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]

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  • 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.

  • Nrd515 I bought an '88 S10 Blazer with the 4.3. We had it 4 years and put just about 48K on it with a bunch of trips to Nebraska and S. Dakota to see relatives. It had a couple of minor issues when new, a piece of trim fell off the first day, and it had a seriously big oil leak soon after we got it. The amazinly tiny starter failed at about 40K, it was fixed under some sort of secret warranty and we got a new Silverado as a loaner. Other than that, and a couple of tires that blew when I ran over some junk on the road, it was a rock. I hated the dash instrumentation, and being built like a gorilla, it was about an inch and a half too narrow for my giant shoulders, but it drove fine, and was my second most trouble free vehicle ever, only beaten by my '82 K5 Blazer, which had zero issues for nearly 50K miles. We sold the S10 to a friend, who had it over 20 years and over 400,000 miles on the original short block! It had a couple of transmissions, a couple of valve jobs, a rear end rebuild at 300K, was stolen and vandalized twice, cut open like a tin can when a diabetic truck driver passed out(We were all impressed at the lack of rust inside the rear quarters at almost 10 years old, and it just went on and on. Ziebart did a good job on that Blazer. All three of his sons learned to drive in it, and it was only sent to the boneyard when the area above the windshield had rusted to the point it was like taking a shower when it rained. He now has a Jeep that he's put a ton of money into. He says he misses the S10's reliablity a lot these days, the Jeep is in the shop a lot.
  • Jeff S Most densely populated areas have emission testing and removing catalytic converters and altering pollution devices will cause your vehicle to fail emission testing which could effect renewing license plates. In less populated areas where emission testing is not done there would probably not be any legal consequences and the converter could either be removed or gutted both without having to buy specific parts for bypassing emissions. Tampering with emission systems would make it harder to resell a vehicle but if you plan on keeping the vehicle and literally running it till the wheels fall off there is not much that can be done if there is no emission testing. I did have a cat removed on a car long before mandatory emission testing and it did get better mpgs and it ran better. Also had a cat gutted on my S-10 which was close to 20 years old which increased performance and efficiency but that was in a state that did not require emission testing just that reformulated gas be sold during the Summer months. I would probably not do it again because after market converters are not that expensive on older S-10s compared to many of the newer vehicles. On newer vehicles it can effect other systems that are related to the operating and the running of the vehicle. A little harder to defeat pollution devices on newer vehicles with all the systems run by microprocessors but if someone wants to do it they can. This law could be addressing the modified diesels that are made into coal rollers just as much as the gasoline powered vehicles with cats. You probably will still be able to buy equipment that would modify the performance of a vehicles as long as the emission equipment is not altered.
  • ToolGuy I wonder if Vin Diesel requires DEF.(Does he have issues with Sulfur in concentrations above 15ppm?)
  • ToolGuy Presented for discussion: https://xroads.virginia.edu/~Hyper2/thoreau/civil.html
  • Kevin Ford can do what it's always done. Offer buyouts to retirement age employees, and transfers to operating facilities to those who aren't retirement age. Plus, the transition to electric isn't going to be a finger snap one time event. It's going to occur over a few model years. What's a more interesting question is: Where will today's youth find jobs in the auto industry given the lower employment levels?