The dream: cruising the vistas in a Montero.
We all do it, you’re taking a break from doing work and you start to daydream about a new project car. So, you visit the old Craigslist; just to do some window shopping is what you tell yourself. If you’re like me and live in New England, most of the odd ball retro cars we’re after have succumbed to the rust cancer. If you live in a rust free state, then I hate you and I’m questioning my life choices about where to live. However, once in a great while you get lucky and the car you want, appears on your screen, for a price you really can’t believe.
This is where I found myself while looking for a 1st generation long wheel base Montero. After months of casual browsing and day dreaming of importing one from Japan. There was a Silver 1989 LWB LS, in all its boxy 80’s righteousness, just an hour away in the next state. The low asking price said the Montero was either an undervalued gem or a complete shit box.
Why did I want a Montero? Well, I have an unfortunate affinity for Mitsubishi products and as far as inexpensive overlanding rigs go, Monteros are pretty low value. Realistically they are capable trucks; independent front suspension, front auto lock hubs, 4h, 4l and factory rear LSD in the LS models. As a bonus the LS models also came with a suspension driver’s seat and full gauge pack with inclinometer. I had a dream of using this rig for 1-2 night camping trips, where I could sleep in the back and have room to carry all the gear a weekend of camping requires.
Remember when Mitsubishi made cool cars and trucks.
How can you not love the the gauges on these trucks?
While I love my Galant VR4 for traveling to and shooting stage rallies, the Galant’s mildly lowered ride height means dragging my custom skid plate over nearly every rock and rut on broken up dirt roads. I’ve always been careful, but I don’t want to subject the car to that anymore. The Galant is great for starting conversations with people who either remembered seeing Galant VR4s on rally stages competing or had never even seen one in real life, (that actually happened while I was at Lime Rock this year). However, I needed something more off road capable that I could sleep in and stuff up into the woods clear of a rally stage while shooting. I could buy any new truck and it would be fine, but where’s the fun (pain) in that?
It was a typical Craigslist ad; a couple of tiny poor quality cell phone pictures and a broken sentence description.
After some emails, then spotty text messages and a google address of the campground (permanent residence) where the owner resided. My friend @tsiss350 and I showed up at the gates and proceeded to drive around until we spotted the truck. Creepy maybe, but effective when cell service is spotty. By the way, I always recommend a buddy system for Craigslist car deals. It always helps to have a friend for back up if you need a hand with the car and a second set of trusted eyes when inspecting the vehicle helps too. A good friend should also act as a voice of reason if a vehicle truly is a shit box. Once or twice I’ve steered or been steered away from a potential lemon; I hope.
The dream of Overlanding is still alive ?
First impressions of the truck; it had 33” bald mud tires, the inside was filled with trash and the owner had gone wheeling through mud with all the windows down.
This doesn’t look anything like the brochure.
This meant the interior was a disaster, thick mortar like mud was on nearly every surface. It stunk of cigarette smoke and nicotine film coated any surface not covered in mud. The owner said he’d only had the truck for a month, jeez. It had some dents and dings along with some scratches, the front bumper ends and driver’s side mirror glass were missing. Strangely the sun visors and glove box were also missing, but it had the gimmicky inclinometer and driver’s bouncy seat, like a Bostrom seat on a bus or big rig. Regardless, the 27 year old truck was a runner and fired right up with a loud exhaust leak from a broken EGR pipe and plume of blue oil smoke off the exhaust manifolds because the valve cover gaskets had stopped sealing long ago.
All 140 hp and 170 ft-lbs of torque, “its no speed deamen”.
The seller also tells me about the knocking noise over bumps and that he took all the skid plates off to check it out. Seller thinks that it’s a bad t/case mount and has ratchet strapped the t/case around the frame to stop the noise. I’m also told the passenger window doesn’t work and the twig jammed in there is holding it up. Other than the loud exhaust leak and badly leaking valve cover gaskets, the engine sounded normal, no knocks, no lifter tick. The steering felt tight, which is a typical problem area with these trucks, so that made me happy. I was smitten by this diamond in the rough. The seller had been driving it around regularly for the last month and was confident that the truck ran well enough for me to drive it home. I did not drive it myself, because the temp tags had expired two weeks before. The Montero also appeared to be as solid as advertised and the dealership badge on the rear door suggested the truck came from Colorado. That explained the high milage and relative lack of rust. I left the seller with a deposit and would be back a few days later with another set of wheels and street tires to pick it up. Overlanding
dream nightmare was becoming a reality.