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This is the story of the Incredible Shrinking Truck. Not that the Mitsubishi Might Max has been downsized. It was a compact pickup to begin with, comparable in size to the similar trucks offered by Nissan and Toyota. But what keeps shrinking over the years is the number variations.
Once upon a time, the Mighty Max was available in extended-cab, 2-wheel-drive, 4-wheel-drive, 4-cylinder or V6 versions, following the same mix-and-match formula successfully used by the Mighty Max's competitors. There were even Mighty Maxes that showed up at Dodge dealerships to be sold as Dodge Ram 50s.
There was also an extended cab version that will be missed if only for its alluring name: the Mighty Max Macrocab. It's worth noting that extended cabs represent one of the hottest segments of pickup truck sales, compact and full-size alike.
But times have changed at Mitsubushi. There is but a single Mighty Max available for 1995, with one engine and one drive system, two transmission possibilities and an option list that contains only a handful of items.
The reason is simple. Mitsubishi is concentrating on its more profitable core product - passenger cars and sport/utilities - and is leaving most of the compact pickup market to its rivals.
Thanks to the Dakota, Dodge ceased to be a client, and pickup trucks weren't pulling crowds into Mitsubishi showrooms. To compete against its powerhouse rivals, the company would have been forced to spend large amounts of money retooling its pickup line.
This dilemma was deepened by Mitsubishi's Montero sport/utility vehicle. Unlike the sport/utilities from Toyota and Nissan, which share a common chassis with the Toyota and Nissan compact pickups, the Montero chassis is a separate entity.
With a Montero redesign not far away, updating the Mighty Max meant investing in two separate truck chassis at a time when development dollars - or yen - were scarce.
That didn't make good business sense to Mitsubishi. So what remains is a basic-but-practical truck for people who have no need for fancy graphics, wheel-arch flares or Kustom Kabs. If you want simple, inexpensive and efficient, the Might Max is for you.
Although it's a bit of a stretch to rate the Mighty Max as a fun truck to drive, it's certainly easy to operate. Whether you're delivering a few pizzas or 1000 lb. of Parmesan cheese, the Mighty Max is nimble in traffic, takes corners handily and is a breeze to park.
You should pay close attention, though, when driving an unladen Mighty Max in wet weather. There's no anti-lock feature available for the Max's brake system, which makes it a little too easy to lock the rear brakes on slick surfaces. And when that happens, it's probably anybody's guess as to which end of the truck will go first.
As we noted earlier, the Mighty Max won't press you back against the seat with its acceleration, but it's a stout little load-hauler. Our Mighty Max test truck reminded us of the little engine that could - it just kept chugging and snorting and got the job done.
About the only proviso is the Max's 3500-lb. towing limit. Like a good many other compact trucks. This is an ambitius limit. If your trailer nudges much over 2000 lb., you'll probably want more power than the Max can deliver.
Even though the Mighty Max is low on flash, it is high on value. It's not likely to suffer from rough use, and it's even less likely to fail when you need it most.
With its low price, the Max makes an ideal all-purpose, light-duty work truck - or perhaps for a family, a utilitarian third or fourth vehicle that will stand up to the abuse dished out by enthusiastic teens and the chores of everyday hauling.
If frills don't matter to you, cheap and durable add up to a combination that will be tough to beat.
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