Mitsubishi’s 1-ton pickup celebrates 40 years of production this month and a staggering total of 4.7million sales. When the model first appeared in 1978, Space Invaders was launching the video game industry, the first automated cellular phone network was being built in Japan and Superman was taking off in cinemas – again.
The Mitsubishi L200 was developed to provide a 1-ton carrying capacity and yet be as easy to drive as a car. Its combination of rugged reliability, easy-to-drive nature and impressive carrying capacity soon made it a firm favourite across the world, from frozen wastes to sun-baked deserts. To ensure customers could go even further afield, Mitsubishi Motors built on its four-wheel-drive heritage by adding a 4×4 version to the range in 1980. This became the foundation for modern Mitsubishi 4WD vehicles, leading directly to the Shogun and Delica.
At launch in September 1978 there was only one body option, while power came from 2.0-litre and 2.6-litre petrol engines for North America and a 1.6-litre petrol engine for Japan and other regions, while a 2.3-litre diesel engine was available for general exports. The chassis was sophisticated for a commercial vehicle, with front disc brakes, double wishbone/ coil springs for the front suspension and leaf springs and a rigid axle in the rear.
By the time the fifth generation appeared in November 2014, the Mitsubishi was being built in Thailand and had three body configurations – single cab, double door Club Cab, and double cab. The drivetrain had evolved too, power coming from a newly-developed 2.4- litre MIVEC diesel turbo, while transmission options were 2WD and 4WD, via a 6-speed manual or 5-speed automatic transmission with sports mode.