All this, plus dial-up 4WD and differential locks (but no low range), add confidence when tackling slushy tracks.
The Maxxis tread design is a boon, but we’re limited by clearance. Wheel articulation is okay, just not great. If taking the Delica to more demanding tracks is planned, then an even bigger lift is advised – we’re not sure how that would affect the car’s dynamics.
There is a small gamble in driving off in a non-factory import, but there’s a fair bit of mechanical commonality with other factory-supplied Mitsubishis. Plus the company has a fair reputation for reliability and durability.
The Delica is easy to drive, handles well enough and performs well with a light load aboard. There’s a heap of cabin space in a reasonably compact body, and there’s a tonne of dress-up options available to turn one of these from family wagon to full-time explorer.
Perhaps have the satellite navigation converted to the local lingo, or simply replaced, before heading out bush.
Sales manager Joe Raffaele wants to show Platinum’s customers the range of customising possibilities for these Delicas, using imported and local dress-up components, from alloy wheels to rooftop tents.
The Mitsubishis are bought from Japanese auction houses, based on individual vehicle ratings. “So we work on a minimum rating, rather than a minimum mileage,” Joe said. “We have some here with 130,000km, some with 70km. We try to get as broad a spectrum as we can and cater for the budget-conscious too.”
Platinum is also building up a spare parts inventory to become a one-stop shop for service, repairs and parts for all Delicas.
THE Mitsubishi D5 Delica is the fifth generation of a vehicle series which first appeared in the 1960s as a cab-over ute in Japan. The model name reputedly derived from ‘Delivery Car’.
Australia knew it first as the Chrysler L300 Express and, from 1980, the Starwagon.
Primarily a commercial, multi-purpose van, it also became an eight-seat people-mover, as per Volkswagen’s venerable Kombi and Transporter buses.
The first 4WD version used early Pajero underpinnings and was introduced in Japan in 1982, arriving in Australia a year later with a five-speed manual transmission and a 1.8-litre engine. Some people still swear by them as a 4WD camper van.
The last of the Mitsubishi Express machines here was a commercial van, introduced in 2003 and pulled from the Australian market in 2013 due to a one-star ANCAP crash rating.
The fifth-gen Delica, introduced in 2007 and designed as an eight-seat people-mover, continues to be built and sold in Japan.