Everyone knows the Lancer Evolution, but have you ever heard of the Pajero Evolution? This homologation special allowed Mitsubishi to sneak its vehicle into the Dakar.
There is a particular kind of production vehicle called a ‘homologation special’, and it exists for one reason: to allow a dedicated racing car to enter a production-class race. A great example is the Lancia Stratos. This was a vehicle designed expressly to allow Lancia to dominate rallying, but in order to enter it into the races the manufacturer had in mind, the company needed to put it into production. So, Lancia took a V6 engine out of the Ferrari Dino 246 and placed it in a small and light little body. The street-legal Stratos had been born. The Mitsubishi Pajero Evolution is a similar creation. In order to enter a hardier and more competition-focused Pajero into the relatively tame T2 production class of the Dakar Rally, the company built and sold 2 500 of these Pajero Evolutions. It was sold from 1997 to 1999, and boasted a host of upgrades, which included an upgraded suspension, performance shocks, new differentials, skid-plates, Recaro racing seats, a wide-body kit and some optional and very rally-like mudflaps.
The standard Pajero at the time had an independent suspension with torsion bars at the front, while the rear had coil springs and a live axle. The Evo has a double-wishbone suspension with coils at the front, and a multi-link independent set-up at the rear. It was powered by a distinctive 3.5-litre V6 engine (the 6G74) that delivered 205kW of power and 348Nm of torque. A lot about the engine was unique, including the air intake and heads. Even the alternator was a part specific to the Evolution. It was mated to a race-ready INVECS-II automatic trans-mission that could be a tad jerky at low speeds, but slick and quick when travelling at race pace. Some Evos apparently came with a manual transmission, but the majority had the auto gearbox. The Pajero Evolution has the same centre differential as the normal version, which means you also get the usual Mitsubishi Super Select 4WD system.
This particular example is rather special, and was sold at a British auction in May. At the time of writing, the selling price hadn’t been revealed, but the estimated price was around $20 000 (about R344 000). The vehicle was bought in 1998 by British boxer ‘Prince’ Naseem Hamed. It was brand new when he purchased it, and he has owned it ever since. He apparently loved the Evo, but didn’t drive it very much. Despite being 20 years old, the Mitsubishi has just less than 20 000km on the clock. It is neat and tidy with no modifications. Because the Pajero Evolution is such fun to drive, most owners have driven them hard. Many have even been used in actual rally racing. So, an example as clean and original as this is tough to find. At the price, it is an absolute steal.
Model Pajero Evolution
Years made 1997–1999
Number built 2 500
Engine 6G74 3.5-litre V6 petrol
Gearbox INVECS-II automatic
Text: GG van Rooyen