Is the Mitsubishi Montero the Ultimate JDM 4WD Bargain?
Vintage SUVs are tough, unique, and fun to drive. It’s basically a fact. So it’s unsurprising that classics like the Toyota Land Cruiser’s J60 series–with both boxy good looks and retro details like round headlights–are selling for $40k or more. But what if I told you that the first-gen Mitsubishi Montero–which is arguably as cool as the Land Cruiser and demonstrably as good off-road–still sells for less than half that price? The 1982-91 Mitsubishi Parejo/Montero might be the best-kept secret in vintage JDM SUVs.
A Mitsubishi story
Like many Mitsubishi converts, I got into my first because it was a steal. Back in college, I was hunting for an affordable pickup truck and found a Mitsubishi Mighty Mountain Max with 4WD and a manual transmission advertised on Craigslist for $750. It was a deal too good to turn down. It proved to be an even better deal considering I drove that bulletproof truck for ten years.
The SUV version of my Mitsubishi pickup truck was called a Pajero in Japan, but a Montero in many markets, including the US. Even then, the big dog in the JDM SUV segment was Toyota with its legendary Land Cruiser. So to prove the Montero’s chops, Mitsubishi entered a mostly-stock Montero in the Paris to Dakar off-road rally race. Mitsubishi did well, like really well.
The Mitsubishi Montero still holds the Guinness World Record for the most Paris–Dakar Rally wins of any vehicle model. It won the punishing race 12 times over its 32-year career.
The first-gen Mitsubishi Montero
Mitsubishi made its Pajero/Montero from 1981 through 2021. But if you’re after that boxy Land Cruiser look, you’ll be most interested in the first-gen (pre-1992).
Mitsubishi introduced its SUV version of my pickup truck to the US in 1983. For years, buyers in the US could only get the two-door hardtop version. This is a cool, relatively unique vehicle. Its the size of its contemporary Jeep, but a hardtop. You can also find a Montero badged as a “Dodge Raider,” which makes it even more unique. It does have a back seat, but if you carry passengers often, you might want to hunt down a four-door version. This long wheelbase version is sometimes called a five-door because of its swing-out rear door.
In 1989, Mitsubishi launched the four-door version (which it had been selling abroad the entire time). US buyers could option their four-door Montero with either a 2.6-liter inline 4-cylinder (110 horsepower) or a 3.0-liter V6 engine (139 horsepower). They could also choose either a five-speed manual or a four-speed automatic.
The I4 was an older engine with a carburetor. The V6 was really the next-gen Montero engine and came with electronic fuel injection. In a long-wheelbase/four-door Montero, the V6 is probably the engine you want. Because the automatic was the premium option, most used V6 Monteros have an automatic. A V6/manual is one of the most sought-after configurations.
How much is a first-gen Mitsubishi Montero worth?
You can get a two-door first-gen Mitsubishi Montero for under $5k. The long-wheelbase (four-door) version of the first-gen is very rare. So it’s shocking that most are still worth less than $10k. A blue 1991 (pictured) sold on Cars & Bids for a cool $8,500.
That’s a darn good deal. The only thing from the same era that might be able to touch a Mitsubishi Montero’s value is the discontinued Isuzu Trooper.
If you are dreaming of a more unique SUV with that cool vintage Land Cruiser look, you better nab the next long-wheelbase Montero you see on Craigslist: I doubt prices will stay this low for long. But when enthusiasts have bought up all of the 1989-91 four-door Monteros, another option remains.
Mitsubishi only sold a handful of the first-gen Monteros in the US, but these SUVs were ubiquitous throughout the rest of the world. I even saw them in South America, badged as the Hyundai Galloper. In England they were the Mitsubishi Shogun. Many Mitsubishi fans have begun buying them for a song and importing them to the US. One benefit of this is getting non-US specs, such as a turbodiesel-powered Mitsubishi Pajero.
Next, see all our favorite used Jeep Wrangler alternatives, or learn more about the history of the Pajero/Montero in the video below: