Rare Rides: The Sporty and Very Rare 1991 Mitsubishi Debonair, by AMG (Part I)

rare rides the sporty and very rare 1991 mitsubishi debonair by amg part i

Today’s Rare Ride is the second attempt Mitsubishi made to build its own full-size executive car for the Japanese Domestic Market. Debonair never moved outside its home market, and always played third fiddle to competition from the likes of Toyota Crown and Nissan Gloria (then a Prince model). Today’s example goes slightly further and adds AMG flavor to the front-drive mix.

There’s a lot of information to cover here, and today we talk about the model’s beginnings.

Mitsubishi introduced the Debonair in 1964 as their first executive flagship sedan. The largest car the company had built prior was the compact class Colt 1000, so Debonair was quite a leap forward. Introduced at the 10th All-Japan Motor Show, it was described as a dignified debut.

Designed by German and former GM designer Hans Bretzner, Debonair was inspired by the 1961 Lincoln Continental. It started out with a 2.0-liter inline-six and progressed eventually to a 2.6-liter inline-four used by some K-car variants. And that engine sharing was a hint at the first Debonair’s longevity: It was popular enough to remain a mainstay in Mitsubishi’s lineup, largely unchanged through 1986. Revised only lightly and just four times throughout its run, by the mid-Eighties Mitsubishi realized modernization was in order.

In 1986, the second Debonair debuted, with a swap to front-drive configuration. In its new format, even the shortest Debonair was longer than the outgoing version. Length determined which of three engines powered the Debonair. The 185-inch model had a 2.0-liter V6, while the 191.5-inch had a 3.0 of six cylinders. The range-topping and longest 197.4-inch version were called Royal 150. It had a supercharged 150 horsepower version of that 2.0-liter V6. The 3.0-liter V6 was Mitsubishi’s 6G72, which you’d know from the Dodge Caravan and Dynasty. The only transmission available was a four-speed automatic. Eventually, the supercharged 2.0 V6 was dropped, as in 1989 a twin-cam 3.0 debuted that upped power from 155 horses to 200.

The change to front-drive and the more pedestrian styling started the decline of the Debonair, and before long Mitsubishi needed to spread the development dollars around a bit. Next time we’ll talk badging and market share.

[Images: Mitsubishi]

Join the conversation
3 of 17 comments
  • Caraudiology Caraudiology on Apr 08, 2021

    I recall becoming aware of the Debonair AMG prior to. I believed it 'd be some tuned up Japanese sports sedan comparable to the Lancer Evo, Lotus Omega or the Mercedes 190E 2.13-16 however it appears like I was wrong. Useful short article. I like it.

  • Geozinger Geozinger on Apr 08, 2021

    Where does the AMG connection start? Or did you mean to say A GM Designer connection? I was imagining that short-lived fling between MB and Mitsubishi in the late 90's, early 00's possibly had an earlier precursor. This is a bit confusing.

  • Snickel Fritz I just bought a '97 JX 4WD 4AT, and though it's not quite roadworthy yet I am already in awe of it's simplicity and apparent ruggedness. What I am equally in awe of, is the scarcity of not only parts but correct information regarding anything on this platform. I'm going to do my best to get this little donkey back on it's feet, but I wouldn't suggest this as a project vehicle for anyone who doesn't already have several... and a big impressive shop with a full suite of fabrication/machining/welding equipment, and friends with complimentary skillsets, and extra money, and... you get the idea. If you don't, I urge you to read up on the options for replacing anything on these rigs. I didn't read enough before buying, and I have zero of the above suggested prerequisites... so I'm an idiot, don't listen to me. Go buy all of 'em!
  • Bryan Raab Davis I actually did use the P of D trope, but it was only gentle chiding, for I love old British cars of every sort.
  • ScarecrowRepair The 1907 Panic had several causes of increased demand for money:[list][*]The semi-annual shift of money between farms and cities (to buy for planting and selling harvests)[/*][*]Britain and Germany borrowing for their naval arms race[/*][*]San Francisco reconstruction borrowing after the 1906 earthquake and fire[/*][/list]Two things made it worse:[list][*]Idiotic bans on branch banking, which prevented urban, rural, and other state branches from shifting funds to match demands. This same problem made the Great Depression far worse. Canada, which allowed branch banking, had no bank failures; the US had 9000 failures.[/*][*]Idiotic reserve requirements left over from the Civil War which prevented banks from loaning money; they eventually started honoring IOUs illegally and started the recovery.[/*][/list]Been a while since I read up on it, so I may have some of the details wrong. But it was an amazing clusterfart which could have been avoided or at least tamed sooner if states and the feds hadn't been so ham handed.
  • FreedMike Maybe this explains all the “Idiots wrecking exotic cars” YouTube videos.
  • FreedMike Good article! And I salute the author for not using the classic “Lucas - prince of darkness” trope, well earned as it may be. We all know the rap on BL cars, but on the flip side, they’re apparently pretty easy to work on (at least that’s the impression I’ve picked up). On the other hand, check the panel fits on the driver’s and passenger’s doors. Clearly, BL wasn’t much concerned with things like structural integrity when it chopped the roof off a car designed as a coupe.