News that thousands of NL Pajeros are suddenly unroadworthy has come as a shock…but then we had an idea…how about we get those ‘unroadworthy’ Pajeros and go racing. Here’s what we’re thinking.
Words by Robert Pepper: The recent Takata airbag recall is biting car makers hard with those affected saying they’ll buy back vehicles rather than develop replacement airbags – with the 1996-2000 NL Pajero caught up because of the faulty NADI 5-AT inflator. You can read more about the issue HERE.
The news that Mitsubishi will have to buy back NL Pajeros came as a shock. Such a shame to see great vehicles taken off the road, perfectly driveable but no longer safe. I used to own an NJ Pajero, a manual 3.5L V6 wagon, and I’ve got fond memories which got me thinking – what could we do with all those Pajeros? And it didn’t take long to come up with an idea.
Remember, the Pajero dominated the Dakar for many years, and it’s got a reputation as a tough car. There’s the Super Select all-wheel-drive system, with a decent 150kW V6 petrol that doesn’t mind a rev and shifts the car along nicely. Gearboxes are four-speed auto which is a big sluggish, the 5-speed manual is preferable. Handling is good for the age, just let down to my mind by being a bit slow. So it’s a good base, and here’s what I’d do to it one to create Pajero Phoneix, a life beyond the school run.
Rip out all the seats, replace the front with with race seats. Add a roll cage and harness. Replace steering wheel with a smaller race wheel. Add a steering dampener. Remove all the soundproofing, aircon, delete all non-essentials, relocate the battery to the back and use a smaller one, delete the spare wheel – all to reduce and centralise weight as far as possible. Change the suspension to suit the lighter weight but no lift, run 235/85/16 tyres on alloys. Change the brakepads and brake fluid to higher-temp versions. Ideally, I’d go further and convert it to an extracab ute with a chopped tray to reduce weight still further, and get a bit more out of the engine with headers and an exhaust.
We’d then have a lighter car than standard, with a little more power, and a lot more high-speed rough-terrain capability. Get a few of those built to spec and then it’s rally time, maybe a special class at the Finke. The whole build would cost a lot less than a Raptor, actually give you some power when foot is pressed to floor, and while the suspension wouldn’t be as long-travel as the Raptor, the Pajero Phoenix would be a lot lighter so that wouldn’t matter as much, and if there’s anything that’s important for racing, it’s lightness.
Question: Who’s in, and what do you suggest Australia does with all these suddenly unroadworthy Pajeros?