Rare Rides: The Sporty and Very Rare 1991 Mitsubishi Debonair, by AMG (Part I)

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis
rare rides the sporty and very rare 1991 mitsubishi debonair by amg part i

Today’s Rare Ride is the second attempt Mitsubishi made to build its own full-size executive car for the Japanese Domestic Market. Debonair never moved outside its home market, and always played third fiddle to competition from the likes of Toyota Crown and Nissan Gloria (then a Prince model). Today’s example goes slightly further and adds AMG flavor to the front-drive mix.

There’s a lot of information to cover here, and today we talk about the model’s beginnings.

Mitsubishi introduced the Debonair in 1964 as their first executive flagship sedan. The largest car the company had built prior was the compact class Colt 1000, so Debonair was quite a leap forward. Introduced at the 10th All-Japan Motor Show, it was described as a dignified debut.

Designed by German and former GM designer Hans Bretzner, Debonair was inspired by the 1961 Lincoln Continental. It started out with a 2.0-liter inline-six and progressed eventually to a 2.6-liter inline-four used by some K-car variants. And that engine sharing was a hint at the first Debonair’s longevity: It was popular enough to remain a mainstay in Mitsubishi’s lineup, largely unchanged through 1986. Revised only lightly and just four times throughout its run, by the mid-Eighties Mitsubishi realized modernization was in order.

In 1986, the second Debonair debuted, with a swap to front-drive configuration. In its new format, even the shortest Debonair was longer than the outgoing version. Length determined which of three engines powered the Debonair. The 185-inch model had a 2.0-liter V6, while the 191.5-inch had a 3.0 of six cylinders. The range-topping and longest 197.4-inch version were called Royal 150. It had a supercharged 150 horsepower version of that 2.0-liter V6. The 3.0-liter V6 was Mitsubishi’s 6G72, which you’d know from the Dodge Caravan and Dynasty. The only transmission available was a four-speed automatic. Eventually, the supercharged 2.0 V6 was dropped, as in 1989 a twin-cam 3.0 debuted that upped power from 155 horses to 200.

The change to front-drive and the more pedestrian styling started the decline of the Debonair, and before long Mitsubishi needed to spread the development dollars around a bit. Next time we’ll talk badging and market share.

[Images: Mitsubishi]

Join the conversation
3 of 17 comments
  • Caraudiology Caraudiology on Apr 08, 2021

    I recall becoming aware of the Debonair AMG prior to. I believed it 'd be some tuned up Japanese sports sedan comparable to the Lancer Evo, Lotus Omega or the Mercedes 190E 2.13-16 however it appears like I was wrong. Useful short article. I like it.

  • Geozinger Geozinger on Apr 08, 2021

    Where does the AMG connection start? Or did you mean to say A GM Designer connection? I was imagining that short-lived fling between MB and Mitsubishi in the late 90's, early 00's possibly had an earlier precursor. This is a bit confusing.

  • El scotto Huge lumbering SUV? Check. Unknown name soon to be made popular by Tiktok ilk? Check. Scads of these showing up in school drop-off lines? Check. The only real over/under is if these will have as much cachet as Land Rovers themselves? A bespoken item had to be new at one time. Bonus "accepted by the right kind of people" points if EBFlex or Tassos disapproves.
  • El scotto No, "brothers and sisters" are the core strength of the union. So you'll take less money and less benefits because "my company really needs helped out"? The UAW already did that with two-tier employees and concessions on their last contract.The Big 3 have never, ever locked out the UAW. The Big 3 have agreed to every collective bargaining agreement since WWII. Neither side will change.
  • El scotto Never mind that that F-1 is a bigger circus than EBFlex and Tassos shopping together for their new BDSM outfits and personal lubricants. Also, the F1 rumor mill churns more than EBFlex's mind choosing a new Sharpie to make his next "Free Candy" sign for his white Ram work van. GM will spend a year or two learning how things work in F1. By the third or fourth year GM will have a competitive "F-1 LS" engine. After they win a race or two Ferrari will protest to highest F-1 authorities. Something not mentioned: Will GM get tens of millions of dollars from F-1? Ferrari gets 30 million a year as a participation trophy.
  • El scotto None of them. The auto industry is full of people with huge egos. It's a case of huge ego = never ever being wrong.GM: The true believers end up at Bowling Green. A fast rising GM executive that just didn't quite make it: Truck & Bus, Fort Wayne isn't really that far from Detroit!Ford: Billy Ford once again, and it seems perpetually, convincing his doubtful relatives not to sell their preferred stock. I give VW a 50/50 shot at buying out Ford; a family buying out another family.Tesla: Straight from Elon: "My Tesla has hidden compartments for handcuffs, ask my latest girlfriend where they're located"Stellantis: Get used to flying to Schiphol. You'll have luggage, lots of luggage.None of the Big 3 will ever admit they were wrong. Tesla will just keep gaining market share.
  • SCE to AUX A question nobody asks is how Tesla sells so many EVs without charge-at-home incentives.Here are some options for you:[list][*]Tesla drivers don't charge at home; they just squat at Superchargers.[/*][*]Tesla drivers are rich, so they just pay for a $2000 charger installation with the loose change in their pocket.[/*][*]Tesla drivers don't actually drive their cars much; they plug into 110V and only manage about 32 miles/day.[/*][/list]