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

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis

Last time on Rare Rides we introduced Mitsubishi’s Debonair, which began its tenure as Mitsubishi’s flagship luxury sedan in 1963 and remained the same for a very long time. Upon the model’s second generation in 1986, the Debonair made the switch to front-drive and adopted more modern looks in an attempt to appeal beyond very conservative large sedan buyers in Japan.

But the changes still weren’t enough, as we’ll see today.

In a hint at what was to come, Mitsubishi sold its largest car design to Hyundai, who lightly rebadged the car and sold it in South Korea as the Grandeur. A new flagship name for Hyundai, the Grandeur initially started out with Mitsubishi components which Hyundai swapped out for its own over time. You’d know the Grandeur as the Azera, nee XG350.

The second-generation Debonair was not as successful as the first, and its conservative and Japan-only market forced Mitsubishi to additionally create the Diamante luxury sedan to appeal to a more global audience. A third-generation Debonair debuted for 1992, and was again more successful in the Korean market as the Grandeur than at home. Circa 1999, Mitsubishi noticed that Hyundai was better at selling its large sedan than it was, and entered a joint effort with Hyundai to develop the long-wheelbase Dignity.

Going larger and upmarket, Mitsubishi took aim directly at the Toyota Century and Nissan President with its new Japanese-Korean luxury sedan. The Dignity was introduced simultaneously (and produced domestically) in South Korea as the Hyundai Equus, and enjoyed much sales success there in a run through 2009. Your author lived there at the time, and the Equus was the large domestic sedan of choice for the successful Korean businessman.

But the Japanese market rejected the Dignity (and standard-wheelbase version Proudia) entirely, and Mitsubishi shifted around 1,200 total examples of both variants between 1999 and 2001. Just 59 of those were the flagship Dignity version. Mitsubishi gave up for a while, but tried once more to capture the large sedan market with another Proudia. That one existed from 2012 through 2016 and was a rebadged Infiniti Q70 (Nissan Cima). So far, Mitsubishi hasn’t shot across the bow of the large luxury sedan again, and the Q70 wasn’t especially full-size anyway.

Next time we’ll get to the reason all these articles were generated: The time AMG got involved to boost the second generation Debonair’s driving excitement.

[Images: Mitsubishi]

Corey Lewis
Corey Lewis

Interested in lots of cars and their various historical contexts. Started writing articles for TTAC in late 2016, when my first posts were QOTDs. From there I started a few new series like Rare Rides, Buy/Drive/Burn, Abandoned History, and most recently Rare Rides Icons. Operating from a home base in Cincinnati, Ohio, a relative auto journalist dead zone. Many of my articles are prompted by something I'll see on social media that sparks my interest and causes me to research. Finding articles and information from the early days of the internet and beyond that covers the little details lost to time: trim packages, color and wheel choices, interior fabrics. Beyond those, I'm fascinated by automotive industry experiments, both failures and successes. Lately I've taken an interest in AI, and generating "what if" type images for car models long dead. Reincarnating a modern Toyota Paseo, Lincoln Mark IX, or Isuzu Trooper through a text prompt is fun. Fun to post them on Twitter too, and watch people overreact. To that end, the social media I use most is Twitter, @CoreyLewis86. I also contribute pieces for Forbes Wheels and Forbes Home.

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4 of 16 comments
  • Cicero Cicero on Apr 08, 2021

    Imagine calling the cops to report that thieves have stolen your Dignity.

    • See 1 previous
    • DungBeetle62 DungBeetle62 on Apr 08, 2021

      I can't help shaking how Dignity Memorial is a major player in the mortuary game, as such I can only think of the Dignity as a hearse.

  • Geozinger Geozinger on Apr 08, 2021

    As a fan of the Chrysler K-car limousines, that American-Style Debonair checks all of the late malaise era boxes for me. How cool would it be to have a garage with both of those cars?

  • Wolfwagen If Isuzu could update this truck and keep the cost between $25K - $30K they would sell like ice pops on dollar day in a heat wave.
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  • Lou_BC Ironic, the Honda Ridgeline, a truck that every truck guy loves to hate is in 6th place.
  • 28-Cars-Later I keep forgetting I own it, but the space look on the ext cab reminds me of my 'Yota pickup of the same model year. I'm pretty sure there is some vintage of Hilux which features the same looking ext cab window (maybe '88?) its a shame these things are mostly gone and when available are $1,000,000,000 [INSERT CURRENT CURRENCY].
  • Sayahh Imagine if Ford had Toyota design and build a Mustang engine. It will last over 300k miles! (Skip turbo and make it naturally aspirated.) Maybe Yamaha will help tune it...