|.......|| OTHER JAPANESE CARS
What the other guys were up to before 1968
|The following is a list of some of the other non-Nissan
cars built in Japan before 1968. This list is in no particular order, and
it certainly isn't a complete list of every car ever built, it is simply
a list of cars that are either historically significant models, odd or
interesting vehicles, or my personal favourites from the era.
DAIHATSU COMPAGNO SPIDER
The Compagno was available in a 2 door sedan, a wagon, a pick-up
and the very attractive convertible Spider. It had a 797cc 41hp engine
and a 958cc 55hp engine. The Spider was a 4 seater, with 2 reasonable sized
seats in the back. It had a very neat soft top mechanism that folded down
into it's own compartment behind the back seats. The car features a vary
attractive dashboard that is similar in style to a 1965 Fairlady.
TOYOTA SPORTS 800
This is a wonderful looking little car. The Sports 800 used the engine and mechanicals based on the Toyota Publica 700. It had an air cooled 2 cyl. 790cc engine. It also featured a removable targa roof. Sadly only 3131 were ever built.
The Subaru Maia is a far cry from the high performance Subaru WRXs of today. The Maia was fitted with a 2 cyl. 2 stroke air cooled 356cc 16hp engine. The later cars were fitted with a 422cc engine producing a ground shaking 22hp. They were made from an extremely thin gauge sheet metal, and as a result of that most have long since rusted away.
Before moving into 'normal' car production Daihatsu specialised in producing 3 wheelers like the Midget.
Mitsubishi's answer to the Nissan Cedric and Toyota Crown was the Debonair. This car entered production in 1964 and the last one was built in 1987. (not a typo error, this thing was still in production in 1987) During that time it had only 3 updates, which were little more than a change to the tail light design. It was powered by a 2000cc 6cyl. engine and later by the 2600cc 4cyl. Saturn engine.
HINO CONTESSA COUPE
The Contessa Coupe had a 1251cc 55hp engine, and a mechanical design based on a 1960s Renault. An Australian motoring journalist, when asked to name his list of the 10 worst cars of all time, included the Hino Contessa 1300 in his list. His only comment was "The bastard thing tried to kill me, twice!".
Initially available in Japan as the S360 and S500, with 360cc and 500cc engines, by the time exports began it had grown to 606cc, and was later enlarged to 791cc in the S800. Technically it was a very interesting car. Honda were a well established motorcycle manufacturer before the decided to move into car production, the S series sports cars were their first attempt at building cars, and their motorcycle heritage was evident everywhere you looked on the car. The S600's engine was an all alloy, wet sleeve, twin cam 4 cylinder engine with needle roller crankshaft bearings. It had 4 motorcycle carburettors that were fed by an electric fuel pump that was electrically regulated by a set of points driven off one camshaft. It developed 57hp at 8500rpm and would rev well past 10000rpm. It had four wheel independent suspension. At the front it had fairly conventional torsion bars, but at the back it was a whole different story. Final drive was by oil bath chains to the rear wheels, with coil-over-shock absorbers attached to the rear of each chain case. The chain final drive utilized aluminum swing arms which served double duty as chain cases, and also acted as trailing arms for independent rear suspension. This setup worked so well that when it came time to make the S800 model they dropped it and fitted a live rear end. The S series Hondas were very successful, selling nearly 25000 cars from 1962 to 1970.
ISUZU BELLETT GT
The Bellett sedan looks better but this one goes better, and it's quite rare. The Bellett GT has a 1600cc 95hp engine with twin carbs. She had disc brakes up front, 4 speed close ratio gearbox, full instrumentation and all the "go fast" extras you'd expect. Considerably more expensive than the Fairlady, MGB, Triumph, Etc., which probably explains why they sold so few of these great little cars.
The Honda T500 is probably the only truck ever built that was based on the mechanicals of a sports car. When it came time to add a truck to it's range Honda fitted the dinky little T500 with the twin cam, all alloy, wet sleeve, quad carburettor, 4 cylinder engine straight out of the S500 sports car. This made it possibly the only truck in history that would rev well past 10000rpm. Truly mad!
Mazda's kei car from the early 1960s, the R-360 had a 360cc air cooled V2 engine.
TOYATA PUBLICA CONVERTIBLE
Toyota's first soft top of the 1960s was the Publica Convertible, which was an open air version of the Publica sedan. It was powered by a 698cc air cooled 2 cylinder engine that produced a 28hp at 4400rpm. It took the best part of a minute to get to 100kph on it's way to a top speed of 110kph.
The big brother to the Isuzu Bellett, the Bellel had a 1791cc 4cyl. engine.
The Cosmo was Mazda's, and Japan's, first Wankel Rotary
powered car. The early Mazda rotary engine exhibited all the problems that
eventually lead to the collapse of the first company to use a rotary, NSU.
The main problem was the extremely rapid wear of the rotor seals, which
are the ratary's equivalent of piston rings in a piston engine. This often
meant an engine rebuild was needed as soon as 40000 miles. The Cosmo featured
a unique and very stylish body.
The mid-sized Colt had an 800cc engine, and later a 1000cc. It was available as a sedan or 3 door hatchback.
The Fuji Cabin was built by Fuji Heavy Industries, the company that would later build Subaru car. The car has a polyester body covering the mechanicals from a scooter. It was powered by a one cylinder 121cc engine developing 5hp. Only 85 were built.
The Crown was the Toyota equivalent to the Nissan Cedric. The '65 model was powered by a 2000cc inline 6cyl. engine. This model has a seperate chassis, the chassis and engine of this model has been used as the basis of a couple of Australian made AC Cobra replica kit cars. The Crown became the car of choice of the retired-aged / bowls club set. I have to watch what I say here because my parents used to own one.
In 1951 Hino started building Renaults under licence, in a deal similar to the Nissan/Austin venture. This car is the Hino version of the Renault 4CV, which was powered by a 750cc 4cyl. engine.
Mikasa built cars from 1957 to 1961. They all had air cooled 2 cyl. 20hp engines. They built a sedan, a station wagon and this rather pretty convertible.
TOYOTA TOYOPET 700
It was powered by a 698cc air cooled 2 cylinder engine that produced a 28hp at 4400rpm. Also available with a 2 speed automatic which made the car incredibly slow, giving a 0-100kph time of just under a minute.
Kurogane dated right back to before the Second World War, but the company folded in the early 1960s. They were most well known for their 3 wheel trucks from the 1950s, but they also built some larger commercial vehicles such as the Nova.
The streets of Japan in the 1950s were full of these odd little 3 wheel trucks like the HopeStar, There were many small 3 wheel truck manufacturers at the time such as Mizushima, Tokusan, Mizushima, Giant, NewEra, Cony and Kuragane, as well as major manufacturers such as Daihatsu and Mazda.
I don't know much about Otha except they built this car, and it had a 903cc 4 cyl. 23hp engine. They seem to have disappeared in the late 1950s.
The most desirable Toyota ever built, and probably the
rarest, with only 337 ever built. The engine was the same block as the
2 litre Toyota Crown 6cyl. unit, but was fitted with a Yamaha designed
double overhead camshaft cylinder head and three two-barrel Solex 40 PHH
carbs to produce 150hp. Due partly to the fact that James Bond drove one
in You Only Live Twice, it was destined to become a collectors item, a
2000GT that cost about US$6800 new in 1967 will fetch in excess of US$100,000
today for a near perfect example.
A small cab-forward truck powered by a 660cc 4cyl. engine.
TOYOTA CROWN PICK-UP
Nissan had been basing it's smaller pick-ups on it's small sedans since the 1930s, and Toyota were doing the same in the early 1960s with pick-up versions of the Publica, Tiara and Corona. But Toyota took it one step further and built a pick-up based on it's top of the range luxury model, the Crown. It had all the Crown's luxury features, and also it's 2 litre 6 engine.
MITSUBISHI 500 A10
Mitsubishi is one of Japan's oldest car makers dating back to 1917. The 500 was their early kei car, with a 493cc 21hp 2cyl. engine.
HINO BRISKA PICK-UP
Hino are well known today for their large trucks. In the late 1960s Toyota took control of Hino and killed off it's car making division and kept the Hino brand as Toyota's large truck division. The Briska was a conventional (unlike the rear engined Contessa sedans they were building at the time) mid-sized pick-up range that also died after the Toyota takeover.
The Crown range dates back to the 1950s and has always been Toyota's large size car. For a while the cars were being sold as Toyopets rather than Toyotas. In the 1960s the Toyopet name was used for it's smaller cars, and by the mid-1960s the name had totally disappeared.
Suzuki built only 43 examples of the Suzulight, their first car. It has a 2 stroke 360cc air cooled 2 cyl. engine.
Hino was established in 1942 and started building cars in 1953. Many Japanese car makers had technical agreements with European car makers organized by the Allied Forces after the war to help rebuild the Japanese industrial sector. (Nissan had an agreement with Austin) Unfortunately for Hino rather than being allied with a decent car company, they were stuck with Renault. In 1953 they started building Renault 4CVs under licence. When they started building their own cars they used Renault technology (!) , which meant engines slung way over the back wheels giving them a less than ideal weight distribution. Early Contessas had an 893cc 35hp engine.
The Suzuki Fronte was a small front engine, rear wheel drive car powered by a 660cc engine.
back to the Index Page