Baby Truck – From Tokyo to Lisbon

Baby Truck Pajero

What a fantastic Pajero story I’ve been sent from Chris who’s currently living in Portugal. I’ll let him tell it in his own words:

Baby Truck – From Tokyo to Lisbon

In 2005 I bought an old Landcruiser which I took with me when I moved from The UK to the mountains of mid Portugal. On a visit back to the UK towing a horse box with which to bring the rest of my furniture back to Portugal, the old Cruiser blew the head on a steep hill in Spain, eventually, I made it back after a new head and £1K spent on repairs, plus some hotel bills. The Landcruiser was repaired and further modified but some time later when borrowed by a friend it was driven into a concrete block and suffered major damage.

Looking around for an affordable alternate 4×4 I came across a ’93 Pajero 2.5 on eBay and bought it on line then picked it up in the UK and brought it back to Portugal, once again on the way the head blew and another £1K later I eventually made it home.  The fact that the Landcruiser and the Pajero had blown heads made me research both these vehicles, it was then that I found out that both engines were notorious for this fault.

While researching the Pajero 2.5 I learned that the 2.8 engine was better, therefore I sold the 2.5 and looked for the bigger engined 2.8, this time, I researched this vehicle very thoroughly, the Pajero had a bad name for cooling problems, I researched the Pajero owners websites in Australia, Africa, Canada and UK to find the cause, (if there was an apparent one). The area in which I lived in the mountains of Portugal was heavily populated with the Mitsubishi 2.8 based Pick-Up trucks, most over 20 years old and very hard working,  heavily overloaded and climbing steep hills all day working mainly in forestry, in summer it was 40c and in Winter below freezing.  Eventually, I visited the local Mitsubishi dealer truck workshop that carried out most of the work on these trucks and enquired as to their maintenance and reliability record. I was informed that cooling problems were virtually unknown and most of the working trucks were rarely serviced. The service manager also told me that most of the problem trucks he had seen belonged to the Expats from UK, not the locals.

When re-reading the stories regarding the Pajero and its problems, there were also many not so good articles in regard to the Pajero’s suitability for long distance overland travel, the prevailing wisdom being to use Land Rover or Landcruiser based vehicles. From my experience of living and travelling in Africa of course I knew that the Land Rover and Landcruiser were the most popular long distance vehicles but I also knew that the Mitsubishi 2,8 engine was used all over Africa very successfully in a number of working vehicles.

What I wanted to achieve was a tough vehicle for use around my local mountainous area especially in winter, I also wanted a self sufficient vehicle for long distance travel, added to this I wanted something that would when necessary tow a large caravan, boat  or trailer. Unlike most of my friends and family, I have absolutely no mechanical skills, therefore the vehicle would have to be very reliable and easy to maintain. Going back to the main dealer and chatting with the mechanics there I asked what their opinion was regarding the cause of most of the Pajero cooling and other problems, they all said that most of the problems were caused by home mechanics fitting, (mostly wrongly) cheap pattern parts, especially replacement heads and gaskets, they showed me some examples, however I suggested that the cost of Mitsubishi original parts was prohibitively expensive, they responded that this was true but over the lifetime of a vehicle if kept for a while, it was a cheaper option than the costs of breakdown and constantly fitting replacement parts. The next move was to sit down and work out what I wanted and how much it would cost to achieve a good quality, reliable vehicle which would last for some years, and then I would make a decision as to which way to go.

My definition of long distance was just that, it also accounted for un-made roads rough terrain but not much long term off road capability but it also had to cruise on European Motorways economically and with comfort. I completed an early description of what I wanted and went back to the Mitsubishi Dealer to get cost estimates for a re-build of any vehicle that I bought; this was also intended to be a preventative move. Since I was flexible on time, the Service Manager said that he would use the project to fill in work when one of the mechanics was waiting for another job or parts, they also had new parts which had been in stock for a while but would fit my intended 93/94 2.8 Pajero. We were able to come to a fair and reasonable overall price and work plan to renew the key parts he suggested ensuring reliability and longevity.

Having estimated how much it would cost for the local dealer to renovate whatever 2.8 Pajero I bought, I then spent a week looking at price comparisons between Land rover based product to a similar specification as the Pajero. The base vehicle purchase costs were somewhere near twice as much for the Land rover based vehicles, the costs of preparation and parts was about the same ,except in Portugal my labour costs were less than a third of UK costs. Since I was intending to mechanically renovate whatever Pajero I purchased what I really needed was a vehicle that was bodily sound and mechanically good but not perfect. After some weeks of searching on-line in the UK, I found a very nice 93 Pajero 2.8 LWB, I called the owner who was a military technician and had obviously taken care of this vehicle, since import from Japan, it had been used to pull his Daughters small horsebox to Pony shows. This was now late 2006 and I settled for a price of just £2.500. A week later I flew over to UK and actually saw the vehicle for myself, it was very clean and in excellent condition, I then drove it back through France to Portugal, along the way I (yet again!) blew the head, it had just been replaced, (one month before purchase) by the previous owner in a Garage in UK. Eventually, I had the vehicle delivered to my home. In Portugal they call all 4×4’s a Jeep, when trying to explain what I had bought to my then Girlfriend who was Portuguese, I said it was a Pajero which of course has a very different meaning in Spanish (which she also spoke), she eventually settled for the fact that it was a small truck and thus it became known as Baby Truck!

Baby Truck Pajero

Home on the Mountain

Baby Truck Pajero

The service Team at my local main dealer were eager to get on with the re-build, firstly they steam cleaned the chassis and then wire brushed, undercoated and re-sealed with Waxoyle, they then renewed all bushes and rubber parts, fitted a new OEM full exhaust. All brake lines were renewed and two new front OEM electronically adjustable shock absorbers were fitted. They removed the headlining and resealed the sun roof and then Waxoyle’d the inside of the roof.

Baby Truck Pajero

Baby Truck Pajero

While the chassis and metal cleaning and restoration was taking place, the most experienced mechanic, (last on right of picture) dismantled the engine.

Baby Truck Pajero

Baby Truck Pajero

The mechanic had suspected that the failure of the new head would be due to the head bolts not being tightened down correctly, sure enough, he was right, see the rust on one of the head bolts, this just two months after fitting.

Baby Truck Pajero

Baby Truck Pajero

While the Dealer Team were attending to the re-build, the design and manufature of the custom made parts was carried out. The requirement was for a secure area in the rear compartment and the building of a robust stainless steel and heavy gauge aluminium secure storage unit, this unit would also contain a pull out table which could double as a work bench if needed. Luckily, in the nearby village there were still several metal work shops who made parts and repaired farming equipment. One shop manufactured Pig Roasting Machines mainly using stainless Steel, it was  these people that I asked to manufacture the strong box and metal grilles, also they made S/S battens affixed to the roof rack which when caravan awning slider rails were attached would hold the Awnings.

Baby Truck Pajero

Removable Strong Box/Pull out Table

Baby Truck Pajero

New Worklights

Baby Truck Pajero

Safety Equipment is stored inside in Bags

Baby Truck Pajero

Heavy Gauge Wire Mesh for Security

An obvious potential criticism could be regarding the “all shiny chrome and stainless Steel”, that was purely accidental, the roof rack came from eBay, the only Pajero rack I could find, at just £90 it was a bargain, the rear ladder was a similar purchase and cost just £60, the rear spare wheel cover was already on the vehicle, the bull bar was again an eBay purchase. Perhaps another owner would wish to tone down all the “shine” with a few coats of matt black, however, it is in keeping with the early 90’s look and therefore perhaps more original.

The re-build eventually involved a four page list of new parts, again,with little mechnical experience from the owner it was mainly preventitive replacement. The engine had the entire cooling system renewed, radiator, fan ,thermo coupling, water pump and all hoses. A new Head and top end was fitted and all other parts rebuilt.A new alternator was fitted and all wiring checked and renewed where thought necessary, all the drive systems were drained and checked and all oils renewed all other fluids were also renewed,new brake discs were fitted and of course new pads.Two new batteries were fitted and extra lights and power systems fitted to run lap tops and other equipment. The entire air conditioning system was re-built along with the electric sun roof motor.The power take off plugs for towing were renewed and an additional plug fitted. One of the young mechanics suggested a quality sound system would be fun, he then fitted a Sony system complete with boom box and various other gadgets, he also installed rear seat DVD player and screens.

As the engine re-build was nearing completion a great debate took place regarding what oil should be used, this was something that could be researched, some three weeks of research later we settled on Motul 5-40, (which turned out to be a very good decision).There were now some cosmetic issues to fix, the window tinting was an issue, the usual permanent tinting is good for hot sunny places but in winter you need more light, the problem was solved by ordering custom fit heavy gauge film that you apply and are able to remove and roll up and store. The paintwork was already excellent and just needed a deep clean and polish, likewise all the upholstery was perfect, this was steam cleaned professionally.A friend who lived near me also had a Pajero and over many beers we discussed where we might take Baby Truck for her first trials,as we are in Portugal most places are easily accessible, many potential trips were discussed and for a variety of reasons discounted, eventually we decided upon Morrocco in January 2008. This provided a long fast drive to the Ferry Port of Tarifa in Spain and then a crossing to Tangier, we would then drive south and spend time in Marakesh and several other inland city’s then across the Atlas mountains and Back to Tangier. This trip there would be two Pajero’s and eight people, (a mistake). We would be camping in January in Morrocco, (another mistake).since this article is about the Pajero and not the trip we will stick to the Pajero.Each truck had four people and eqipment for camping in winter for two weeks, the weather was cold and the camp sites absolutely awfull. Luckiliy we had ensured that we had most items we needed but it meant that both trucks were heavily laden. The purchase of a 300 Litre Top box which was bolted to the front of the roof rack proved to be usefull, it was waterproof and spacious.

Baby Truck Pajero

Arrival at the Ferry Port Tarifa

Baby Truck Pajero

Overtaking the Local Morroccan Bus

A major lesson learned during the Morrocco trip was that two people are the maximum per vehicle, this for space and comfort reasons but also the amount of personal gear carried.

Baby Truck Pajero

At Camp

Baby Truck Pajero

Climbing the Atlas Mountains

That first trial trip covered some 4.000 miles with varied road conditions and weather, including torrential rain,high winds and some unmade roads.

Returning from Morrocco included an 80 mph thee hour journey in haevy rain to Lisbon Airport to ensure that one of our guests caught his plane to the USA.

After unloading the truck ,it was taken down to the Dealer for checking over and to see if there were any leaks or other problems, after a good wash BT was thoroughly inspected, she had not used any oil at all and all was exactly as it left the workshop, if anything BT was better than when we started, she had loosened up very well.

The next trip for BT was over to England where a caravan had been bought on-line, this was to then be towed down to Plymouth and embarked upon the Brittany Ferry to Santander and then up the A64 to Navarrenx in the foothills of the Pyranees. A trouble free and fast journey to UK was made to Gloucester where the van was stored, duly hitched up, BT set off for Plymouth. Another trouble free trip saw BT travel 2000 miles around the foothils of the Pyranees, the van was left at a beautiful campsite for storage.

Baby Truck Pajero


Baby Truck Pajero


After the Summer of 2008, BT was again thoroughly inspected and serviced, she had performed faultlessly for over a year and had covered some 10.000 miles since the re-build, there had been no problems at all.

The plannning then began for a long trip around Kerala in India in the winter of 2008 or Spring 2009, the idea was to ship BT from Lisbon as deck cargo and then fly to Cochin and pick up BT about six weeks later.Firstly there was a move to be made from the Mountain down to Lisbon, as always BT played her part and became a removal vehicle.

Baby Truck Pajero

Moving Day

Baby Truck Pajero

Goodbye Mountain

Baby Truck Pajero

The new home in Cascais, Lisbon had spacious underground storage for several cars and a garage for BT, after several round trips from the mountain to Lisbon BT finally was parked for a while.

By the late summer of 2008 the recession had really begun to bite and there was not much time for trips and travel, BT had a trip to the shops once a week but not much else, she was however very useful for fetching and carrying materials for fixing up the home. The trip to Kerala was looking unlikely, for most of 2008 and early 2009; BT remained mostly parked in the garage.

My neighbour in Lisbon has an old BMW which he uses for track days and historic racing, as Estoril Race track is just 3 Miles from home, he usually drives his BMW to the track, however we began to use BT as a support vehicle, she provided everything needed, catering facilities, shade from the sun, towing if needed and was able to carry a considerable amount of equipment. So now, BT became a Racing Support Vehicle.

Baby Truck Pajero

BT has a new job

Baby Truck Pajero

At Estoril Racetrack


Baby Truck has covered 15.000 faultless miles since her rebuild, she has never given a moments trouble and still uses no oil. The variety of uses for her have more than repaid the initial investment, not to mention the fun we have had with her.

The total cost of rebuild was less than one year’s depreciation on a new 4×4, that has to be good value. The other equipment gathered for use with the truck, camping gear, generator, cooker, fridge, awnings, air jack, etc, etc, have come in useful for race days and for summer BBQ’s in the hills around Lisbon. Recently, I managed to put a dent in her bonnet while manoeuvring in the underground car park, this will be fixed and while being fixed we will renovate the small chips and parking scratches.


Wow! That has to be the best written “Visitors’ Pajeros” piece we have on the site so far. I love what’s been done to this Paj, especially the long-term view of getting everything mechanically sound and keeping it that way. As Chris points out, it’s economically very sound in the long run.

Many thanks Chris and good luck for the future with your Pajero.

5 Comments on Baby Truck – From Tokyo to Lisbon

  1. Onan The Barbarian // January 9, 2011 at 5:28 pm // Reply


    What a great story… and a lesson to all those who shun older vehicles as uneconomical gas guzzlers!

    Well done Chris for keeping a great vehicle as it should be kept and using it as it should be used.


    Steve (SWB Pajero 2.8 owner, UK)

  2. Fantastic Story!

    Nice race car as well!

  3. Hi Tim

    Ive read your intro what an uplifting story.
    My story is very similar to yours I have recently bought a 2.8 Pajero
    Theres is an on going starting issue with it since i bought it.
    This the 2nd one i own the trouble is it starts but cuts out after about
    10 minutes then it wont start.
    The AA came out and have rescued me a couple
    Of times now.on the last occasion the mechanic told me the cutout soleniod
    Could be the problem. Iv checked the fuel in the tank, the tank filter,
    Replaced the fuel filter, injectors&washers.
    I will try Tonys trick & let you know the outcome.

  4. MARCO ANTONIO // January 4, 2015 at 6:22 pm // Reply

    Hola que tal yo tengo uno exactamente igual ahora tengo problemas como se acelera y desacera sin control y a estado calentando el motor que ayuda por fabor

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