Here’s a vehicle that’ll change your perspective –
literally! The Mitsubishi Delica Space Gear 4WD delivers such a high driving
position you’ll think you’re looking down on Earth from afar. The altered
perspective takes a while to get used to – traffic lights are almost eye level,
tailgaters are virtually invisible due to the limited rearward line of sight and
things look, well, different. It’s slightly bizarre to have a Toyota
Prado pull alongside and think its some kind of kiddie toy off-roader!
The Space Gear is quite a popular Japanese import
vehicle. And for good reason – its combination of turbo diesel torque and fuel
economy, genuine off-road potential, abundant space and trick features make it
unique. Its cool-ness is right up there with a Toyota Hi-Ace Van Fan...
Like all one-box body designs, the Space Gear
offers oodles of interior space. Our high-spec Exceed model was a seven seater
with each seating position offering abundant space to sprawl. There’s also
enough headroom to walk through the cabin without breaking your back.
Rear passengers are pampered with dedicated HVAC
controls and overhead ventilation outlets, generous lighting and plenty of
storage pockets. Our test car was the ‘crystal roof’ version
which gives large glass areas above the heads of the centre and rear row
outboard passengers. These miniature sunroofs have electrically deployed trim
blinds – very neat!
Front occupants also score a pop-up glass sunroof
together with accessories such as an inclinometer, inside/outside temperature
display and battery voltage display. Note that our test car was equipped with
dual batteries – we can’t be sure if this is a factory fitment or aftermarket. The
rest of the dashboard is pretty conventional – simple and logically arranged.
There were no airbags in our 1994 model.
At around 2000kg, the Space Gear 4WD is no
featherweight and it might seem that its 92kW max output is some kind of bad
joke. Sure, the Space Gear would struggle lugging a load uphill against a
headwind, but in normal driving its strong torque makes it feel at least
respectable. With 294Nm at 2000 rpm, the turbo diesel Space Gear can keep pace
with traffic without needing to give it a big rev. The engine is Mitsubishi’s
4M40 which is a 2.8-litre four-cylinder SOHC design with an air-to-air
Our test vehicle was equipped with a four-speed
auto trans that did a good job keeping the turbo diesel in its powerband while
ensuring smooth shifts. The gear selector is mounted on the steering column to
maintain walk-through access to the rear of the cabin. An overdrive lockout
button can be found on the end of the selector handle.
The Space Gear’s all-paw driveline is typical of
many traditional off-roaders. A lever on the floor lets you select from
high-range 2WD (2H), constant AWD (4H), high-range AWD with centre diff lock
(4HLc) and low-range AWD with centre diff lock (4LLc). This combines with
abundant ground clearance and impressive entry and departure angles, making the
Space Gear a true go-anywhere getaway machine – not just another fake... Fuel tank
capacity is 75 litres, giving the turbo diesel a decent touring range.
On the road, the Space Gear has relatively slow
on-centre steering response (partly because of its high-profile tyres) but you
always feel in control and can feel what the chassis is doing. The driver is
also seated slightly rearward compared to earlier Delica models – this changes
seat-of-the-pants handling feel and you don’t feel as exposed to a front-end
collision. The Space Gear has a lot of body roll and understeer –
possibly due to the relatively low-grade tyres fitted to our test vehicle.
Perched on a five-link coil sprung rear-end and double wishbone torsion bar
spring front-end, the Space Gear rides comfortably with relatively little judder
(a common trait in most large 4WDs) but the dampers in our test vehicle felt
inadequate over large undulations. Braking is via four-wheel discs (ventilated
at the front) and optional ABS.
The Space Gear body is essentially the same as the
locally delivered L400 Mitsubishi Express with a sliding door on the left side
and a lift-up tailgate. The crystal roof in our test car is a Japanese market
exclusive and the presence of the 2.8-litre turbo diesel engine is identified by
the small bonnet scoop. Our test car was also equipped with alloy wheels, a
factory (option?) bull bar and fog lights and an aftermarket rear ladder. Side
steps were also fitted but the high-riding Space Gear is quite difficult
to step in and out of – the A-pillar mounted grab-handle is essential to haul
yourself up and in.
Supplied by Adelaide Japanese Imports, this
particular Space Gear 2.8-litre turbo diesel Exceed Crystal Roof had 172,000km
on the odometer but presented well aside from a crack in the dashboard. With all
necessary compliance work carried out and registration provided, this 1994
vehicle is being offered at around AUD$13,750. Most body and interior parts are
widely available (the L400 series Delica/Express was sold in Australia) and
you’ll find other similarities with the Pajero. When buying, look for rust
around the sunroofs and under-body (particularly in vehicles from the snowy
areas of Japan), deteriorated radiator header tanks, air conditioning problems
and be aware that the injector pump can fail in diesels.
Note there are many versions of the Delica – a
long wheelbase, eight seater, 2WD, petrol and diesel engines and many different
spec levels with climate control and electronically-controlled suspension. If you’re
interested, you’ll find plenty of other enthusiastic owners and a strong
information/parts base – so why not change your perspective on the road?
Adelaide Japanese Imports +61 8 8369 1156
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