When’s the last time you saw one of these? I had actually forgotten about these trucks until I saw this one several years back, off of Brady Street in uptown Davenport, IA. The Mistubishi Mighty Max (née L200) ended its U.S. run 25 years ago. Today, few are left here in the salty Midwest, so I had to stop and investigate.
The Mighty Max initially debuted in 1978 as the L200/Forte. For those of us in the States, these first-gen models may be better-known as the Dodge D50 and Plymouth Arrow, both appearing in the States in 1979 as captive imports for Chrysler-Plymouth and Dodge dealers.
After over a decade of being a provider of subcompact cars for Chrysler Corporation with the Colt, Sapporo and their brethren, Mitsubishi struck off on their own in the U.S. in 1982 with their own dealer network. That included the mini-truck, which was given the unusual name of Mighty Max. Perhaps the Mistubishi marketeers were thinking along the lines of the Mighty Mite?
I always associated them with a certain CONTOL secret agent, as I regularly watched Get Smart on Nick at Nite back when these trucks were available. I really don’t think Max would have given up his red Sunbeam Tiger for one of these, however. They were pretty plain Jane, and I am almost certain they didn’t have a machine gun that came out of the hood. Regardless, the Mighty Max and its badge-engineered Mopar siblings carried on until 1987 when the second-gen debuted–though the Plymouth version disappeared after ’82.
It was still boxy, but pretty similar to its competition-the Mazda B-Series, Toyota Pickup and other small trucks available at the time. U.S. versions came with either 2.0- or 2.6-liter inline carbureted four-cylinders. Four wheel drive was also available, as well as an automatic transmission. Between 1987 and the end in ’96, these trucks did not change much. Most were rather basic, with regular cab, bench seat and power nothing. I do not recall ever seeing a fancy version with chrome, power stuff, two tone, paint and the like. On the other hand, I remember seeing tons of well-equipped Toyotas, Rangers, S-10s and B2000s.
While the Mitsu trucklet was discontinued in the US after the 1996 model year, the L200 (as these were known outside the US) was redesigned that same year, and continues to this day as the L200/Triton. Of course, that one is not available here. With Mitsubishi’s current image (or lack thereof-the Dollar Tree of new cars?), it is unlikely we’ll ever see them. But survivors like this one remind us of a time when people actually liked small pickups. Only time will tell if the upcoming cheap and cheerful Ford Maverick trucklet will generate new interest.