My second ever article here on Oversteer was about the Mitsubishi Delica. Since then, I’ve successfully resisted the urge to write more about this spaceship on wheels … until now. Because we must talk about Delica’s unbelievably rad trim levels.
I’ve always thought the Delica to be a bit of a mysterious beast, so I really wanted to better understand all of the different variants that were sold. I’ve put this all together with help from my friend Rondo the Van Man, who runs a business in Sun Valley, Idaho, importing vans from Japan. Craig, a JDM importer, runs Bonsai Rides in Ontario, the Mitsubishi Delica online forum and this site.
Why This Is Awesome
The third-generation Mitsubishi Delica, referred to as the L300, went on sale in for the 1986 model year and was sold in a variety of markets. A variant known as the "Mitsubishi Van" was even offered in the U.S. from 1987 to 1990. Even though the L300 was succeeded by the L400 in May of 1994, Delica L300 sales lasted in Japan through the 1998 model year. The variant offered in the U.S. was heavily de-contened, and lacked many of the Delica’s bizarre features. For access to the raddest Delicas, one must look to the gray market, where examples over 25 years old can be imported and registered legally in the U.S. This means that, as of the time of this writing, Delica models with build dates as recently as late 1993 can now be imported to the States.
The Delica L300 was offered in a lot of configurations. Two wheelbases were offered, although it seems that most all of the passenger models, which were known as the "Star Wagon," utilized the short wheelbase. Also on the table were gas and diesel engines, optional 4-wheel drive and a unique high-roof variant that could be had with or without an array of skylights, referred to as the "Crystal Lite" roof. While it’s typical for many modern vehicles to offer a lot of specialty features bundled together as a part of a larger package, that wasn’t true of the Delica, and buyers could specify precisely want they want — resulting in some truly unique factory builds., as was the case with the L300.
The focus of this article will be on the truly-bizarre looking, adventure-oriented 4WD models. Humbler, 2-wheel drive L300s were offered, though, and these included the G, XL, DX, GL and GLX trim levels.
Here’s a look at a page from an old Japanese-market Delica sales brochure that covers a wide range of the available trim levels:
The real fun starts with the "Exceed" model, a mid-level 4WD trim that was available with either the low, high or Crystal Lite skylight roof. Buyers could choose from a gas or turbodiesel engine and a manual or an automatic transmission. Exceed models came with velour seats, plastic window trim, basic carpet, an analog inclinometer and an altimeter mounted to the dashboard, and an optional refrigerator/heating box in the front. Exceeds typically seated seven: two up front, two in second row captain’s chairs and three in a bench across the back.
The Super Exceed was positioned above the Exceed and was typically available only with the Crystal Lite roof, turbodiesel engine and automatic transmission. This was essentially the top-of-the line Delica, before getting into the snow-oriented models. The Super Exceed swapped out the Exceed’s velour seats for higher-grade alcantara, plusher "flocked" window surround trim, thicker carpets and an inside-outside temperature gauge added to the inclinometer and altimeter on the dash. The refrigerator/heater box came standard on the Super Exceed, as did a limited-slip rear differential and a higher grade stereo. Many also came with a dual battery setup. The Super Exceed offered the same seating configuration as the Exceed.
Now we get into the really interesting models. The Chamonix (pronounced sham-oh-nee) was sold from 1989 to 1993. Chamonix is a ski area in France, so, naturally, this Delica is equipped for use during harsh, cold winter weather and was marketed toward skiers. The Chamonix came with thick, waterproof, Chamonix-branded carpets, a standard limited-slip rear differential, dual batteries and a more robust alternator to help ensure reliability in low temperatures. The Chamonix was also available with the high-roof option, but not the Crystal Lite roof. Instead of skylights, Chamonix models came with added roof insulation to keep things warm inside given their intended use in cold mountain environments.
The various versions of graphics and stickers found on the Chamonix serve to emphasize the challenges of translating Japanese to English in the age before the internet.
The Jasper presumably gets its name from Jasper National Park in the Canadian Rockies. Sold for 1993 and 1994, the Jasper offered largely the same features as the Chamonix, although it came with lower-end interior trim and "Jasper" branded carpets. It’s up for debate whether the Jasper’s mountain-like exterior graphics are radder than the striping found on the Chamonix (I’m inclined to say they are). As the Jasper came out in 1993, it is just now becoming legal for import.
Apparently Mitsubishi didn’t technically offer a ski-themed model for the 1995 model year, but returned with the Active World for 1996 and 1997. There isn’t a lot out there about the Active World yet, presumably in part because it’s still a few years away from being eligible for import here in the States. Still, it seems that it was a little less special than the Cham and Jasper, as it was more or less a run-out model, built to help Mitsubishi get rid of as much leftover stock as possible in preparation for the L300’s discontinuation.
Chris O’Neill grew up in the Rust Belt and now lives in Salt Lake City, Utah. He worked in the auto industry for awhile, helping Germans design cars for Americans. Follow him on Instagram: @MountainWestCarSpotter.