It’s a big sky out there. Under that sky are many opportunities. Meet Falco Columbarius, Painter, Two-Bit Poet, and Site Admin on Delica.ca, the go-to place for tech and community if you’re a Mitsubishi Delica owner. We caught up with Falco between adventures and asked him to tell us about Miss Lil’Bitchi, his ’92 Mitsubishi Delica Chamonix GLX Starwagon.
I was driving home one sunny afternoon in my ’87 Plymouth Voyager when I got a call on my cell. This guy I knew was telling me about this amazing van that was currently parked in his driveway and would I like to see it? I told him I would be there in twenty.
As I drove up his driveway I see this little white van at the end so I park beside it, get out and walk toward the two guys talking. When I turned around, I noticed that the little white van dwarfed my Voyager. My acquaintance went on about all the wonderful facets of this Mitsubishi Delica and how much stuff you could get into it, but all I was thinking was how solid the Delica looked next to my tin can Voyager.
Over the next few months I began to obsess over the Delica. I began learning more about them; the different models, performance results, etc.; I began forming in my mind what I wanted: She had to be a P25W Chamonix Winter Package; I was really getting a yen for black over silver, duo tone ~ and wouldn’t it be nice if there was a green pearl in the clear coat. I was hooked. When I was younger I always fancied owning ’68 Chevy short box van, but with 4WD ~ now here they were, and in diesel to boot!
By now my brother was well aware of my obsession. One day he called me up, reporting that, whilst paying his phone bill, he met this chap who had a Delica and it was for sale. I asked him what the Delica looked like and he replied, “Baby blue over white.” “Oh.” I said “Fine, I’ll give him a call.” I was a little disappointed, “baby blue over white – blah!” ~ but I gave him a call anyway, as it wouldn’t hurt to have a look. On the phone, I told him that what I was really looking for was a Chamonix, to which he replied “Oh, I have one of those.”
When I arrived at his place, I saw the blue over white parked in front of his house. I walked up the steps and knocked on the door. His wife, Japanese, opened the door with a big smile and invited me in. We talked for a bit ~ then he took me out to the garage and open garage door: There she was ~ the name embossed on the nose shroud read “CHAMONIX;” black over silver. Just at that moment the sun came out from behind a cloud and a green glint danced across the clear coat and she winked at me.
Oh…. oh… I was dumb struck. Green pearl… I started caressing the “A” pillar & mirror configuration when he asked me if I would like to take her for a test drive. I looked back at him with semi-contempt, as he had interupted a very intimate moment, when I surfaced back into the conversation, slightly bewildered with the echo of my heart still oscillating like an engine harmonizing with another ~ ” uh ~ yeah.” I took the keys.
Once having concluded the paper work, he suggested I go online and look up www.delica.ca. There I would find Delica Canada, the Mitsubishi Van Club and meet many like minded people. So I did! At the time I joined in January, 2008 there were 860 members, since then I have become a Site Admin (probably because I like the abuse) and the membership has grown to 5,308 members and still growing. I have met some excellent people there. Odd how a little wagon can bring so many people together.
The Miss Lil’ Bitchi
There is a special place in the human psyche where one “extends” themselves into what would otherwise be considered an inanimate object. This can be seen on ships, for instance. Often, any vessel/vehicle that one depends on, becomes a part of the family and is treated as such. She becomes alive, like a horse ~ you begin caring for her, thinking of her needs before your own. Let’s face it, if you are out in the toolies ~ that wagon is your friend and one should look after their friends, you want to make sure she is happy. Just as you should respect nature… if you don’t ~ Mother Nature is going to teach you a lesson and it may not be comfortable.
The “Miss Lil’ Bitchi” is a ’92 Chamonix GLX Starwagon. She has the “winter package,” weighs 2,400 kgs (with me in the saddle), and comes from Nishio, Aichi, Japan. She is powered by the Mitsubishi Astron 4D56T Engine:
- Power – 90 hp (67 kW) at 4,200 rpm
- Torque – 197 N•m (145 ft•lb) at 2,000 rpm
- Engine type – Inline 4 cylinder SOHC
- Fuel system – Distribution type jet pump
- Compression ratio – 21:1
I have also done a few things to her:
- I added a leaf to the rear suspension and re-indexed the torsion bars, which gave her an inch and a half lift (all you need IMO).
- In the cargo bay I designed and had built a steel unit with an expanded metal hinged shelf that folds up if I want to use the rear bench. This doubles my storage capacity and allows me to secure the load at the same time.
- Behind the driver’s seat a pentagraphic platform has beam mounted that can swing into the cockpit. The platform is constructed from aluminium and designed to hold a 17″ laptop. This laptop runs a Garmin GPS ordinance survey mapping system. I always felt that a 17″ map was easier to read than say a two inch one.
- I have enhanced the suspension with a “Rancho MYRIDE” wireless controller and a set of RS9000 shocks. Really useful when you consider that environmental conditions can change at a moments notice ~ and now so can I.
- The “Gopher Grille,” an expanded metal grille mounted in the lower intake scoop on the front axle that protects the main radiator, was inspired when I was following other Delicas through a foot-deep mud puddle. As the Delica in front drove though the puddle, displacing the water, I noticed a two inch thick root sticking out at an upward angle. I thought to myself “if that were to land on the intake scoop it could do a lot of damage to my radiator, all those hoses, the engine for that matter.” Other items it has stopped, surprisingly, are bouncing rocks. When a rock hits the expanded metal mesh it makes the most peculiar sound that resonates up through to the cockpit.
- I also installed a receiver from E&H Hitch for towing. This hitch has a total of three receivers, the outer two are meant for future platforms, yet to be built.
- I also added a memory foam/gel pad cushion to the driver’s seat. It makes a big difference to long rides.
In my brief experience here on Earth, I have learned a few things ~ one of which is the importance of grease. There are a number of important greases such as bear grease, axle grease, dielectric grease, etc., but the most important grease in my opinion is “Palm Grease.” Palm Grease comes in many styles, a popular one is beer. Beer transends boundaries and is capable of loosening seized memories and experiences that are lodged in the darkest corners of the élan vital. Once the nostalgic gears of the head start turning all sorts stories begin to unravel, sometimes as deep as a memento mori.
In the end it is all about the stories.
It doesn’t matter what your current account looks like or how big a house you have ~ when confronted with the ultimate reality all the accessories are shed away ~ the only things you’ll be taking with you are the stories. It is also important to beware of one’s surroundings and circumstances. People depend on their GPS, which is a great tool, but you really need to use it in accord with your wits. They programme it to find the shortest route between two points and guess what? It finds it, however… although the shorter route may be five, ten ~ 15 kilometres shorter ~ what the GPS doesn’t tell you is that the dirt road you have just turned off onto was deactivated in 1987 and is now the home of dozens of traps, especially if you are driving something like a Chevy Astro van.
One time, a few of the Delica Canada Lower Mainland group met up with members of the Vancouver Island chapter and we camped at this delightful spot at Fry Lake, near Campbell River. At the end of the weekend sortie we all started to sequester our personal agendas and I found myself parked on the side of the Gold River Highway, a scheming. I programmed my GPS to find me the most direct route from where I was ~ to Coombs. I found it. To this day I have yet to find a map that actually has the “Gilson Road” on it. A mate of mine gave me an old 2004 Weyerhaeuser map that actually documents deactivated roads ~ wasn’t on it. In fact, the first time I missed the turn, not realising that the hole in the bushes was the road.
The first trap I came across was about half a klik in: Part of the road was missing, leaving a 20″ to two foot deep hole that was four or so feet wide by eighteen feet long. It looked scarier than it really was and by this time I was in 4L so I navigated my way through by going into the hole, repositioning and climbing back out. The road got a little better, just driving around smaller obstacles like rocks, etc.. Trap No. Two: A part way fallen tree that I managed to just slip under. One of the benefits of a P25W (low roof Delica) is that you save five inches on your overall height (as opposed to the P35W).
Then the trees opened up and I found myself on a causeway passing through a fen. On either side was black water and cattails, and by black water I mean it was opaque. Roughly three quarters across the causeway I came across the third trap: The road dipped into the black water and reappeared some sixteen feet on. I got out of the wagon again to surmise the dodgy situation. The water hid the ground beneath it after an inch. The ford could have been six inches deep, it could have been six feet deep. I found a big long curved branch and proceded to sound the road. It was two, two and a half feet deep and the contours were fairly smooth, with no traps to catch my wheels ~ so I went for it. You must understand that by this time I had gone some distance and had not found a place to turn around, it was tight quarters the whole way and I was by myself. The idea of backing up two or three kilometres wasn’t all that appealing. The Miss Lil’ Bitchi pulled through that one with no issues.
Shortly after the water hazard, I came across the fourth trap and this one required a saw. Fortunately, I had with me a compact Stihl chain saw. A few trees had fallen. I suspect one had come down bringing the rest with it. One was at an angle with a number of branches hanging down like pickets on a fence. The tree itself (about a foot in diameter) was fairly high so I removed the branches with my chainsaw. Next was the tree on the ground that blocked half the way. It was roughly one and an half feet in diameter so I first cut it at an angle, then straight (the bar on my saw is not long enough to cut straight through a tree that big). I did this a few times and I had enough space to get by, yet still under the high side of the leaning tree. This is where it really pays off to have an 88″ wheel base. Another tree that was protruding out a foot off of the ground was not that big and I dispensed with it without too much ado. I carried on, cringing every time I heard the screeching sound of branches traveling down the sides of the Miss Lil’ Bitchi but after a while the road let up a little.
By this time I had gone four and a half kliks, the last three and a half were in tight quarters with little margin for error. I estimate two hours had transpired and I hadn’t even gone five kilometres. Then I saw it. It was obscured by branches but it was bright safety yellow, an active logging bridge! I gloriously burst through the bushes and there I saw a great big barrage between me and the new bridge. This was a major disappointment. Although the road was beginning to widen up and there was space down by the barrage to turn around. Hmm. At least I had done most of the work to get through so the trip back should theoretically go faster… What a drag. I drove down to the barrage to turn around… I can’t believe that they could do this to me... When I got to the end I noticed something, a gap between the trees. A quad track! Out came the tape measure… two inches to spare!
We all have our reasons for building our vehicles the way we do, and many of us endure daily adventures in commuting, but we’re starting to think Delica owners are the ones having all the real adventures behind the wheel. We’d like to thank Falco for introducing us to the Miss Lil’Bitchi. If you’d like to learn more about these fantastic vans, click this link.
And, if you’re still hungry for Delica adventures, consider revisiting our interview with Ari back in 2009. He drove from Canada to Mexico in a Delica… on vegetable oil.
Got an automotive adventure? We’d love to hear about it. Drop us a line or leave a comment!