My decision to begin a search for the rare and unique Pajero Evolution was fraught with peril. Being a limited production homologation model, with only 2500 ever produced, were there actually any parts that crossed over to the mass-market Pajero, beyond the obvious things like sheetmetal and glass? Beyond this pressing question, could I still find one in decent shape, 18 years on, that was ready for export? Finally, would I have to pay a king's ransom to actually ensnare the beast?
Some of the parts compatibilities have still yet to be answered, but, in a virtual sense, I was able to cross over some part numbers to the "normal" Pajero/Montero, such as maintenance items on the MIVEC 3.5L. I also found out that the front brakes were the same ones that the third generation model used. A few hits like this convinced me that my search wasn't entirely irresponsible, and I began my search in earnest, anxious to discover answers to my last two questions - availability and affordability.
After watching the JDM auctions for six months or so, several things became crystal clear:
A. I wasn't going to have the pick of the litter. Of the 80 to 100 pajeros available in a given week, there might be ONE PajEvo, or none, depending on the moon cycle and the shape of the clouds hovering over Mount Fuji.
B. Procuring a manual transmission model (my secret yearning) was going to be almost impossible. If the slushbox was rare, it was downright ubiquitous alongside its three-pedalled sister, of which I saw exactly two in all the time I was looking.
C. The expectation of finding a low miler in the condition that I wanted AND the price I wanted, was like trying to build a DSM that was fast, cheap, and reliable. I had to pick one, maybe two if I could get lucky.
I raised my potential max bid (by proxy, through my importer), raised my mileage cutoff, and lowered my expectations. Late in January of 2016, the stars aligned, and luck seemed to be with me. I found a V55 Pajero, with not much info, and 140k kms, at an auction house in Hiroshima that was known for being exceptionally critical of any deficiencies. It was graded as a 3.5 and C interior, but my importer assured me that through any other outlet it probably would've been a 4-B. I had exactly two pictures to go on (the two included here), and 24 hours to decide, but in the end, I elected to take a chance on it...
It wound up being at the top of my budget (my newly revised/raised budget), had more kilometers than I had been originally hoping for, and didn't have the factory OZ wheels. Did I mention it was an auto? It did however, appear to be in good shape, and had just passed a rigorous Japanese road inspection, called a Jidosha Kensa Torokuseido, or "Shaken" for short. Now I had to wait for it to be shipped to my importer's local contact in Tokyo, so I could really get an idea of what I had just captured.