The Mitsubishi J20 (produced in the 1960’s) is one of over 30 different Jeep models based on the CJ-3B body style, and built in Japan under licence from Willys from 1953 through 1998.

Mitsubishi Motors announced on 4 June 1998 that it would stop production of Jeep models, 45 years after their commercial debut in Japan. The Tokyo-based automaker would make its last Jeep in August, said a company spokesman, explaining the decision was made because the vehicles don’t meet new environmental and safety standards. Mitsubishi sold about 200,000 Jeeps in Japan — many to the government — since it was first granted a licence to make them in 1953.

The Jeeps have been built with short, medium and long wheelbases, with various gasoline and diesel 4-cylinder engines, and even in versions similar to a Willys station wagon with a CJ-3B front end (see a brochure photo of the J11, 140K JPEG). Like Mahindra in India, on its later models Mitsubishi added a short diagonal skirt at the front edge of the front fenders. But unlike Mahindra, the Japanese firm never adopted the CJ-7 “round-fender” body style.

Seven passengers in a CJ-3B looks crowded, even in this J20, which is almost a foot longer than a standard CJ-3B. This illustration of its capacity was featured in a Mitsubishi brochure.

The CJ3B-J3

The original Mitsubishi CJ3B-J3 was built from 1953 into the 1970’s. The illustration above will be familiar to long-time readers of The CJ3B Page, and is the cover of a J3 brochure scanned by Makoto Hirakawa, who also owns the J3 pictured below. Its engine number has a 4J prefix, suggesting that early Mitsubishi Jeeps used engines supplied by Willys. Later Mitsubishi Hurricane engines have numbers prefixed by JH4.

Here are some illustrations from one of the most colorful Jeep brochures I know of. It wouldn’t be hard to beat most of the somewhat drab black & white Willys promotional material of the CJ-3B era (see CJ-3B Literature). But this Mitsubishi pamphlet promoting their CJ3B-J3 is probably splashier even than anything from the heyday of Willys advertising in the 1940’s

The photo spread below is a nice summary (with few words necessary) of the Universal Jeep’s abilities on various grades and terrains, and the range of special equipment available. See a large copy (1600×600) (220K JPEG).

If you were thinking that maybe Mitsubishi did paint the Hurricane engine blue and the exhaust manifold gold, this picture is probably the one where you draw the line. These artists were just having fun. But note that they did work pretty hard to realistically tint all the photos in the spread above.

Here’s a unusual view of the CJ-3B frame and body, with part of the tub cut away. This may be pretty close to how cab/chassis versions were delivered from the assembly line, for conversion to specialty vehicles such as the Mitsubishi J32 fire engine (30K JPEG). Note that Mitsubishi still retained the early-50’s style instrumentation, but had taken the practical step of adding a glove compartment, something that Willys never bothered with on the civilian flatfenders.

And even the usual underside view of the mechanics of four-wheel drive and the cutaway diagrams of the drivetrain components, take on a new look with the addition of color (below). See a large copy (1600×600) (160K JPEG).

I’ve always liked this brochure, with its fanciful hand-tinted illustrations. The cover picture (70K JPEG) was used as the second cover of The CJ3B Page back in early 1997. The gold-plated exhaust manifold in the Hurricane engine illustration is a nice touch. In the larger copy of the picture (70K JPEG) you can clearly see the Mitsubishi logo on the valve-cover sticker. It’s hard to date this publication, since the CJ3B-J3 was in production in Japan from 1953 into the early 1970’s. But there are a couple of other J3 brochures which appear to be earlier, so I would assume this one is from sometime in the sixties.

Other Variations

In the mid-1950’s Mitsubishi began building the J10 and J11 with medium and long wheelbases, alongside the J3 and the military J4 version used by both the Japanese Army and the U.S. Army. In the late 1950’s, diesel versions and right-hand drive versions were added to the line.

See a Mitsubishi J32 fire engine on the CJ-3B Fire Engines Around the World page.

Slightly larger engines were added in the 1970’s — the J54 and military J54A used a 2.7L diesel engine, the J56 had a 2.4L gasoline engine, and the J57 a 2.6L. There were also medium and long-wheelbase models available with all of these engines. From the mid-1980’s until Jeep production was ended in 1998, only diesel engines were available in the J50 series.

Like the Mahindras which are still built in India, the Mitsubishi Jeeps had a lot of appeal to people wanting a new vehicle with the no-nonsense look of a flat-fender Jeep. The catalogue photo below shows some of the range available in the 1970’s. See a large copy (1400×800) (330K JPEG) with details and model numbers visible.

Whenever 4WD vehicles are mentioned, the name “Jeep” is the vehicle that most often comes to mind as people are remained of its power and agility, Mitsubishi has produced the “Jeep” for many years under license, and this knowhow has been incorporated into the “Pajero” and has progressed even further. In this space, “Jeep CJ3B-J10” which put on sale in 1955, the Pajero prototype, which was produced when Mitsubishi tried to develop a Jeep for a new age, are on display.

From left:
“Pajero” (1973)
“Jeep CJ3B-J11” (1956)

From left:
“Jeep CJ3B-J11” (1956)
“Mitsubishi Jeep J3R”(1968)
“Jeep CJ3B-J10” (1955)

In 1952, Shin Mitsubishi Heavy-Industries, Ltd. contracted with Willys Overland motors, USA, to import the Jeep CJ3A in CKD (complete knocked down) condition. This Japanese-assembled model was built in J1 and J2 versions, with a total of 554 unites produced. In 1953, WilIys started production of CJ3B, using the Hurricane engine. Again under contract with Willys, Mitsubishi began domestic production (J3 type). By adopting the J3, the company was quickly able to start production of a domestic Jeep-type vehicle. This type of vehicle went on to become world famous, leaving its mark on the pages of automobile history.

The Jeep shown in the photograph is the J10 model produced from 1955. Using the same wheelbase as the J3, this left-hand drive vehicle had a longer frame and an extended body that provided seating for an additional passenger. Both the Mitsubishi motif and Willys logo can be seen on the front grille side by side.

LENGTH 3,566mm
WIDTH 1,684mm
HEIGHT 1,973mm
ENGINE TYPE Water Cooled
F Valve System


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