Feature Vehicle:
Chris Robinson's 1990 V8 Pajero LWB

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Joe Micciche, July 2000

Chris Robinson's V8-powered Pajero.

Chris Robinson from New Zealand has long had an interest in a variety of vehicles, including his first 4WD -- a 1984 diesel Pajero LWB. Chris really enjoyed the 4x4 Pajero, and wanted to stick with the make, but he also wanted to overcome a few shortcomings he identified to make the Pajero an even better offroader. So, Chris started planning, and collecting parts, and wound up with one of the most capable -- and unique -- Pajero's we've ever seen.

Getting Started, the Interior, and the Pajero Suspension

A peek at the custom Pajero interior. More detail on the driver's position.

Chris located a 1990 Pajero LWB, which provided a very stout platform to build on. However, the interior of the Pajero had been gutted in a fire, but thankfully the exterior was in good shape. To make the Pajero functional and comfortable inside, Chris installed front seats from a Honda Accord, a rear Pajero seat, and he used diamondplate for the interior trim. In the rear cargo area, a barrier was fabricated to provide storage for clothes and gear, with a storage box for tools and recovery equipment. He also fitted 3 fire extinguishers around the interior.

The wider track and dual air lockers are obviously huge benefits offroad.

After taking careful measurements, Chris found that the suspension from a "V" series Pajero (1991+ model years) would bolt up to his "L" series platform. The advantage to the later suspensions is a 3" wider track front and rear, which adds to the vehicle's stability onroad and off. Nolathane bushings were used throughout the suspension to enhance durability and to minimize play between moving parts. The longer front control arms also allowed Chris to crank the front torsion bars for more clearance, while not risking any damage or altering the steering geometry: and the later rear axle came from the factory with Mitsubishi's venerable air locker. The rear axle is suspended with King lift coils, Mitsubishi's hydraulic control system, and dual gas shocks -- a combination of Warn XT and Monroe shocks damp front and rear, and the diffs have 4.875:1 gear ratios.

Among all of the innovative work Chris and his companions did, one of the best results came on the front differential. There were no aftermarket traction differentials for the front Pajero diff when this buildup was in progress, so Chris began devising a plan to make one work. The front differential from the later models uses a vacuum-driven collar to engage the right axle to the carrier, and they have permanent hub flanges instead of manual hubs. With some careful planning and machine work, Chris was able to fit an air locker in the front differential, and with manual hubs and the slip collar he wound up with a completely open/free-spinning onroad differential and a manually-controlled airlocker offroad.

But it's what's "inside" that counts......

Chris stated, very simply, "I wanted....MORE POWER". And did he ever get it!

The Leyland V8, hopped up with performance parts, has plenty of grunt for serious offroad work.

Chris sought power, but thought through concerns about vehicle weight and engine fitment. He really wanted the power of a V8, and he found the unit that met his criteria. A Leyland P76 4.5L alloy V8 was sourced, then completely rebuilt with 10.25:1 compression Rover pistons (increased from 8:1 stock), all new bearings, a camshaft biased to low-speed high-torque offroad work, an uprated oilpump and 90A alternator, a 350cfm Holley carburetor, and a set of Range Rover headers. All of this breathes through a custom snorkel Chris designed.

The initial engine build had a major problem when the oil pump failed, and that gave Chris the motivation to (re)build with more performance in mind. However, the build is not complete yet: Chris said he's planning an LPG conversion with a 160 liter fuel capacity, which will extend his range and eliminate fuel delivery problems offroad.

Functional details throughout complement the underlying strengths of the Pajero.

Sitting behind the powerful V8 is a stock Pajero alloy bellhousing artfully machined to retain the stock clutch mechanism and accomodating the larger V8 flywheel. Chris decided to use a heavy-duty clutch with a 240mm cover and a custom plate, mated to the early (84 - 88) transfer case. The reasons Chris used the older transfer case include a lower low-range than the newer case, and the ability to use a PTO winch. After machining the transfer case to accomodate the bushings and levers, a mix of rear driveshaft yokes (early model front, late model rear) were used with a custom rear shaft, while the stock front shaft bolted right up.

The Exterior, and more functional additions

Chris's Pajero sees duty in a variety of terrain, including rocks, dunes, and this sticky mud.

The Pajero is currently riding on 35.5x10.5" Super Swampers or 35x12.50" Kumho MT's mounted on steel whitespoke wheels. In order to get enough clearance for these tires -- and also to accomodate the clutch master cylinder and leave enough room between the back of the motor and the firewall -- Chris and friends made their own 50mm body lift for the Pajero. He then mounted a custom front bumper with siderails and rocker bars for protection, and fitted an 8'x4' roof rack with front and rear lighting for Search and Rescue missions. And just so there's no doubt, a custom paint job was also applied to the Pajero, making it stand out even more.


Chris gratefully acknowledged several people whose participation in this project made it a success. Don Wilson at Mista Bitzy's was invaluable in locating and providing many of the parts used in the project. Nigel Johnston provided expert assistance throughout the project, and his wife Debbie was very patient and understanding. Finally, Chris is very grateful for his wife Carol's support and patience throughout the buildup!

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