All you need to know

If you read automotive blogs, you may have come across mentions of the Mitsubishi Delica or reports of Maine trying to ban them. The vehicle may not be familiar to you – even if you are familiar with vintage cars – because it was only sold very briefly in America. Here’s what you need to know about it.

What is the Mitsubishi Delica?

Mitsubishi used the Delica nameplate for a wide range of trucks and vans. But the Delica people love to collect is a boxy four-wheel-drive diesel van. It is right-hand drive and imported to America as a gray market vehicle. It became more popular in America when the third generation (1986-94) and fourth generation (1994 to 1997) of the RAD era became legal for import after 25 years. Models from the 1990s can accommodate up to eight passengers and can do so quite flexibly with their swivel seats when the vehicle is not in motion.

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mitsubishi delica

Japanese classics

How do you pronounce Mitsubishi Delica?

The Mitsubishi Delica is pronounced DEH-luh-kah, not Duh-LEE-kah.

Why do people think the Mitsubishi Delica is cool?

Like many Japanese-built cars of the 80s and 90s, the Delica has an impressive reputation for toughness and durability. And unlike most minivans, the Delica was a legit off-roader with a 4×4 transfer case, five inches of ground clearance, good approach and departure angles, and a low center of gravity.

The Delica can be updated to the badass level with a suspension lift, bigger tires, locking differentials and other features to make it even more capable. You get a super flexible #vanlife cabin with swivel seats. And it looks a bit like an original Japanese Kei car – albeit much bigger.

1993 mitsubishi delica star wagon turbodiesel

Bring a trailer

How much does a Mitsubishi Delica cost?

More than you’d expect to pay for an early 1990s minivan, but not that much for an old car standard motorhome. By Classic.com, Delicas sell for between $10,000 and $20,000 in America, with a very slight upward trend in the last year or so. Auction price on Bring a trailer and sales on DelicaUSA.com match these numbers.

Thus, the Delica is not cheap. But it’s not so crazy that an ordinary person can’t enjoy this JDM life. Remember that 30 year old vehicles can be expensive to maintain under normal circumstances. And with the Delica, you’ll need to source parts for an early 1990s Japanese pickup truck.

Why does Maine ban the Mitsubishi Delica?

There have been several reports of Maine Bureau of Motor Vehicles deregistration and denials to register Delicas in the state. Federal laws allow you to import gray market vehicles that do not meet US standards after 25 years. But they don’t exempt you from state vehicle registration laws. In California, for example, imported cars still have to pass smog checks.

It looks like Maine rated the Delica, even though it’s the size of a pickup truck and weighs 4,500 lbs, as a mini-truck. That means Maine considers it an ATV not suited for highway riding. So you can own a Delica in Maine. You just can’t drive it.

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