I really want a Mitsubishi Delica Star Wagon. Bad. Now that the 89s are 25 years old and I can legally import one, I’ve started researching it. Earlier this year, I spoke with Michael Kent, founder of RightDrive.ca, who explained the process to me. You can read that whole conversation on GearboxMagazine.com. Today, we begin a conversation with a guy in California who has just bought the exact van I want.
Take a look around for 89 Delicas and you’ll find most have square, sealed beam headlights, a smaller bull bar up front, and a very nice light-blue-metallic-over-white paint job. Not only could Lee’s Delica (pictured here) pass for a newer, 1994 model, you just don’t see this color that often. (Believe me. I’ve been looking. A long time.)
If you’ve got a JDM dream, definitely check out the links to GBXM and RightDrive above, and stick around for this entire conversation. Let’s make that dream come true with confidence!
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[bd] Introductions. Where do you live and what do you do for a living, Lee? We’re trying to show gearheads that you don’t have to be a millionaire to buy, build, and enjoy cool vehicles, so this story is as much about you as it is about the Delica.
[lw] I now live in the awesome city of Lancaster, California. Here we have a wind festival that runs from January 1st thru December 31st. I work for a large company here as a model shop technician.
[bd] What are you currently driving? How do you use it? Have you done much/any work to it?
[lw] Currently, I am driving a 2013 Hyundai Veloster. It’s my everyday car for work and anywhere else. I haven’t touched it – it’s a lease. Hard lesson to learn, but I know now – I’m not into a lease vehicle. My back up work horse is a ‘63 Ranchero with a 302, C4, ranger rear end, crossflow radiator, 3-point seat belts, discs up front and more. I bought it that way and added an x-port brace, 1” sway bar, tinted windows, alarm and other smalls.
[bd] How did you first come to discover the Delica, why do you want one, and what prompted the purchase?
[lw] In 1989, my ex-wife and I were looking for a van. I didn’t like anything out there, and wasn’t ready to drive a soccer mom vehicle. Then I saw a Mitsubishi Van-wagon on the lot. We checked it out, dickered for 7 hours and drove away in our new van. It was awesome. 8 years later and a bunch of miles we decided to buy a boat. Since the Van Wagon didn’t have the pulling power we needed, it went up for sale.
Several month ago, I decided I needed to scale back my vehicles and start relaxing a bit. I just bought an older house that needs some outside TLC. I also realized the Veloster isn’t much of a people hauler. The Ranchero is good for around town, but will only seat two.
At first I thought of finding an older Ford van in the 1960-1966 age would do the trick, but in order to get a really good, decent one that I could make a daily vehicle and could drive anywhere, I would need a chunk of cash and still need to put in some good elbow grease.
Then I remembered the Van Wagon the ex and I had owned years back! MAN! That would do the trick! It could haul a bunch of folks if needed, I could make it easily dependable, and it could do all the necessary hauling I would need for runs from Home Depot. Plus it would have that unique cool vehicle look that I like. (I’ve owned 2 MR2s, an XR4Ti, a ‘66 2+2, and other cool or unique and interesting cars.)
So the search was on, but oh man Mitsubishi was a little late and the van craze was slowing down when they started selling the Van Wagon, not to mention they hardly ever advertised it. I saw only one commercial for it where they only showed the outside as it was driving around a test track? Also? I think they only sold the van for 4 or 5 years [in the US], so finding a Van Wagon became quite the challenge.
I looked everywhere, but only found two that were old ads a few years back and they were from junk yards. So I did a Google image search and started seeing the Delicas. WOW! Turbo diesel?! Crystal Lite roof?! And more?! So much more than what was offered here in the States. My Van Wagon was loaded but no where near like what they were selling in Japan at the same time!
At first, I started looking for one, but quickly realized there was much more to just buying a vehicle from overseas, s the search was on for finding Right Drive.
[bd] Like you, I started looking into what it takes to import a RHD JDM vehicle and found there’s a lot of paperwork and hoops. I found RightDrive through a friend who lives in the area. How did you come to find them? Someone suggest them to you? Get lucky with a Google search?
[lw] Yep. I ended up doing google searches, then emailing or calling several different importers. I either didn’t get replies or I talked with someone I could barely understand. Then I found Right Drive, and filled out the form for finding the Delica. Within 24 hours, I received a call from Mike. He was very easy to talk with and no sales pitch or pushing a sale. He had the answers I needed without me asking the question.
[bd] As you got the ball rolling with RightDrive, were you at all nervous? What were your biggest concerns going into this?
[lw] Hmmm. My girlfriend was really nervous, but for some reason I had a good feeling about Right Drive and Mike. I guess the only concerns were Mike finding the right Deli and for the right price. I guess I have a lot of trust in people.
[bd] I’m told RightDrive will send an email every day they come across a vehicle matching your specification. And I’m also told the 89 Delicas can be a bit few and far between. We’ll get into how you ultimately selected your van in the next set of questions, but right now, I’d like to know what you were specifically looking for in your Delica, how often 89s turned up in your inbox through the portal program, and how long it took to find THE ONE.
[lw] Yes, they will send an email with some pictures when they come across one. I think they try their best, but as you said it seems the Delis are getting a bit scarce in the 25 year old range. I basically was looking for the Super Exceed with the second row of captain seats and the Crystal Lite roof. Anything above that would be icing on the cake. I opened the portal late this last February. Since opening, RD sent me 3 Delis. The last one I received – April 17th – that’s the one I chose.