Unique JDM

Unique JDM Offroader: Mitsubishi Delica Star Wagon

The Mitsubishi Delica Star Wagon

Even as a JDM fan you might not have heard about the Mitsubishi Delica Star Wagon, but it has gathered quite a cult following. Ever since Canada and the US passed the 15-/25-year import threshold the demand for this vehicle has been out of this world. Almost every Delica that is sold on Japanese Auctions ends up in the States, what is it about this JDM offroader so unique and desirable? Let’s find out.

The first-generation Delica Star Wagon was first introduced in 1968 by Mitsubishi. The name Delica was a contradiction to the English language and meant Delivery Car, hinting that the Delica was a commercial vehicle. As demand for passenger cars rose, Mitsubishi developed a passenger version between 1979 and 1994 – this came to be known as the Delica Starwagon.

All Delica’s between 1968-1994 were front-mid engined, while all the ones preceding 1994 became front-engine. In the front-mid engine variants the engine was directly placed under the passenger seat (you literally raised the seat to access the engine). The first generation came with rear-wheel-drive (RWD) but in 1979, 4X4 became available, which became a huge success as these became the most sought after. Generation Four and Five only came with Front-wheel-drive and 4X4.

Engines & Transmission

The Delica came with a variety of different engine options, both petrol and diesel variants. Majority were Inline-4 (I4) ranging between 1.1 L (1,088CC) to 2.6 L (2,607 CC). Different markets got different engines, and the Chinese market even got a 3.2 Liter Inline 5 (I5) Ford Duratorq engine. The most sought-after was the I4 Turbo-diesel variant producing between 80-110hp.

There were also a bunch of different transmission options you could choose from. The second generation could be optioned with either a 3-speed automatic transmission or a 4-speed manual. The third generation came with a 4-speed automatic or 5-speed manual. This generation also came with a 4-High, 2-High, and 4-Low gearing for offroad use.

What Made the Delica Starwagon So Popular?

There were no American vehicles on the market like the Delica Starwagon. People want to be unique; they seek attention and comradery – something that the Delica Starwagon brought to American car enthusiasts. And not only that, it was actually quite useful. It could very comfortably fit 8 passengers, could haul a ton of luggage if needed, had no issues off-roading, and were generally quite comfortable to be in.

Aestheticism & Quirks

There is no denying that the Delica Starwagon has a very unique look, it does not look like your everyday Ford F150 or Toyota Camry, I mean, just look at it. There is so much going on, and I freaking love it. It is “literally” a combination of a van, cabover, and a pickup truck.

The Delica was quirky. In the 80s and 90s the Japanese car makers were really on their A-game when it came to technology, so they…experimented a little bit from time to time. Generation Three Delica Starwagon was fitted with both an altimeter (measures altitude) and an inclinometer (measures the incline/decline of the vehicle). Its uses are questionable, but damn if it isn’t a dope feature. And honestly, this car was developed to drive on adventures in the mountains, and it would be pretty cool to see the altitude increase as you go up.

The middle seats have a pretty cool feature as well. Both the 3- and 2- seat versions can be turned around to face the other direction. And they could also be folded flat together with the last row in order to create massive cargo space.

Thanks to its boxy shape the visibility out of the Delica Starwagon is almost unbeatable. And thanks to the large amount of leg-room you’ll have it is also a nice place to be for passengers. It has the right recipe to be a great road-trip vehicle.


The Delica was produced for five generations, whereas generation three has been the most popular among importers. The later generations lost their charm for many followers. It was developed more for mass production, and the noughties became the automobile era where profit margins were more important than developing a unique, and quirky vehicle. Affordability and simplicity became the driving factors, and so the earlier generations (1-3) became even more popular for enthusiasm.

Generation One

Generation Two

Generation Three

Generation Four

Generation Five


Like many other JDM commercial and passenger cars, they were built to be affordable. And it wasn’t really until the Canadian and American enthusiasts started importing the Delica that prices shoot up. Today a clean generation two- or three Delica Starwagon will set you back anywhere between $5,000 for a high-mileage, up to $30,000 for a low-mileage one, with most hovering around the $10,000-$14,500 range. Like any other enthusiast car, they aren’t cheap, and prices aren’t likely to drop anytime soon. Unless you overpay for one, odds are that you’ll make some bucks if you manage to find one and keep it for a few years.

Aftermarket parts

There is a large number of aftermarket parts for the Delica Starwagon. There are many American niche sites focusing on selling parts just to the Delica. But you could also purchase directly from Japan. Generally, spare parts are cheap.

A new Top Roof Rack or High-Top Ladder will set you back anywhere between $400 to $900. A new turbodiesel turbo costs around $400.


If you’re looking for a rare, and quirky vehicle to take on road trips, offroading, or a vacation with the family chances are that the Delica Starwagon is a good candidate. Have in mind the Starwagon is no powerhouse, overtaking is not on the map, and driving over 70mph is not what this vehicle is for. The MPG is mediocre averaging around 20 MPG. But it has charm and character and in my opinion, looks totally awesome. I’d say generation three is my go-to. But generation four is probably better suited for more advanced off-roading, although if off-roading is your only objective I’d probably go with something other than a Delica Starwagon. The Starwagon is a multi-tool, it does many things well, however, it is not specialized in any particular feat.

E. Lindgren

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