Those of you who seek out different sorts of vehicles are probably well aware of the Mitsubishi Debonair V 3000 Royal AMG, a lipstick'd pig that's been the talk of internet forums since I got my first dial-up connection.
Most seem daunted by its apparent lack of "AMG-ness", as if being a German car tuning company holds the former purveyor of body kits and engine upgrades more accountable for their overseas licensing deals—don't even get me started on their upgrades to the fifth generation Honda Civic sedan.
In the 1980s, a Japanese automaker hooking up with a European entity behind the bleachers was all the rage: DeTomaso and Daihatsu; Honda and Land Rover (and Rover); Isuzu and Irmscher. Even Subaru and Porsche got together in the noughties. And before Mercedes-Benz took a stake in AMG Motorenbau und Entwicklungsgesellschaft mbH, the tuning arm was free to hock its name and logo wherever it pleased.
You may think that the car is a black eye on AMG, but that would be foolish. I've driven several AMG models and, if you haven't, I'm not sure you're missing much. Some may find the addition of a larger motor and a smattering of other tweaks a sure-fire way to produce a better car, but I find it more like strapping rocket boosters to a church pew. Even with the added performance, it's often more about owning a status symbol than owning a better car—if going more quickly always made something better, we'd all get to work in tube frame Chevrolet Monza drag cars.
In my mind, the car is a black eye for Mitsubishi, yes, because not only was the standard Debonair an unloved executive express to begin with, they weren't able (or willing) to ask their new German friends to make it go any faster. The biggest mystery with this car is not what was made, but whose Rolodex was raided to organize the first boardroom meeting between AMG and Mitsubishi—and how many additional meetings were required before this project was put into production.
What should bug you about this car, if you haven't realized it yet, is that it's a car built by consensus. It was not created because of some great need among the population, or as a technological marvel designed to spark a partnership between two great brands—it was a car decided on in boardrooms by men in suits trying their hardest to sell more Debonairs—and they'd already let Hyundai badge engineer it as the Grandeur.
Consensus often leads to the path of least resistance, and people can smell it a mile away. General Motors has traditionally given us some of the greats, like the Celebrity Eurosport VR Wagon and Malibu Maxx SS, and in looking at those cars, the formula is quite obvious: do the least amount of work possible, and make the logos big.
If you sold a few pieces of Tokyo property in 1987 and wanted to display your newfound wealth in the form of an all-white luxury sedan, opting for the AMG package on the Debonair would get you a new grille, body kit, white alloy wheels, rear spoiler, dual exit chrome exhaust tip, and steering wheel. This isn't so bad, because as you may have guessed, it's not like traffic moves at Autobahn speeds in Japan—coasting around kei cars through Akihabara or Ginza in an all-white 16 ft. long tuner sedan would have been a dramatic statement. (Though I've also seen pictures of the car in silver.)
I say this because when I was most recently in Japan I spotted an all-white Lorinser-modified Mercedes-Benz S-Class from a few blocks away—the only other machine to catch my eye from such a distance in the neon-filled streets was a Nissan Skyline R34 GT-R Nismo Z-Tune, a unicorn for even the most alert car spotter.
Since there's nothing all that special about what's underneath, does it matter that you know a 3.0-litre V6 is underhood, with 200 horsepower? Probably not.