Having found this rare 1JZ-powered Mitsubishi pickup in Thailand, James Hoole brought it back to the UK where it’s gone down a storm…
Mention the word “Thailand” to most people and they’ll think of unspoiled golden beaches, amazing food and a nightlife that’s best described as lively. It’s the chosen destination for many Brits who want a taste of paradise or for those looking to party hard.
If you’ve never been to Thailand, you may think the locals all drive tuk-tuks, and to be fair, a lot of them do. But away from the bustling streets, there’s a vibrant car scene.
That’s because the Thais are bang into their modified cars – the more unusual, the better. There’s something hugely satisfying about taking a mundane vehicle and transforming it into something that stops folk in their tracks; the kind of thing that gets non-car people asking “what is it?” And “why did you do that to it?” James Hoole, from Ultimate Car Giveaway Ltd, takes up the story.
“A friend of mine lives over in Thailand and realised there were lots of these old Jap cars around. Many of them have already been modified as there’s a strong Thai-tuning scene – and the best bit is that they’re all right-hand drive.”
As part of the family business established over 30 years, James is used to working on all types of cars and has been tuning and modifying them for as long as he was old enough to hold a spanner. But it’s his love of rare, retro Japanese stuff that really ignites
Over the last few months, he’s has been importing a stream of ’80s Jap cars with plans to offer them as prizes in his Ultimate Car Giveaway concept. While several of these Best of the Best type schemes offer brand new cars, James wanted to do something with custom Japanese rides.
In this case, it’s something very special and indeed rare. Back in the early ’80s, the L200 pickup was a great workhorse. With bags of room in the back of the long wheelbase version and legendary Mitsubishi reliability, they were popular all over the world. But they were never considered ‘cool’. So it’s impressive to see one that’s not only survived the ravages of time, but that has also been totally transformed. This pukka pickup is now packing blistered arches, serious lows and some beefy rims, while there’s also a cheeky 1JZ lump under the bonnet.
“It’s an early naturally-aspirated Toyota 1JZ,” explains James, “but it’s been tuned and is good for around 200bhp, which makes for quite lively performance in this old pickup!” It’s rear-wheel drive, of course, which James ably demonstrates by spinning the nearside rear wheel for a smoky burnout shot. “It’s a shame it doesn’t have a diff, because then it would be a proper animal,” he laughs.
The straight-six engine slots neatly into the engine bay and features a bunch of chromed and polished goodies. It’s actually a pretty good fit, although James admits that the only thing that bugs him is that it’s not a Mitsubishi engine. I guess an FTO V6 could have worked too, or maybe even an Evo 4G63? But having heard that sonorous V6 burst into life in the workshop, then watched it being given a good thrashing outside, it’s fair to say that it sounds incredible – so for me that Toyota engine is just perfect.
Pop your head inside the driver’s door and you’ll discover the once utilitarian cabin has also been transformed. A pair of BRIDE bucket seats (surely there’s a Thai Bride joke here? – Jules), trimmed in the finest Alcantara kicks things off, joined by some harnesses. The original steering wheel has been replaced by an OMP Drifting item, which suits the inside of this ’80s truck perfectly. It also feels much nicer than the van-like thin-rimmed effort that it originally came with. Elsewhere you’ll find some neat diamond-stitched material used for the roof lining and behind the seats, as well as some two-tone door cards.
One of the first things that strikes you about this L200 is the sheer size of it. The rear appears to stretch forever and that flatbed has acres of room. “It’s the only long-wheelbase version in the UK,” reveals James. The rear deck itself has been finished in bright orange, including the chequer plate flooring. There’s also a chunky roll bar that’s been bolted in to give this perky pickup some added muscle. Move to the rear and the tailgate is embossed with the Mitsubishi logo, and underneath, there’s a rather fat, polished tailpipe, which emits an awesome sound when you provoke that straight-six engine.
In fact, it sounded so good that someone went and bought it. “It was due to be given away in our draw, but the guy really wanted it, so I ended up selling it to him,” says James. But fear not, because there are several more retro treats tucked up in the workshop. And these will be available as prizes over the coming months. If they’re anything like this, we can’t wait to see them!
TECH SPEC: MITSUBISHI L200
Toyota 1JZ 2.5-litre straight-six, Brian Crower cams, Konshi Racing ECU, 3in manifold back custom exhaust, polished air intake, Sard performance filter, painted rocker cover, custom alloy radiator, blue silicone hoses, polished inlet manifold
Custom springs and dampers
Wheels and tyres
MeisterR-style 9.5in and 11.5x16in wheels with Nankang tyres
BRIDE bucket seats on custom mounts, harnesses, OMP Drifting steering wheel, colour-coded door cards, diamond-stitched headlining and rear panel, alloy pedal covers
Custom steel wide arches and front lip, chrome front bumper, bump strips removed, painted custom white pearl with orange rear deck and cage
Far East Classics
Words & Photography Davy Lewis