Note: Japanese publications, the sources for historical 4x4 information/images, were often mostly published in black and white. Color pages generally only lived at the front and back of any given release. Because of this, the images we're sharing below are lower quality than our normal posts.
As we touched on in our article about the Mitsubishi Star Camp Annual Festival, Mitsubishi Japan just does things differently than Mitsubishi North America. The 1994 Delica Cup really drives this home. Haven't heard of it? We're not overly surprised. Even contacting the Japanese owners of Delicas in this era we couldn't find anyone who could speak to these events. And based on the images we were able to dig up, it doesn't look like they were overly populated. A quick count of unique vans shows that it may have been around the same amount that showed up to Deli Meet here in Portland, Oregon a few weeks back.
The 1994 Delica Cup story begins believe it or not at the headquarters for Mitsubishi Motors Sales in Chiba Prefecture. Behind their small showroom and sales office was a dirt track Mitsubishi called "Frontier Park".
This wasn't something unique to Mitsubishi at the time. A new wave of potential owners for 4wd vehicles was emerging around the world in the mid 90s, a trend North America has refused to let go of despite our best interests. These courses weren't unique to Japan, and were set up to demonstrate the capability that every purchaser of a new 4x4 would absolutely 100% use every day. I can remember test driving the then new Land Rover Discovery with my dad around this time. And our local Land Rover dealer having something similar (though admittedly not quite this expansive) available to anyone wanting to take a test drive.
Held in January of 1994, the Delica Cup was a series of 5 events with 4 preliminary rounds and 1 final, to see who could run through the obstacle course in the shortest amount of time. The organizers were up front in part of the reasoning for hosting this type of event (translated from the original Japanese source and edited for clarity):
Most owners do not get a chance to truly use the 4wd capabilities of the Delica
This idea provided the second feature of the Cup, training for owners. Recognizing that unlike America, it is much harder to find a random dirt trail in Japan, many owners would not be able to understand the fundamentals of driving off-road until it was potentially too late.
For a nominal fee of $20-$40 depending on membership level or day of the week, anyone could make use of the Frontier Park course to get in a little trail time. This level of accessibility not only broadcasted Mitsubishis community outreach, but helped to establish their presence as a real competitor to Toyota's Land Cruiser and HiAce at the time. As we found out in researching for this piece, Pajero (Montero) Cups were held as well, stay tuned for an article on that event in the near future.
Like many events and clubs in this era, families were encouraged to come along and partake in what was much more than watching as drivers navigated the course. Camping, group meals, and activities for all ages were a part of the Delica Cup. This wider outreach not only benefited those who attended, but directly spoke to Clubs of the era like the Delica Owners Club (read more about the DOC here).
Unsurprisingly, trophies and awards were given out to the finalists. With Satoshi Kuroda in 1st place, Tomonari Ito in 2nd, Takashi Kato coming in 3rd, Masayuki Kanai in 4th place, and Michiko Uematsu in 5th.
Unfortunately we can't find information on how long the Delica Cup had been going, or how many years it would continue on. There doesn't seem to be any info on the internet we could dig up to indicate it's still even happening. So if you have any additional info, let us know. We'd love to shine some more light on this gathering.