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The Carchive: The 1982 Lonsdale YD Saloon and Estate

Chris Haining November 28, 2016 Cars You Should Know, The Carchive 13 Comments

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The Carchive now has a new time slot on Hooniverse; wherever there’s a spare gap in the schedule and I’ve actually cobbled something together to fill it. I like it this way, anyway; it ensures that Carchive articles have a suitably ad-hoc, thrown together feeling to them, and if I happen to be describing a product from British Leyland that’s all the more appropriate.

Australian car fans rejoice! Today’s relic from the vaults of obscurity concerns that most bizzare of British badge-engineering projects, the short-lived Lonsdale YD series.

(All images may be made all big with suitable attention from a cursor and a click)

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“The new Lonsdales from Australia, cars that have really come a long way!”

I submit to you that there has never, ever been a better advertising slogan than that, and probably never will be.

I’ve known for years that these things existed, but I never knew anything about them, apart from that the Lonsdale was, in fact, a fourth-generation Mitsubishi Galant sedan. I also knew that the brand didn’t derive its name from a brand of boxing equipment and associated sportswear. In fact, Londsdale is a suburb of Adelaide, Australia, where Mitsubishi had a production facility. The Galant was sold in Australia as the Sigma, and this was the GJ series.

In order to circumvent British import restrictions that applied to Mitsubishi at the time, the “independent” Lonsdale brand was introduced purely as a way of getting the Galant selling in greater numbers in the UK. Sadly, it didn’t really work.

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“For all its tough character and up-bringing, inside a Lonsdale car it’s as cosy as a Kangaroo’s pouch”

A somewhat less successful metaphor, but I see what they were trying to achieve. The Australian version of the Sigma was a rather simplified machine over the JDM version, and I believe I’m right in saying this relationship continued all the way through the life of that model name. The Lonsdale was still a relatively plush looking car on the inside, though, with deep velour trim on some models and a seriously impressive array of interior light sources. It stopped short of the reclining rear seats you got with the Galant Sapporo, though.

You has a choice of 1.6, 2.0 or 2.6-litre petrol engines; the smallest of which provided only 75bhp (the same figure as the equivalent Ford Cortina) and presumably didn’t provide exactly breathtaking performance. The others were from the legendary and long-running oversquare Astron engine series, as seen in thousands of Chrysler products of the 80s. The 2.6 was the lusty 4G54 unit, only squeezing out 102bhp, but loads of stump-pulling torque.

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“… to give you the kind of motoring that will meet your most testing requirements”

With recirculating ball steering, MacPhersion struts up front and a four-link suspension system out back, the Lonsdale wasn’t exactly a driver’s car, though it probably had its devotees for the practicality of the YD45 estate versions.

Alas, aside from individuality, the Lonsdale didn’t really offer anything much that its rivals didn’t; and when you realise that the Ford Sierra hatchback and estate models had gone on sale while these ’82 and ’83 brochures were current, you can see why the Lonsdale was pretty well doomed from the start.

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The “ever reliable” Howmanyleft.co.uk tells us that there are five remaining Lonsdales registered for use on UK roads, and another that’s recorded as off-road. That’s about a hundred more than I thought would have survived; I’m pretty sure I’ve never seen one in my life – even the regular Mitsubishi Sigma was a relatively rare sight on British roads.

Today they suddenly look rather handsome, and I’d never before realised just how like an E24 6 Series those rear lights are. That’s a good thing.

(All images are of original manufacturer publicity materials, photographed by me. Copyright remains property of a bloke called Trevor who lives at 39 Greenberry Parade, Cleft Mogridge, Plumpshire. Or possibly Mitsubishi.)

  • Alff

    Is Made in Australia a big selling point in the UK?

    • outback_ute

      I imagine it was more like “how quaint, the colonials are making cars”

    • Remember, this was pre-Crocodile Dundee. Few in the UK yet knew what Australia was for yet.

      • outback_ute

        Or maybe they had forgotten, the last convict ship to arrive was in 1868.

  • outback_ute

    A car that few people will care about, but a decent car for what it was. A solid rwd car, with the 2.6 and 5-sp it was a good performer too. Note the wagon was still the 3rd-gen with new front sheetmetal. It is a shame that Mitsubishi couldn’t design valve stem seals/guides worth a damn so they would start smoking prematurely (still can’t I think).

    Downsides, yes some. The size is less than today’s C segment cars, which showed inside. Sub-100 inch wheelbase and the 1680mm width is comical in today’s era of 1800mm wide Golfs and the like, and the boot was quite shallow. I think Japanese Galants could be had with IRS, not a great loss on a car like this.

  • Troggy

    Dad had a blue Sigma station wagon just like the one pictured. It was also the first car I ever drove – sitting on his lap. It was a great car to learn in – the engine had so much grunt it was nearly impossible to stall. My first few attempts at finding second gear took so long that the car nearly came to a stop before I found second, but that didn’t worry it at all either.