After five months of owning a Mitsubishi Delica, we’re still loving our van, aka the Space Tractor. We’re also learning a lot and have noticed some distinctly Delica things. So if you’re thinking of buying a right-hand drive turbo-diesel-powered 4WD Japanese van that looks a bit like a cross between a 1980s sci-fi farm implement and a shipping container, here are a few things you might want to know.
1. Be patient with parts.
If you need parts for your Delica, you may have to wait, since you can’t usually waltz into your local NAPA and grab a new radiator or alternator for a Delica Star Wagon. Sure, some things, such as wiper blades, filters, and belts can be bought pretty easily after finding the appropriate part numbers (see my next point below), the more specialized parts require a purchase from another country.
Luckily Canada has a healthy JDM van market, and therefore there are businesses that specialize in JDM vehicle parts. For example, we ordered genuine Mitsubishi glow plugs for our 4D56 engine from Coombs County Auto on Vancouver Island. However, items like the replacement window weather stripping and associated window hardware, had to be shipped from Japan. Sites like Amayama Trading Company and Mega Zip offer pretty much every part you’ll need and usually ships from warehouses in Asia. Some parts are totally reasonable. Others are damn expensive. You’ll have to pay shipping and it’ll take a few weeks. That’s part of owning a vehicle that wasn’t sold in North America.
2. Web forums and Facebook groups are your friend.
There are several forum sites out there for the Delica. The three forums I use the most are Delica.ca (out of Canada), Delica Forum (based in the USA), and Delica Club (out of the Australia). All three of these have provided scads of useful information, from sourcing parts in the US, to valuable how-to and troubleshooting posts. One of the most useful attributes, however, are the access to old shop manuals and parts databases showing what filters, belts, hoses, and fluids to use on your Delica. Thanks to these forums, I can get pretty much all I need for consumable parts at my local NAPA.
Facebook is also a great resource for Delica owners, as there are several groups including the Delica Owners Club, MDOC: Mitsubishi Delica Owners Club USA, and MDOCUK: Mitsubishi Delica Oweners Club United Kingdom. There are others, and some that are specific to off-road use, camping, and travel. You’ll probably want to leverage these when both researching and owning a Delica.
3. Right-hand drive isn’t as weird as you’d think. However …
We drove a Delica for the first time in New Zealand, which is a right-hand drive country. Sure, driving on the other side of the vehicle and the other side of the road was weird at first, but we got used to it. Shifting with your left hand, looking left at the rear-view mirror, and constantly turning on the wipers instead of the turn signals (and vice versa since they’re the opposite of North America)—there were all things that took getting used to. However, now take all those things and move them to North America where we drive on the left. It takes some getting used to. I still wipe the windows when I go to signal, and I have indicated left turns when it’s rainy.
Sometimes we still find ourselves driving more toward the road’s center vs. the shoulder on the highways, too. One thing we inevitably keep doing is going to the wrong side of the van to get in. I don’t think that’ll ever cease.
4. Be prepared to get stared at.
We’ve driven a lot of interesting vehicles over time. However, nothing comes close to the mount of stares, gazes, and overall curiosity that the Delica garners. Double takes, rubbernecking, and even pedestrian comments will occur. (A person at the bus stop recently was overheard saying, “Oh my God—that person is driving on the wrong side of the car!”) If you’re not comfortable with attention, a Delica might not be for you.
5. Be prepared to answer a lot of questions about the van. Everywhere.
This falls in line with No. 4. But if you’re stopping for fuel, stopping for lunch, or stopping in traffic, people are going to ask a megaton of questions. Questions include:
- What is that thing?
- Is that thing 4WD?
- Is that thing a diesel?
- Is that thing turbocharged?
- Did you import that thing?
- Is it hard to drive that thing on the right side?
- Where’d you find that thing?
- Where’s the engine on that thing?
Most of the time, we’re happy to share our info. However, a couple of times, we needed to fuel up and get a move on, all while people are asking question after question. Again, if you’re not comfortable with constantly talking with strangers, a Delica might not be for you.
6. Not all gas stations have diesel.
If you already own a diesel vehicle, you can skip this one. However, this is our first diesel-powered rig, and we never really thought about where to get fuel (and note I said fuel and not gas!). Generally, if you’re traveling the Interstate, diesel is widely available. But around town, not every station has diesel fuel. Just something to be aware of and to get used to. Also remember: old diesel engines don’t like the cold. They shake, spit, sputter, and belch smoke until they warm up. Well, at least ours does.
7. Delicas drive differently.
Driving a Delica offers up a van-load of quirks. For example, a diesel-powered L300 is not fast. In fact, it’s darn slow. We once lost a drag race to a glacier. After all, the van only has 85 hp and 145 lbs/ft of torque and weighs 4,000 lbs. How’s that for power-to-weight ratio? (ANSWER: Terrible.)
Much like most other Delica attributes, you get used to the pokey rate of speed. Honestly, it’s not that bad and it just takes a different mindset and driving style. We’re used to driving slow vehicles, so it wasn’t a thing. But for those looking for break-neck power, lightning-quick acceleration, razor-sharp cornering, and high-speed cruising, you might want to reconsider a Delica. A Delica offers none of those things.
Here are a few other Delica driving tips:
- Merging takes time. Be smart. There aren’t going to be any jackrabbit on-ramp blasts. Plan accordingly.
- The van has a top speed of 87 mph (140 km/h). Therefore, cruising at 70 mph (113 km/h) is getting close to topping out. Our van is happiest at 60 mph (100 km/h), and will cruise pretty well at 65 (105). We’ve taken it to 70 a few times, but only briefly. Unfortunately, states, such as Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, South Dakota, and Utah have maximum speed limits of 80 MPH (129 km/h). Texas has areas of 85 (137 km/h). We would recommend keeping around 65. Don’t push it. Oh, and our Delica has a speed warning chime that goes off at 65 mph (105 km/h).
- You sit right over the front wheels on these rigs, and therefore you feel bumps much more. Speed bumps are mildly terrifying. You must crawl over them. Think of it this way: If you sit in the middle of a teeter-totter, you don’t feel the up/down motion that much. But if you’re at the ends, it’s much more dramatic. The same goes for a Delica. And unlike most passenger vehicles, you’re not sitting in the middle—you’re at the end!
- Delicas are tall and narrow. Cornering is not their forte. Take corners slowly. Off road, even small rocks can make the Delica feel like it’s going to capsize. Just saying.
- Delicas also do not have much suspension travel, especially up front thanks to their torsion bar front suspension. This isn’t much of a concern on-road, but off-road, there isn’t much flex.
Delicas are awesome, but they might not be for everyone. But if you decide to take the plunge, hopefully you now know a bit more about what you’re getting yourself into.