If you read car blogs, you may have come across mentions of the Mitsubishi Delica or reports about Maine trying to outlaw them. The vehicle may not be familiar to you — even if you're knowledgable about vintage cars — as it was only very briefly sold in America. Here’s what you need to know about it.
What is the Mitsubishi Delica?
Mitsubishi has used the Delica nameplate for a wide range of trucks and vans. But the Delica that people like to collect is a boxy, four-wheel-drive diesel van. It’s right-hand drive and imported to America as a grey market vehicle. It has become more popular in America as the RAD era third generation (1986-94) and fourth generation (1994 to 1997) became legal to import after 25 years. The 1990s models seat up to eight passengers and can do so quite flexibly with its swiveling seats when the vehicle is not in motion.
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 from the 80s and 90s, the Delica has an impressive reputation for toughness and durability. And unlike most minivans, the Delica was a legitimate off-roader with a 4x4 transfer case, five inches of ground clearance, good approach and departure angles and a low center of gravity.
The Delica can be updated to 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 swiveling seats. And it looks kind of like a quirky Japanese Kei car — albeit much bigger.
How much do Mitsubishi Delicas cost?
More than you would expect to pay for an early 1990s minivan, but not that much by camper of vintage car standards. Per Classic.com, Delicas have retailed in America for between $10,000 and $20,000, with a very slight trend upward in the past year or so. Auction prices on Bring a Trailer and sales on DelicaUSA.com match those figures.
So, the Delica is not cheap. But it's not so bonkers that an ordinary person can't enjoy that JDM life. Just remember that 30-year-old vehicles can be expensive to maintain under normal circumstances. And with the Delica you'll have to source parts for an early 1990s Japanese van.
Why is Maine outlawing the Mitsubishi Delica?
There have been several reports of Maine’s Bureau of Motor Vehicles de-registering and refusing to register Delicas in the state. Federal laws allow you to import grey market vehicles that don’t meet U.S. standards after 25 years. But they don’t exempt you from state vehicle registration laws. In California, for instance, imported cars still have to pass smog checks.
It appears that Maine classified the Delica, even though it’s van-sized and 4,500 lb, as a minitruck. That means Maine views it as an ATV that is unsuitable for driving on highways. So you can own a Delica in Maine. You just can’t drive it.