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Godzilla Tough: 1985 Mitsubishi Diesel Jeep

Like Coca Cola, Corvettes, and Oreo cookies, Jeeps are a uniquely American product.  Born just before we entered World War II, the legendary all terrain vehicle emerged from the fires of war to become a plaything for Americans obsessed with off road recreation.  One of the big complaints has always been lack of power.  While Americans always want more horsepower, Jeep designers have always had to balance weight with performance.  Believe it or not, a very interesting solution to this problem came from the most unlikely of sources.  Take a look at this 1985 Mitsubishi built Jeep for sale on craigslist in Blue Ridge Georgia.  While it looks like an early postwar Willys Jeep, the diesel engine under the hood is the story here.  Yes, a Japanese Jeep with a diesel engine and just 33,000 miles for $10,500.

According to the ad, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries acquired a license to produce Jeeps in Japan in 1953.  That license unbelievably ended up being used until 1988.  Built of high grade steel, with hardened bolts plated with zinc, these Jeeps were built to a higher standard than American versions.  Looking for all the world like one of the Jeeps from the early Godzilla movies, the original Willys style body gives this off-road beast a distinctive style.

What lies under the hood and body is anything but antique.  The engine is a 2.7 liter 4DR6 Mitsubishi diesel that allows this Jeep to get nearly 30 mpg at 60 mph.  A diesel engine also does a very good job of providing something that Jeeps greatly benefit from: low speed torque.  When you combine this with heavy duty Dana axles, a Spicer/Dana transfer case, and a tough Mitsubishi manual transmission, you end up with a very capable off road vehicle.  Add to that performance an approach angle that allows up to 47%, and a departure angle of 35.5%, and you begin to see why this Jeep would appeal to hard core off roaders.

According to the seller, some changes from stock have been made.  The wheels and tires have been updated, and the seats are aftermarket replacements as well.  Given that the seller seems to be a shop that specializes in these rare Jeeps, the ad offers to replace the aftermarket seats with correct ones for $350.00.  Sadly, the winch is not included in the sales price.

A look inside shows that this Jeep is definitely different than the Wrangler that are currently in showrooms.  Aftermarket bucket seats are the only comfy part of driving this off roader.  The rest of the interior is basically manual everything.  While it is not stated in the ad, my guess is that the funky right side steering system is manual as well.  I also wonder about the legroom available for taller drivers.  Early Jeeps were never accused of being roomy.

All in all, this is a pretty cool Jeep variant that few know even exist.  I was sure surprised when I came across the ad.  The engine is the big deal here, and you would be hard pressed to swap in any other diesel engine on an American Jeep for this price.  Jeep keeps promising a diesel Wrangler variant.  This Jeep from “The Land of the Rising Sun” is the best deal in town until that day finally arrives.


  1. Avatar photo Steve R

    Cool Jeep.

    It would be odd trying to shift the manual transmission with your left hand. How many forward gears does the transmission has, 3, 4 or 5?

    Steve R

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    • Avatar photo Gary Jacobson

      These have 4 speed transmissions like a ’72 Renegade I once owned.

      My ’78 Mitsubishi J56 has a 2.5 petro engine. I purchased it from the same person who sold this one, and I am head over heals in love with mine. Best thing I ever bought in my life.

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  2. Avatar photo geomechs Member

    Wish they would’ve shown some shots of the engine. Diesel engines can tell you a lot by just having a look at them. I work on diesels all the time and have some good ideas on what to expect. Otherwise this looks like a solid Jeep…

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    • Avatar photo Rube Goldberg Member

      While I don’t care for diesels, I think this is a pretty clever swap. I’d imagine the low end grunt of a diesel would make this ideal for slow off-roading, however, it looks like Vintage Jeep axles, and unless something was done to the gearing, the low Jeep ratios coupled to the low rpm of a diesel, you won’t set any speed records.( 60 sounds optimistic and must be a newer box) Btw, geomechs, did you see the Louisville Ford monster truck behind it? :)

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      • Avatar photo geomechs Member

        Hi Rube. Yeah, I did see the Ford. While it would be unusual to see a Louisville truck body on a monster truck chassis, I’ve seen lots of specialty 4×4 trucks based on the Louisville truck itself. However, new ideas for monster trucks are coming out all the time….

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      • Avatar photo Nick

        It’s not a swap, rolled off the assembly line as seen except for the wheels and seats.

        Like 1
  3. Avatar photo Beatnik Bedouin

    Mitsubishi has been building Jeeps under license for decades – a buddy of mine has a ’66 Made-in-Japan ex-Army Jeep (Thailand, I think) that he’s restored. These are well-built machines.

    The Japanese also produced the old school Jeep wagon, which were sold here as second-hand imports. I’ve been keeping an eye out for one to turn up on our local auction site.

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    • Avatar photo XJSLord

      The japanese jeeps were the only ones to make the 4 door wagon from the factory

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  4. Avatar photo Drew V.

    Or you could buy the brand new, American built 2018 Mahindra Roxor with a 2.5l Turbo Diesel engine and 5sp tranny… for around $16,000…

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    • Avatar photo Nichcole

      Yea, but max speed on that is 45 mph!!!

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  5. Avatar photo james sterrey

    I’m more interested in the Red monster truck..

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    • Avatar photo BMW4RunninTundra

      That red monster truck has been for sale once or twice. It never has sold. Don’t know if it’s due to over price or what. I know that it runs. Or at least last time I was in their shop, it did. If anybody wants a hands/eyes on the “Jeep”, just let me know. This vehicle is located very close to our second home. IF the seller is the same as the people that run/own the metal shop, they are straight up, honest, and fair people. If I were in the market, unfortunately instead I’m in the process of having the engine in my 4Runner replaced, I would buy from this family with zero qualms!!!!
      I do like it though!!!! Unfortunately I owned a CJ7 that was made out of whatever was laying on the floor or in the trash cans. My Wife STILL remembers me outside replacing the accel pump in the carb when it was below freezing. Thus, no more Jeeps in this house EVER!

      Like 0
  6. Avatar photo JW

    I think this Jeep is pretty cool but I could never get used to shifting left handed, I have a hard time turning a wrench left handed when my right hand can’t get in somewhere. I also agree with James that the red monster truck is more up my alley but not feasible for anything but crushing old fart muffler cars.

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  7. Avatar photo Porpet

    Driven both left and right hand drive vehicles on both sides of the street (international travel is always an adventure) If you can work a clutch you can be comfortable in this in about 10 minutes

    Like 1
  8. Avatar photo sean sinkule

    The Godzilla is my Jeep, I import the Mitsu Jeeps from Japan. Everything is stock, from the Japan Built Dana Axles, Japan Built Dana Spicer Transfer case to the Mighty Mitsubishi 4DR5 Under the hood. Factory gearing runs it down the road comfortably at 60mph, a quick ring and pinion swap gets you 70 easily. Driving on the RIGHT side is a snap. Thank you for all the nice comments
    paladin Trucks

    Like 1
  9. Avatar photo Lawyer George

    Why do they make the same mistake over and over and over–putting the steering wheel, clutch & brake on the passenger side? The American Willy’s and Ford version of the jeep had a 3 speed. There would seem no reason to have more gears but if they can’t even get the steering wheel on the correct side, who knows what they did with the transmission,(besides the owner and others familiar with the brand. ) But I do think it looks neat notwithstanding the diesel motor. I had a couple jeeps growing up in Fairbanks, They would do 60 but it was a bit harrowing.

    Like 0
  10. Avatar photo Classic Steel

    It’s. A great rural mail carrier being right hand drive😜

    I wonder if they tested the diesel on monkeys and human people like the old VW cheaters from Germany? The rigged computer system sold me to never buy a modern VW and the testing on diesel fumes closed the deal .

    I will say it’s a nice Jeep if the hidden engine is in the car 👀

    Like 0
  11. Avatar photo Sparkster

    Any body here know if this is a turbo diesel ? I rented a jeep in Bangkok with right hand drive. It was so strange trying to teach my left hand and arm how to drive a stick.

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    • Avatar photo sean sinkule

      This one is a J54 which is normally aspirated, most of the ones we import are the J53 which are direct injection Turbo Diesels

      Like 1
    • Avatar photo Buster Friendly

      I’ve played guitar for years so I don’t think it would be an issue for me.

      Like 0
  12. Avatar photo Mike

    Here are the specs on the 4DR6 engine:

    4DR6 Engine: Turbocharged
    Over Head Valve Water Cooled: 4 Cylinder Block
    Bore & Stroke: 92.0mm x 100.0mm
    Displacement: 2,659cc
    Compression: 17.5:1
    Power Rating: 94HP @ 3,500 RPM
    Maximum Torque: 21.0 kgm @ 2,000
    Jeep Platforms Installed in: J23, J53


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  13. Avatar photo Comet

    When I was stationed in Japan I was issued a Suzuki Sambar (tiny pick up) for on base errands. It was very easy to adapt to right hand drive. Shifting and clutching became second nature in no time.

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  14. Avatar photo Emmett

    I own one of these here in Ohio. It kicks butt! Mine is an ’88.

    Like 0
  15. Avatar photo Doug

    Lots around, they are good to drive at highway speeds, top is noisy when up. Lots to choose from… check goo net English version

    Like 0

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