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One of my all time favourite cars is the Mitsubishi Pajero. This is really a Shogun, but the Pajero is the imported version, and mine came from Japan when it was five years old.
It was a 2.5 litre, intercooled, turbo, diesel, Wagon R. Often referred to as a seven-seater station wagon, and, although they look primitive and boxy compared to their newer cousins, they seem more economical then any of the later models.
Economy is not a word you should worry about if you're thinking of buying one of these monsters. There's no doubt that driving a gas-guzzler like this puts you on the same social level as public smokers, or using peat-based products in your garden. So how did I, a bit of a self-confessed eco-bore, end up head over heels in love with a Pajero?
Well, I'll tell you. I used to drive a small, economical, sensible car. One day, waiting at a red traffic light, an articulated lorry ran over it. The driver said (in extremely Eastern bloc English) he hadn't seen me. Was I scared? You bet I was! A kind Policeman suggested a bigger car might have given me more protection My principles were in the gutter, along with my nerves and bits of my car, so I bought the biggest car I could find.
In fact, the Pajero was so big that I had to step up onto the running board and haul myself up into the drivers seat. This is only difficult if you're afraid of heights and once you're up there it's a whole, new, luxurious world, waiting to be discovered. Once you're used to driving one of these it's very hard indeed to go back to using an "ordinary" car. There's no comparison.
The Pajero had the most comfortable seat I'd ever tried. It has adjustable, air damped springing so, no matter how big the ruts and bumps you drive over may be, you don't get the slightest jolt. Ever. The fabric covering (which is very easy to clean) means that even tipped over sideways (Yes, of course I had to try. It's a 4x4 you know) you're in no danger of slipping sideways in the seat, so there's no danger of sudden loss of control. The passenger seat has all the same adjustments available, and a huge grab handle on the dash. Presumably for those exciting moments when the driver's proving that the interesting array of wobbling, rolling instruments in the extra pod on top of the dash are in full working order.
These wonderful toys tempt you to go off-road, as they show how steep an angle you're tipped over at, how steep the mountain you're assaulting is (up or down) and a rolly-ball thing like you see in aeroplane control panels in disaster movies. You know. The one that shows the artificial horizon, although what the Pajero is telling you is if you're above or below sea level. Endless fun to be had here!
For people who prefer to drive on the road, there are all the usual instruments, including a rev. counter so you can see when you're stamping too hard on the expensive pedal. Fuel consumption depends entirely on how you drive the car. My best driving got 36 to the gallon, but this meant no speeding and some very smooth accelerating. Not easy, because the drive is so smooth that you sometimes don't realise how fast you're travelling! The brakes can easily stop the car, so speed feels even safer and more tempting then in a smaller car. Towing a loaded twin horsebox bought this down to around twenty eightish to the gallon, but again, this took a lot of care to achieve. If you're buying any 4x4, intending to use it's full potential, I recommend an off-road driving and towing course. Apart from being so useful, it's really good fun!
Heaters and air conditioning are very efficient, but if you do carry seven people you may need to use air-con. to boost the de-misting speed I found the sun visor very easy to flip round to the side window if required. Doing this can be awkward in many other cars I liked being able to adjust the intermittent wiper speed. I used this more often then I expected to. It's really quite useful. I also had electric windows (handy for looking down your nose at lesser beings without wasting much energy); power steering, central door locking. Four-wheel drive was simple to use and has automatic diff. locking.
The seats were easy to put down flat to give a huge carrying space, with the exception of the two fold down seats at the back. These can be removed completely, but it's a struggle for someone short. I had to climb in and wrestle with them for some time to manage this. Luckily I only had to do this twice, to fit in a wardrobe. It's tempting not to put them back, but where else will you put them if you don't?
The back door can be difficult to manage. It's heavy with the big spare wheel attached to it and I always had to push hard to make sure the strut that keeps it open was properly engaged. I think that if the wind had ever slammed it shut on me it would have been able to do some injury. The lock needed frequent oiling to keep it working smoothly. I always like to reverse into a parking space, but had to stop doing this with the Pajero. You need a lot of space to swing that door, and you feel foolish when you realise you can't open it at all because you've backed up to the wall, or the car behind so neatly.
Your other chance to look silly is when you have to get under the bonnet. It's easy to open and fix the bonnet stay, but height was a problem again and I had to stand on the bumper to check the fluid levels, although I could fill the washer bottle with a watering can and it was easy to reach the oil filler on the rare occasions it needed any, so no excuse for spilling it all over that lovely engine.
The car had a yearly service when it went for its MOT. This would now cost me £120. (I asked the garage last week) including the test certificate. A main dealer would probably charge a great deal more then this. It was a very reliable car and even kept running smoothly with a broken rocker arm. It was the appalling clattering noise that made me head for the local garage. This was repaired with a second-hand part. The whole thing only cost £27 to fix, so wouldn't be more then £35 at today's price.
Driving the Pajero was a real pleasure. Sitting up high gave me confidence and other drivers don't get pushy with you. The seat height means I didn't get dazzled from behind driving at night.
Insurance is group G, which is high, but if you join the Pajero owners club (membership was free) you can get it very much cheaper.
If you're into glittery add-ons, there are countless accessories to choose from. Anything from spare wheel covers to plasma ball gear knobs or even jewellery. I was never tempted, but it was fun looking at the goodies on offer.
Eventually I had to sell mine, as I needed some money quickly. I was surprised at how quickly it sold, and for a bit over the asking price too. Now I drive with a clearer conscience and don't buy so much fuel, but how I miss it. I really loved that car. Lorries are looking bigger too.