Too cool for school, unless we’re talking about old school, that is. David is currently restoring this 1967 360 while working in Japan. When he’s done, this sweet little Mitsu will be going back home to Texas with him. You’ve got to check out this story.
What’s your real name? Where do you live?
My name is David Lovett. I currently live in Nagoya, Japan, but I originally hail from Dallas, Texas.
What do you do for a living?
I work for a small subsidiary of Toyota based here in Nagoya (which is right next to Toyota City). We write, translate and publish repair manuals, owner’s manuals, flat rate manuals, emergency response guides, new car features and product marketing guides. The company actually does much more than just those things, but those are the things I am directly involved in at the moment. It’s a pretty sweet gig, I get to see a lot of material not available to the public as well as get to meet a lot of really cool people.
What Mitsubishi(s) do you drive? How long have you had it/them?
I actually just recently got into the Mitsubishi game (more on that story in the next question, haha). So I currently have just two Mitsubishis. I have a sixth generation Minica Lyra that I use as a daily driver at the moment and a 1967 Mitsubishi 360 Van. The 360 Van was actually the first Mitsubishi I’ve ever owned and I first spotted it being neglected in a field on February 14th of this year. Interesting day to fall in love with Mitsubishis, haha! Then, about mid-May of this year, I got a little over zealous in the rain with my then daily driver, a 1986 AE86, and stuffed it into a pole. I needed something to get me to work everyday so I picked up my current Minica Lyra for a whopping $500. She runs really well and is getting the daily job done with no hiccups!
What originally attracted you to Mitsubishi? (How did you come to find this particular Mitsubishi?)
This story is a little interesting (and a bit long). I’ve always been a Nissan man through and through. I currently own a 1971 Fairlady Z, a 1972 Skyline 2000 GTX and a 1988 300ZX SS and have owned and sold both a 1987 300ZX n/a and a 1990 Infiniti M30 (also known as the Nissan Leopard). I’ve had a few forays into other companies as well though. I used to have a 1986 base model FC3s RX7 which I converted from LHD to RHD. While the rotary was a phenomenal engine, the rest of the car just didn’t feel up to the standard of quality I had come to expect from my Z.
Also, as mentioned earlier, I used to have a 1986 AE86 Levin. This car was a joy to drive, but the engine hemorrhaged oil like it was the in thing to do. So I had it rebuilt with high compression pistons, a ported cylinder, new seals everywhere and all new rings, bearings, etc. Even with a new engine with zero miles on it, the engine still bled oil. Maybe I just have bad luck, but I wasn’t so sad to see the car go.
Jumping around in time again, when I was in High School, I would pass a very slick, very clean black Starion parked outside of a house everyday on the way home. I knew the cars were turbocharged, and while the looks weren’t quite up my alley, the car held an aura about it that just made me want one. Alas, I never bought one, but it did however open the door. Even with my disappointing ventures into Toyota and Mazda, I still held a special place in my heart for that super sweet black Starion, just knowing that if I got one, my venture into Mitsubishi couldn’t possibly be disappointing.
So, I was out driving around one day, looking for back roads to enjoy with my AE86 and I happened upon a field with some abandoned cars in it (not an uncommon sight here in Japan). Normally I give a quick glance for anything interesting and then drive off, but seeing as how this particular field had a TA22 Celica and an R32 GTR parked next to each other, I decided to stop.
As I stepped out of the car I surveyed the other cars in the lot. There was a faceless (quite literally faceless, it had been torn off in an accident) kei car and something else at the edge of the lot with the weeds grown almost completely over it. Ignoring the rare Celica and GTR I walked over the little car and upon closer inspection I still had absolutely no idea what it was. I’m a huge geek and pride myself on being able to identify cars at a quick glance, but here I was staring at this little thing and all I could think was “I don’t know what this is, but it’s got suicide doors and I want it.” I eventually found on the fender a name plate saying “Mitsubishi 360.” This little bitty car exuded so much character that I just had to have it, but I had no idea who the field belonged to. So, instead of giving up, I came back on a weekend and started knocking on the neighbors’ doors. Found a guy who knew whose lot it was and he hooked me up with an address and a phone number. A quick trip, some explaining about my intentions with the car and I walked away with one of the rarest cars I’ve ever seen in Japan for a mere $800!
How do you (or will you) use your Mitsubishi?
Shaken (Japan’s version of vehicle registration) is very expensive here, costing upwards of $1000! So the current Minica Lyra I use for daily duties will be retired once the Shaken expires on it in April of next year. Once I get the 360 up, running and finished, it will take over in the daily driver department. All of my friends think that I am insane to want to daily drive a 43 year old, two stroke powered kei car, but the way I see it is that this car was used as a daily driver when it was new, so why not again now. If everything is mechanically sound it should drive without any problems and so far the engine has proved to be extremely eager to run! Plus, work is only 3 kilometers away, not a very tall order and I can still leg it to work if I absolutely have to, haha.
What are your goals for your Mitsubishi?
My current goals for the 360 are to finish up the restoration (not a whole lot left now), register her and as said above, drive her everyday. Then, when it’s time to move home she’s coming with me. At 43 years old, it dodges both the EPA and DOT on importation so it should be able to get back to Texas with little problems.
Considering your goals, can you tell us about a couple of your favorite mods and how they help you towards realizing the goals you’ve set for the vehicle?
One normally wouldn’t think about mods when it comes to a restoration, but there are actually lots of little pieces here and there on the car that I have changed.
One thing that I personally like is the small handle mounted to the dash for the passenger. Originally this was a wire frame bent into a U-Shape (with the center section nice and long) that was threaded at the two ends. The rest was covered in plastic about an inch thick. Well, after 43 years well more than ¾ of the plastic had decided that it was ready for a change of scenery and disappeared. So, after searching and searching for a replacement and coming up empty I decided to see if I could get just the frame clean enough to look good. The first problem this posed was that the frame used the inch thick plastic to butt up against the dash so the nuts on the back side had something to pull tight. With no plastic, there was nothing to tighten down. So the first thing I tried was two nuts on the front side to butt up against the dash, but the shiny silver and hexagon shape really bothered me. So I went to the local store and bought up some M6 allen head bolts. I cut off the threads and drilled out the circular head part. I then tapped the center of it and threaded it onto the frame. After a full coat of white paint I think it turned out rather well!
Another modification I’m particularly proud of is my radio. The original radio was in the car when I bought it, which I thought was pretty awesome. An old simple AM only radio with a single speaker attached to it. I really wanted to keep the factory radio in the car, but if I’m driving the car everyday I gotta have my jams. So after reading up a bit on the internet I decided to modify the radio.
The first step I did was I went to the local Hard Off (a used everything store) and bought a camcorder from the 80’s to pilfer resistors out of (the closest Radio Shack type store was a 45 minute train ride away as opposed to the used shop which was a 10 minute drive away). I then cracked the radio open and desoldered the AM input wire where it attaches to the volume potentiometer. In its place I soldered in a left and right channel (which fed into the resistors from the camcorder then into themselves taking a stereo output and making it mono). I then ran these left and right channel wires into a standard headphone jack. So now I could plug my iPod in and it worked beautifully.
Then I thought that I had better find a way to keep the iPod charged as well, so I went to the local electronics store and picked up a cheap, generic wall charger for my iPod. I also bought a generic USB car charger. I cracked the USB charger open and pulled off the spring loaded bits for plugging into a cigarette lighter. Then I soldered two wires from the AM radio’s 12V input and common ground into the input and ground of the USB charger. After that, I soldered two wires coming off of the negative terminal and the 5V output terminal of the USB plug. Spliced these two into the wire from the wall charger and voila, I had a 43 year old radio with full iPod connectivity and charging capabilities!
How often do you get together with other Mitsubishi owners in person? What do you do?
(If you don’t know any other Mitsubishi owners, why not? What about other automotive enthusiasts?)
Unfortunately, since I have just recently gotten into the Mitsubishi game, I don’t actually know any other Mitsubishi enthusiasts here. I have been fortunate enough to meet a few Mitsubishi engineers (who are subsequently enthusiasts), but that has mostly been limited to classic car meets and the occasional visit to check out the progress on the 360.
When I had my AE86 I used to take it to the track quite often and as such have made quite a few Corolla buddies though that. As it turns out, here in Japan, even though I’m a Nissan and Mitsubishi enthusiast, most of my good friends are all Toyota enthusiasts, haha!
Tell us about something really exciting you’ve done with other gearheads.
Not really Mitsubishi related, but my good friend from work, who used to be a Toyota tech, met up with me one morning and we piled into my car and took off for Suzuka circuit. An acquaintance of ours from work was participating in the Road to Suzuka 8 hour endurance bike race. We got there and walked around the track a bit and took a bit of a rest in the grandstand to watch the first sprint race of the day.
We finally got the call from our friend and he hooked us up with passes into the pit. So we got team T-Shirts and got to hang around the pits and talk to all the pit crew guys and riders. The pre-race atmosphere was pretty awesome. We walked around and I got several pictures of me standing next to the absolutely stunning race queens as well as got to sit on some nice demo bikes. Once the race started it was pretty interesting to watch the atmosphere in the pit. Everyone just sits down and watches the race on TV for a long while and then when the bike comes in for a rider change, tire change and fuel refill the pit area gets very excited. It was also the first time I had seen a rear tire change on a motorcycle happen so quickly. The entire pit stop, with driver change, front and rear tire changes, and a full tank took less than 60 seconds!
The day was pretty awesome, and while not Mitsubishi related in any way, it was definitely up there on memorable days spent with gearheads, haha!
Tell us about a time something broke and what it took to fix it. (Perhaps a troublesome issue during the restoration?)
I guess one of the biggest problems I’ve had with this restoration was paint and chrome. When I sent the car off to get painted I pointed out several areas that I wanted them to cut the rust out and patch it with new steel. They assured me that that is what they would do. They also took my chrome and said that they could get it all re-chromed for me. The chrome wasn’t particularly bad, just pitted from corrosion. I figured new chrome couldn’t hurt though. So I gave them my whole car and my completely irreplaceable chrome bits along with the two bumpers. They promised to have the car done and back to me in 4 weeks. I thought that was a little hasty, but I figured if they started on it now they could get it all done in time no problem.
After three weeks I decide to drive by the shop and check out the progress only to find my car sitting outside accumulating more rust and not having been touched since it was dropped off. I went back the next week and the car still hadn’t moved and again the week after. I started to show a little concern and they assured me everything would be taken care of. Finally they got the car in and started to work on it, and I gotta admit, it looked good. They had fixed the rust holes and things were coming together.
I finally get the car back after 12 weeks (I vaguely remember them saying 4 weeks…) and the paint looked good at first glance. They also deliver the news that the chrome company hasn’t finished with my chrome yet and that it will be another week before I can get it. At this point I just want my stuff back for fear that they will lose it. I get the car home and upon closer inspection I notice that there are quite a few runs in the paint in some places. Also the places they promised new steel look like they just fiber-glassed over it. Not sure if there is steel under the fiberglass or not, but it’s not what they promised.
At this point I have already spent so much money on this sub-par job I can’t afford to give the car to someone else, so I decided to continue with the build (the car was in surprisingly solid shape to begin with so there shouldn’t be any problems for at least another 10 years or so). Another 4 weeks pass and I still haven’t received my chrome, despite numerous visits asking for it. They finally tell me it’s ready and I go to pick it up.
They hand me all my chrome back only it hasn’t been re-chromed. They try feeding me some lame story about how the pitting in the chrome means that it is impossible to re-chrome but the chrome shop really cleaned them up (they actually picked up a pitted piece and said that it looks much better than it did when it really looked like someone just hit it with a power washer). I’m pretty livid at this point but I bite my tongue because I just want my stuff back.
My bumpers look nice but it’s not chrome on them, it just looks like some kind of silver paint. Whatever. So I go home and bolt the front bumper on and it looks pretty sharp. The rear bumper was still wet when they gave it to me and I put a small scratch in it when I got it home. I set it aside to let it dry fully. Just this weekend I pull it out to put it on and I notice that the bumper has accumulated many more scratches and smudges (after a full month of drying). I start looking at the paint and run my fingertips across it and they leave big smudges. I then touch it with my nail and it scratches like I hit it with a screwdriver. I check the front bumper and same story.
I have no idea what they used, but it is the weakest, lamest paint I’ve ever seen. I sure aint going back to those thieves, so I take the bumpers out back and sand them down to the point where I’ve got solid paint. Then I smooth it out and hit them with my own “Zinc Rich” silver paint. They look much better and look much more capable of handling a few fingernails. The other chrome bits are clean enough that some brass brushing and metal polish are bringing them back to life. Still, the paint shop charged me an extra $500 for something they didn’t even do. Alrighty, end rant, haha.
What is your finest hour – that time you saw it all come together perfectly?
Not really my finest hour, but a funny story nonetheless. I had just gotten the car back from the paint shop and I’m sitting in my garage staring at it trying to figure out the first thing to do. I know there are tons of thing I need to do first, but I keep coming back to this burning desire to put the engine in. So, naturally, I started putting the engine in.
This engine is a 360cc, 2 cylinder, 2 stroke, air-cooled little beast. The spline on the transmission that splines into the clutch has about 8 splines (as opposed to the million or so on a normal transmission). So I’m thinking dropping the engine in is going to be a cinch. I get everything prepped and slide the engine over in front of the car. Now, I don’t have an engine lift (something I absolutely must buy for my next car), so I just pick up the little 2 cylinder and strong arm it in. Don’t be fooled though, that thing was heavy!
Now, I’ve always been terrible at mating engines and transmissions. I usually end up spending several hours under the car cursing and swearing the engine and transmission into submission. Not sure why, but for some reason it’s always been one of those things I just can’t seem to get down. This engine was no different.
I got the engine sitting on a jack and the cross-member and I’m fighting it like it’s Friday night fight night. The engine has low enough compression that I can rotate the crank with one hand and this is both a blessing and a curse. It’s awfully easy to rotate the crank just a hair in the wrong direction and not get the splines lined up. So for about an hour I’m going at this and it’s so hot I had to take my shirt off as it was drenched from sweat. My hands are beat to oblivion and I’m starting to get a little winded. I get the engine in a position where it wont fall and step back to take a breather. My hands are screaming for some padding so I go hunt down some gloves. I get my gloves on, build up some new determination and launch myself at the engine once again. The second my hands touch it, its slides right into place and splines up perfectly. I didn’t even touch it that hard. I got the transmission bolts threaded in and tightened down and then just sat down laughed.
What’s the best part about being a Mitsubishi owner? The most challenging?
The best I suppose also happens to be the most challenging. I have been to several classic car shops (Vintage, Classic Car Nagoya, Speedy Auto, Rocky Auto, etc.) and there has always been a surprisingly small number of Mitsubishis. Vintage has one very nice looking Galant FTO that I would love to get my hands on, and a classic Debonair, but that’s all they have. Rocky Auto, predictably has nothing but Nissans. Classic Car Nagoya has a wider range of other makers, but nothing from Mitsubishi. So the best part about being a Mitsubishi owner is that I am now part of this tight knit community that is made up entirely of die hard enthusiasts. The cars are much rarer, carry much more character, and there’s just that hint of rally dominance background acting as icing on the cake. Everyone in the Mitsubishi community has been extremely helpful and very enthusiastic about my 360 and that support alone has completely clenched my love for Mitsubishis.
My next car has been narrowed down to about three options. Either that FTO from Vintage, an Evolution III or a Nissan Pulsar GtiR (I’m still a Nissan guy too, haha).
Being a Mitsubishi owner gives you a sort of exclusivity and the knowledge that you have something special but with that also comes a huge lack of parts. Finding classic Mitsubishi parts in general has proven to be quite the challenge. Finding parts for my 360 is just impossible.
Which Mitsubishi communities do you frequent most and why? (What’s your screen name?)
I actually only frequent two communities on the internet at all. One is the Japanese Nostalgic Car forums and the other is Mitsu-Media. My screen name for both is the same, Nakazoto.
How have you benefited from your involvement in these communities?
These communities have provided an endless amount of inspiration. Both communities have been so supportive of this restoration that at this point, I highly doubt I would be anywhere near as far along as I am now without them. They are constantly providing me with encouraging remarks, ideas on how to tackle problems, suggestions for what colors certain trim pieces should be painted and so on. If any one of these guys on the forums manages to make their way to Nagoya, hit me up, there’s a beer in it for you!
How do you try to give back to these communities?
I’m still new to this whole internet community thing, so I often times find it hard to give back to these communities. If anyone has any questions about anything they are more than welcome to ask. Unfortunately, like I said above, finding parts for old Mitsubishis is like finding a needle in a haystack, only with more rust involved, so I’ll be happy to look for parts for people, but there’s a very strong chance I’ll come up empty handed (I searched for a headlight bezel for my Mitsubishi for 5 months before finding one). Like I said, any questions, suggestions, or if anyone wants to just chat I’m more than happy!
What keeps you going; keeps you motivated to pick up your wrenches?
As I said above, the majority of my motivation comes from the Mitsubishi communities online. I also get a lot of motivation from my father, who is no stranger to restoring cars. My good buddy at work also keeps me pointed in the right direction. But mostly, I just love getting my hands dirty. I love getting down there and putting pieces together. I guess I’m one of those guys that loves the process more than the finished product, haha. Getting out there and turning wrenches (getting out there and grinding something to oblivion with my $14 angle grinder is probably closer to the truth, haha) just causes any stress or tension that has built up in me to just sort of disappear.
I also love the idea of giving everything a second chance. Cars in my eyes are more than just machines, they all have a personality, a character and a desire to do what they were designed to do, drive. I love the idea of taking something that was all but thrown away and bringing it back to its complete and full former glory and letting it prowl the streets again.
What’s next for your Mitsubishi?
There is still a decent list of things that need to be done. In short, put the triangle windows in, overhaul the wheel cylinders, put in new front wheel bearings, change the transmission and differential fluids, figure out something for the seats (need to be recovered), make new interior panels for the doors and rear trunk sides and figure something out for the carpet. Interior is probably last on the list since it is the one that I’m the most scared of, haha.
Who has helped you the most along the way with the car? Any mentors?
My good buddy from work has been over a lot helping with everything he can. He’s literally been a ton of help and I owe a lot to him for keeping me going when I’m fed up with something. Also, he’s been great at giving a second perspective when I’m really stumped with something. However, my Father has been the biggest help. Even though he’s back in Texas, I still call home on a weekly basis and he gives me tips and pointers on how I should tackle problems I’m having.
He’s no stranger to restorations. He’s restored a 1964 Mustang 289 (which I crashed when I was 17), a 1947 Ford Super Deluxe 8, a 1967 Austin Healey (my personal favorite) and has owned, fixed and restored many more. A lot of things on this car are extremely similar to my fathers 1947 Ford and he still remember that restoration quite well. He’s been a huge amount of inspiration and support and this car wouldn’t be in as good a condition as it is today without him.
What areas of vehicle ownership are most interesting to you?
This is actually entirely dependent on the car. In my 1986 AE86 I loved driving. That car was a blast to take around empty mountain roads with the engine soaring up to the rev limiter. It sounded great, was extremely predictable at the limit and just a lot of fun. I hated however working on it.
I love to work on cars and I love being downstairs under my Mitsubishi, but I really don’t like having deadlines to finish my work. So the most interesting part of vehicle ownership is being able to take my time, do something right and the pleasure of watching my hard work and planning come together, of course this more sounds like the pleasure of restoration, haha. This unfortunately requires that I have two cars, a daily and something to restore. Not really a problem for me since I now own five cars in two countries!
Is there a particular shop you’d like to recommend?
I feel there are three shops I should mention at the very least. One is Classic Car Nagoya. They’ve had lots of awesome parts and have always been more than happy to let me dig through their collection, even if I come up empty handed.
The other shop is actually an AE86 shop, but the guy does work on just about everything. It’s Tomisato Racing Service. This guy has been a huge help and a lot of things on this car would not have gotten done if not for him. He has a list of shops that he trusts and is more than happy to hunt down parts for me. He’s a fantastic guy and if anyone needs some car work done or just wants a good car guy to chat with, be sure to stop by (and since I live decently close, be sure to stop by here as well!).
The final shop is Car Communication Land Pit. These are the guys I bought my Mitsubishi 360 from. They were seriously some of the nicest guys I’ve run into in Japan and were definitely car guys through and through. I can’t wait to get back to them to let them check out the Mitsubishi, I think they’ll love it.
Are you on Twitter? Facebook? Where can people find you online?
I am on Facebook but I really haven’t a clue on how to use it, haha. Same story with Twitter. I do have a website though and there is a form for contacting me through there. I also frequent Mitsu-Media and Japanese Nostalgic Car on a daily basis and my screen name is Nakazoto for both of those. Anyone looking to chat I’m on both aim and Google chat and my screen name is the same for both of those as well.
Like David, it’s possible that many of us had never heard of the Mitsubishi 360 before this restoration came to light. We’d love to showcase more old school Mitsubishis on Gearbox. Thanks for sharing, David!
What about you?
- What’s your favorite old school Mitsubishi?
- How old should a Mitsubishi be before we call it old school?
- Do you have a Mitsubishi restoration story to tell?
Let us know in the comments! Thank you!