7 Things to Know About Owning a Mitsubishi Delica

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.

Mitsubishi Delica 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.

Delica.caUnless you’re a total and complete expert on your rig, you’re going to have questions. And even then you’ll probably need resources.

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 …

Speed ChimeWe 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.

Staring at youWe’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.

Mitsubishi Delica Engine Location

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.

Diesel FuelIf 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.

Slow car, fast houseDriving 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.


  1. YES.

    I’ve loved the Star Wagons for years. I may own one yet, but the one test drive I got up in north Toronto (I’m friends with Mike at Right Drive) really made an impression. Not sure if it’s faster than a 2.6L gen 1 Montero, but for as slow as a Delica can be, it sure feels pretty fast, absent traffic. (In noisy, angry ways.)

    Here’s hoping you find more bystanders approaching you with Delica love than “What is that thing” sooner than later. I look forward to meeting the Space Tractor in person one of these days.

  2. The L300 gets tons of looks where ever they go. But if you want more power spring the L400 Spacegear. The V6 gas and 2.8TD options offer better performance and more interior room. The L400 were first built in 1993 so they can be imported to the US now.

  3. Funny, I have a Vanagon and almost all of the tips apply . I like to drive slow anyway so driving a Delica on the freeway should be a natural fit.

  4. Jai mon delica depuis 5 ans déjà ,jai toujours du plaisir a le conduire et plein de projet pour les prochaines années

  5. Completely agree!

    I was reading the whole article with a smile. Everything is so familiar!

    Summer 2016 we bought a 1994 L300 in Kyrgyzstan. Back there everything was pretty easy and cheap to repair. Last summer we drove from there to Menorca (around 10500km) and took us 45 days, so I understand the “top speed” point. But who’s in a rush when you are so lucky to drive and live in such a vehicle?!

    More difficult is to arrange the bureaucracy to make it legal in Europe!

    Excellent and useful article!


  6. Hey Andy,
    Any advice about shifting out of 4×4 with a 5 speed manual?
    I have an automatic and after taking it out of 4×4 reversing a few meters takes it out of 4×4.
    Do you know if it’s the same with a 5 speed?


    1. On the Delica, I’ve never had to reverse. I know some four-wheel drive systems do require this. However, I’ve not had any issues disengaging the Delica. Just make sure you’re in neutral, foot off the clutch.

    1. I would definitely not recommend it. I have the 2.5L Turbo Diesel, and it barely accelerates uphill beyond 60km (40mph) empty.

  7. I just brought a 1990 Delica from Japan last week……love it so far, learning all its DO’s and DON’Ts. if any of the other owners have any tips please feel free to drop some knowledge

    1. Where did you have it shipped from Japan? I’m looking for a reputable company to do business through.

      Thank you

  8. I have a middle man in Japan with an auction license who helped me purchase it, then i shipped it out of the port in Yokohama. Its actually an investment, so if you are interested i wil sell it to you.

    1. I’m interested. What is the model, price and mileage for what you have? I’m looking for 4×4 and diesel preferably.

      1. I got mine last month 4×4 Diesel turbo I love it,takes me uphills with ease.I use it as my postal vehicle.

  9. Any experience with the 2 wheel drive 2000cc version? Here where I live in Japan they will not allow us to register a turbo diesel anymore so I am probably going to have to settle for a 2 wheel drive. Not looking for off roading, just camping on usually flat areas.

  10. Enjoyed your comments above and now realize much of what you said is true.
    Speaking of the parts aspect will check out you recomment parts suppliers.
    However in the mean time I have Montero ball joints and I am hoping to put them in a Mitsubishi Delica L300 front suspension. Have you ever heard of using another vehicle model to fix an L300?
    Would welcome any thoughts.

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