Guess who Mitsubishi hired to turn its first production car into a plug-in hybrid

Mitsubishi celebrates 100 years in the car business this year, and instead of a cake, it’s cooked up a rather unusual custom car idea.

The Japanese automaker commissioned West Coast Customs — the shop made famous on Pimp My Ride — to customize its first production car, the 1917 Model A. While Xzibit probably won’t be involved with this one, the century-old ride will get some unusual modifications.

That’s because Mitsubishi plans to splice the Model A with the “platform” from a modern Outlander Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicle. As the name states, the Outlander PHEV is a plug-in hybrid version of Mitsubishi’s Outlander crossover. The two vehicles span Mitsubishi’s entire history, but they have virtually nothing in common, which should make for a challenging build. Consequently, what Mitsubishi calls the “Re-Model A” looks a bit funky, with body proportions stretched and altered to fit the modern chassis.

The 1917 Model A was Mitsubishi’s first production car, although only 22 were produced. It was based on the Fiat Tipo 3 and was powered by a 2.8-liter, four-cylinder engine that produced just 35 horsepower. The Outlander PHEV powertrain West Coast Customs will install includes a 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine, two electric motors, and a 12kWh lithium-ion battery pack. In the Outlander, the gasoline engine and one motor power the front wheels, while the second motor powers the rear wheels.

The Outlander PHEV has been available in Japan and Europe for several years, but its United State launch has been delayed multiple times. Mitsubishi originally said the plug-in hybrid would go on sale here in 2013, and it will finally arrive in U.S. showrooms next month. After driving it, we found a few things to like, including a $35,535 base price that drastically undercuts other plug-in hybrid SUVs.

As it approaches its centennial, Mitsubishi has a lot to celebrate. But most of the company’s achievements, like the cult-classic Montero and Eclipse, scores of rally victories, and the glorious Lancer Evolution, are in the past. In recent years, Mitsubishi has struggled with an increasingly irrelevant lineup of aging vehicles. Its biggest hit of the past few years has been the tiny Mirage, which is likely too much of a niche product to build the future of a brand on.

Updated: Added photos


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