Wednesday, September 8, 2010

A ROUGH 1965 Mitsubishi Debonair / Some JaCG "Exclusive" History

Back in the day, this was the top of the line Mitsubishi. It's a big car (by 1960s Japanese standards) powered by a 2.0 liter 6.

The person responsible for the body style was Hans S. Bretzner, who had experience working as a designer for GM. You can see some American influences, but at the same time it sort of resembles the cars Chinese and Russian politicians rode in during the 1960s.

According to the seller, "This was was imported by a local business man sometime in the early 1970's. After his passing the car was passed on to a friend of the family who cherished for a few years until some brake parts were needed." He then goes on to say, "The car was donated to a local museum and stored outside until I purchased it in 2001. It's been stored inside since then and has not seen daylight again until today when I took these pictures."

This car is in extremely rough shape. If it were a more common car it would have been recycled by now. But the Mitsubishi Debonair is not a common car. These are rarely seen in Japan, let alone in North America.

I have no idea what a restored Mitsubishi Debonair is worth. I suspect that the cost of restoring this one will well exceed its value. But, if you have the time, talent and money, this car, when restored, would be a huge hit at any car show. Fans of classic Japanese cars would go nuts.

Located in Vashon, WA, click here to see the eBay ad.

A big thanks to JaCG reader, Brandon, for sending me the link to this car!

Update - I did a little digging and was able to find one of the previous owners (not the seller) of this car. Below is a picture of it taken in 1979.

He responded to my e-mail and filled in some of the details (I edited out a few last names)...
Hey Dave, Yeah I did own that car. Here's the story. Back in 1979 I was in ninth grade but was lucky enough to already own my first car a 1963 Austin Mini, I had it for while but eventually put it up for sale. The person I sold it to was Penny N______ and her father Chet owned the Debonair. That photo was taken the day they came over to pick up the Mini and that was in front of my mother's house.

I ended up becoming good friends with Penny and that's how eventually I got the Debonair. The story on the car is, The N_____ family lived in Japan in the 60s and early 70s and just before moving back to the states Chet bought the Debonair. It was originally black and I was told this was a really rare car even in Japan and that only company CEOs and high up government people had a Debonair. When they moved back to the states it was the family car. Over the years I would see it being driven on occasion.

In the the late 80s I stopped by for a visit and the Debonair was sitting up on blocks and was told the carburetor needed to be rebuilt but they were quoted around $900 to rebuild them! It's a dual carb setup. It also needed a clutch master cylinder and while one of the daughters was still living in Japan, she wasn't having much luck finding any parts for it. I just happen to mention that if he ever wanted to sell it, I was interested. A couple of years later he was in his early 90s and decided it was time to let it go. I was more or less given the car for free. I towed it home behind my Peugeot Station wagon on the freeway with the brakes just barely working.

It sat around my house for a year or so, I went as far as even buying a Toyota Corona mk2 with a straight six engine that I was going to put in the Debonair, but decided I kind of like driving the Toyota and even with a good running engine, the Debonair just needed way more work than I was willing to do. I'm the one that donated the car to Harold LeMay a local businessman who had a collection of over 2,000 cars. When Harold died, they started auctioning off the low end parts cars and cars they knew that would never get restored and that's where Paul who now has the car got it, from one of the LeMay auctions. Paul and I have been friends for several years. I gave him a 1985 Skoda 130 Rapid that I got out of Canada and was my daily driver for almost 10 years

OK, this guy is my new idol. First of all, he rescues an obscure car. Secondly, he towed the obscure car back home behind a Peugeot wagon. Thirdly, he used a Skoda 130 Rapid as a daily driver for 10 years.

But there's more... This guy has had a ton of great, obscure, weird cars.

From other e-mails we exchanged today...

"I took my driving test in a 67 R-10, I've had a bunch of R-16s including a Canadian built Euro spec R-16TS, Had a couple Le Cars, a Medallion, that one was hideous."

"I did have a Opel Manta which was kinda cool, an Audi 100LS and a BMW 1600 with a 2002 engine and dual DCOE webers that was so fast is was scary. Oh one other French oddball I had was a Citroen GS Wagon"

"I've imported several cars from England, a 78 Austin Allegro Estate, 80 Austin Princess, 79 Ford Granada Coleman Milne Cardinal Hearse, 82 MG Metro, 83 Austin Maestro Vanden plas, and Yeah I've had a few Peugeots, a 504 Diesel Wagon, 505 Gas Wagon and my favorite of them all a 604 Turbo Diesel, I even found a set of Euro headlights for it."

A very, very big thanks to Todd for sharing the info about the Debonaire and some of his other cars!!


longrooffan said...

Okay, this guy is now my all time HERO!!

Andre said...

This is funny - someone posted this same car on my forum yesterday... By the way - did you see a red Lada Niva hiding behind this Mitsu in one of the Ebay photos? Where's the Waldo? I wonder what the story is on that one...

Just A Car Geek said...

Hi Andre - Yeah, I spotted the Lada. I don't know anything about it though.

Andre's site, BTW, is - It's the best site for North American Lada enthusiasts.

Maxichamp said...

Holy crap. A hero, and a masochist. Bravo!

shaun stafford said...

I bought the car. I wish it still had all the parts in the photo you posted. I plan on doing a frame up restoration. It will start being stripped down in the next few days and going to the sand blaster shortly. I wish I had the jaf badge as they had cut 2 ribs off the grill to put it there. I'm also missing the headlight bezels and debonair fender badging. I'm hoping maybe I can find out who has it. Maybe pauls buddy. Paul is the guy I bought it from. I'd love to get in contact with the blog poster and get contact ifnromation on pauls friuend who owned it back in the day. my email is airbats801 at hotmail dot com

That lada is I believe a 1996 titles as an 82 :) Very cool car I got to take a look at it when I picked up the deb quite a few hours ago.

Simon (In Australia) said...

My understanding of the Mitsubishi Debonair is that, like the Model T Ford, you could get it in any colour you liked, so long as it was black. That is, if you could get one at all. I think, as you've rightly stated, you had to be some sort of prominent politician or practically royalty to get your arse (Aussie for ass!) into one.

In any event, I think one or two Debonairs found their way into Oz as private imports, not least because, being a right-hand-drive market, they were fairly easy to certify here.

I presume the car pictured could be registered in the state of Washington with right-hand-drive on the premise that it was a private import.

What an interesting story - and character who's had such a variety of interesting metal.

By the way, my first car was a Renault 12 GL, followed by a Citroen CX 2200, Alfetta, Alfa 90 sedan, and now Seat Ibiza (the latter being very rare in Australia). Howzat?


rrshadow2 said...

Having owned that exact Debonair, I can say that Yes it Was definitly originally Black

delical300parts said...

Just found this link with a price tag!
Are lada's a big thing over there? because the british have always hated them lol.

Chris said...

I know this is a long shot but does anyone have any information where this car ended up. I would like to get my hands on it.