Ever wondered what would happen if the company behind the legendary (but now-dead) Lancer Evolution line decided to go absolutely bonkers on a Pajero compact SUV? Well, the result is this - the Pajero Evolution. A fantastic little pocket rocket, this Mitsubishi conquered all sorts of terrains without breaking a sweat, elevating it to legendary status. And Autoart has done it again with a brilliant 1/18 scale diecast model of it.

Introduced in 1997, the Pajero Evolution was built as a homologation special to enter the prestigious Dakar Rally raid. To endure the brutal conditions, the Pajero itself would have to be equally brutal, and Mitsubishi spared no expense in giving it the toughest and most durable parts available in their inventory. A potent 3.5 litre V6 6G74 MIVEC engine was fitted in, with a total output of 276 horsepower. The Pajero also received an entirely new suspension system, a finetuned transmission, wider tyres, fancy engine components, amongst others. And the body - just look at it! It means business from front to end, with the widened fenders and skidplates adorning the underside of it. Brutal. And yet, strangely attractive.

Despite being one of Autoart’s earlier efforts, this is one solid model. Yes, there are no side windows, nor are there any perforated grilles at the front. But the rest of the car is just incredible. The subtle details have all been captured rather well. At the front, we can admire the realistic headlights. The lenses show no indication of mounting pegs anywhere. The 3D Mitsubishi three-diamond badge is scaled perfectly, resting on the grille. This being an old model, textured plastic was used for the grille. The fog lights are also rendered nicely, with their own lenses. An “Evolution” tampo is applied on the bumper. A neat way of telling the driver in front of you that a legend is about to approach. The metal skidplate can be seen clearly from the front. It has a pleasant satin-like finish, and ends right before the front axle. The Pajero Evo also has a nifty little fender mirror fitted on the left side, as well as an antenna in its retracted position. The bonnet itself has a substantial-looking air vent, which has actual openings.

Opening up the bonnet, we are greeted with the 6G74 engine sitting comfortably inside the bay. Little details like the fluid reservoirs, battery, air intakes, and wirings are all present. The separate MIVEC badge located at the very top is made of photo-etched metal, which looks incredibly realistic. This was impressive when it was released eons ago, and it still is now. A bit more colour inside would have made it more interesting, but this is a solid effort still.

Interior is surprisingly cozy for a hardcore, Dakar Rally-dominating SUV. The cloth Recaro seats have a fancy design you would find in many 1990s-era Japanese cars. This particular Autoart model is the tiptronic variant of the Pajero Evo. The dashboard itself is rich in details, with painted buttons, dials and gauges. Like most other Autoart offerings, various colours were used inside to differentiate some panels from others to give it a more realistic feeling. It is also fully carpeted.

Here is a close up of the Recaro seats. I am quite fascinated by its nostalgic design!

Over at the passenger’s side, we are able to see the dashboard in greater detail. The door panel is also partially covered with the same cloth material as the seats. Also, while it may not be obvious at first sight, the doors are fitted with tinted deflectors. A very quirky add-on that is rarely seen on model cars.

Over at the side, we can see more vents just behind the front wheels. They are perforated, of course. A subtle “Evolution” tampo is applied on either sides of the car, just above the textured foot sill plate. Side mirrors are finished in gloss black. The tyres fitted on this Pajero are enormous, wrapping around 6-spoke wheels. The rims are faily realistic, with lovely details such as the embossed Mitsubishi logo at the centre, as well as the nuts surrounding it. The brake discs are admittedly low on detail, as are the calipers. You could compare them with the quality of those found in today’s Maisto models.

From this view we can see the awesome eye-catching red mudflaps. They contrast extremely well with the pure white body of the Pajero Evo.

From the side, we can see just how muscular the Pajero Evolution is. The mudflaps, the wide body and vents, the rear spoiler that is on the verge of looking tacky but still tasteful, and the white/black/red colour combination. It’s brilliant.

The greatness does not stop there. The mudflaps are larger at the back, and sculpted to look as though they are swaying in motion. However, they are solid plastic. There is a towhook at the back, painted in matte black. The boot entry guard is very similar to the sill plates, in both looks and material. A full-sized spare is hooked onto the rear door, and you can rotate it. The number plate moulding is surprisingly detailed, with a white “Pajero” logo stamped on it. Above it is a photo-etched Mitsubishi badge. The tail lights are just as detailed, and protected by light guards. The rear window has visible demisters and a third braking light, as well as a single wiper. The exhaust pipe is also visible, and is painted in matte bronze. And the gift just keeps on giving when you open the door.

The interior panel very detailed, with additional panel lines to simulate storage compartments and handles. The door is opens and closes securely with a reassuring ‘click’, and does not feel loose at all. Impressive, for a supposedly prehistoric-era Autoart model. The rear storage area is fully carpeted, and we can see a realistic second row of seats, also made of the same materials as the Recaro seats at the front. The side windows are tinted, just like the deflectors. I find the storage area very refreshing. Not many diecast vehicles of today have such an expansive boot. In fact, I could just about slot in a certain 1/72 scale vehicle.

A Pajero inside a Pajero. Where’s Xzibit?

Flipping the car over, the Mitsubishi is fairly bland. There is nothing much to note, except for the bronze/copper painted exhaust system running through the undercarriage and bits of the transmission. Still, quite detailed for its age, and certainly surpasses many mainstream models of today.

Prices for these range from the low $100s to the mid $200s, depending on its condition. I got lucky and found this for a mere SGD$30, without a box.


And there we have it. An excellent model by Autoart. It has certainly shown its age somewhat, but it is still a remarkable piece, and makes for a good display model. After all, not many have the opportunity to show off a Dakar Rally legend that still looks amazing without the fancy liveries. If you find Lancer Evolutions too mainstream, then this is the perfect alternative Evo for you.