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Beginings (Part 1)
(In more or less chronological order)
Cars and Companies that paved the way for the first generation of kei-cars: Through personal endeavour and the determination of war torn companies to find new ways of surviving after World War II are listed below. Undoubtedly there were many others who fell by the wayside on the way there.
[ The Aichi Machine Industry co.ltd. ]
Aichi Machine Industry co.ltd (愛知 機械 工業 株式 会社) ‘aichi-kikai-kōgyō-kabushiki-kaisha’
In 1943, Cony (コ二―) cars were built by the Aichi Machine Industry Company in Nagoya. The company was founded in 1943 and in 1965 it became part of the Nissan group. Initial production was of 3-wheeler trucks.
1955 Cony AA-25F: Cony AA27 ’56 :
(The Cony AA27 has a 359cc 2-cylinder engine)
In 1962 the first Cony Guppy a small pickup truck was produced:
Cony Guppy AE82:
The Cony Guppy first introduced in May 1961 is a small ultra light pick-up truck and is powered by a 199cc 11hp 2-stroke 1-cylinder engine with a kerb weight of 290 kgs (639 lb). The engine is mid-mounted just behind and below the seats in a Rear Mid-engine, Rear-wheel drive (RMR) layout. The Guppy has suicide doors and siren like lights on the B-pillars. The brake lights are tiny and circular.
Note the lights on B-pillars:
Aichi claimed the fuel consumption was 30 kilometers/litre (70 mpg), with a top speed of 80.5 kph (50 mph). The rear-wheel drive pickup had a kerb weight of 290 kg (639 lb) and could carry a load of 100 kilograms. It had a low price of ¥225,000 (£1,633). Other features included 4-wheel independent suspension and a torque converter for clutchless driving. Production ended a little after one year, with less than 5,000 units being manufactured in total.
1962 Cony Guppy AE82 Pickup
Author Tony Davis inducted the Guppy into his ‘Motoring Hall of Shame‘ in the book ‘Extra Lemon !!‘ (page 42). He called the Guppy a lemon and a failure.
The Guppy pickup was used in the popular ‘Narutaru‘ animation series (Episode 1) 2003.
The Guppy Sports coupé is based on the Guppy pick-up and was made into a convertible by the Aichi Giant Co. dealers.
The Cony Super Guppy: (コニ―スーパーグッピー)
The Cony 360 AF3 Pickup is powered by a 354cc 18hp 2-cylinder engine. It was available as a pick-up truck (360 wide), a 2-seater delivery van and also as a 4-seater ‘Coach‘ model.
1960 Cony 360 AF3 Pickup 334cc:
The Cony Pickup was also sold as the ‘Cony Giant‘ (コ二―·ヂャイアント)
1961 Cony 360 AF11 Truck:
Some of the cab-over trucks were made in left-hand drive form for export markets, mainly North America.
(1961 CONY 360 Wagon & Light Vans)
1962 Cony AF8 P/up:
In May 1965, the Cony 360 Wide truck was introduced with a wheelbase of 168 cm, a rear rigid axle with leaf springs and an engine of 354 cc, placed underfloor in the centre. A Van the AF11V was added in June, 1966. The styling was quite modern though uninspiring, and the vehicle remained available until the early seventies.
Cony 360 Truck and Light Van:
Cony 360 Coach: (コニ―360コーチ)
The Aichi company is still in existance. Management Philosophy: We pursue ‘human happiness‘ in harmony with society through ‘*Monozukuri related to automobiles which provide and meet customer satisfaction‘.
*‘Monozukuri’ is about having a state of mind, the spirit to produce not only excellent products but also have the the ability to constantly improve the production system and its processes !!
[History of the Aichi Machine Co.]
1898 July: Established AICHI TOKEI MFG CO. LTD. as a clock maker in Nagoya.
1943 Feb: Separated aircraft manufacturing division of AICHI TOKEI MFG CO, incorporated into ‘Aichi Kokuki Co. Ltd.‘
1947 April: Started the production of the 3-wheeled vehicle ‘GIANT‘ and various engines.
1949 May: Newly established ‘Aichi Kigyo Co. Ltd.‘ under the Company Resuscitation Law.
1952 December: Renamed ‘AICHI MACHINE INDUSTRY CO. LTD.‘
1959 November: Started the Production of the light-duty 4-wheeler ‘CONY 360‘.
1962November: Concluded a technical tie-up with Nissan Motor Co. Ltd.
1965 March: Concluded a business tie-up with Nissan Motor Co. Ltd.
‘The Auto Sandal Motor Co.‘
The Auto Sandal (オート·サンダル) was made from 1947-1954 by the Nakano Automobile Kogyo Co.Ltd. Approximately 196 cars were thought to have been produced. Sandal refers to a type of shoe or flip-flop. Just after World War ll production started in Nagoya, under the auspices of a Mr Nakano Yoshimishiro. The company Nakano Automotive later changed its name to Auto Sandal.
Mr Nakano is pictured standing behind his prototype:
Models: FN & FS (both 1952) 349cc; FN-L (1953) 349cc; Roly (1954) 238cc.
The last picture is a pre-production version. All 3 of the remaining Auto Sandal cars are in working order and are in Kurume, Japan in the Sepia Collection.
The Auto Sandal friction drive:
‘The Daihatsu Motor Co., Ltd.‘
Daihatsu is the oldest Japanese car manufacturer, mostly known for its range of smaller models and off-road vehicles and its earlier 3-wheelers.
The Daihatsu Bee was classed as a 2-door coupé, rear-engined, rear-wheel-drive, microcar. Power was provided by the 540cc OHV air-cooled 2-cylinder 4-stroke H2 petrol engine. It was the first car in Japan with a horizontally opposed engine and was adapted from one of Daihatsu’s 3-wheeled delivery trucks.
The ‘Daihatsu Bee‘ in Computer Games:
The Daihatsu Bee in Choro Q HG 4 (Choro Q) 2003: Bee in Asphalt:Urban GT 2004:
1957-72 Daihatsu Midget 1st Generation: (3-wheeler)
‘The Kaishinsha Motor Works‘
The Kaishinsha Motorcar Works was founded in 1914, and made the first cars using the Datsun (ダットサン) name. The ‘D’ in the company acronym ‘DAT’ was from ‘Den’ after one of the founders’ Den Kenjiro. Later changed to ‘Datsun’, the company was acquired by the Nissan zaibatsu (financial conglomerate) in the 1930’s.
Datsun made just 100 units of the 1965 Datsun Baby (ダットサン·ベビー) 2-seater coupé, it was based on the Aichi Company’s Cony Guppy. With 4-wheel independent suspension, front double wishbones and a 200cc motor, it was made just for children to drive. The car could only be driven at ‘Children’s Country‘ (子供の国) ‘kodomo no kuni‘, an amusement park in Yokohama. The top speed was limited to just 30kph (18mph). A bumper-car like skirt surrounded the lower edges of the car.
Transmissions were automatic, supplied by Okamura Corporation, the firm that built Japan’s first torque converter, and the steering wheel had a spring-actuated self-turning feature. About 300,000 children drove the cars and they remained in use until 1973.
When the ride finally closed, the 100th car was displayed in the amusement park. 40 yrs later, a team of Nissan employees ‘The Nissan Restoration Club‘ took it upon themselves to bring it back to life. The project was undertaken to commemorate the 50th anniversary of ‘Kodomo no Kuni‘ and it takes the team, which was founded in 2006 about 9 months to finish each car.
‘H O P E S T A R‘
The Hope Motor Company (ホ―プ自動車 株式会社) ‘hōpu-jidōsha-kabushiki-kaisha‘was founded in April 1952 by ‘Ono Yoshisada‘ and had its headquarters in Taitō, Tōkyō, using the brand name Hopestar. The company existed until 1974, when its licenses were sold to Suzuki. Production finally ceased in April 1974, ending production of the Hopestar models that were still being made alongside the Suzuki brands.
The 3-wheelers sold in their thousands and were perfect for Japanese roads.
(The 1953-67 Hope Star ON 360)
Only about 15 ON 360’s were produced, it was a mini-jeep powered by a Mitsubishi 356cc 2-stroke engine. It was sold to Suzuki and eventually became the Suzuki Jimny.
Other models include the Hope-Star SM (1954-61); Hope-Star SY (1957-62); Hope-Star ST (1960-74); Hope-Star OT (1961-74); Hope-Star OV (1962-74); and the Hope-Star ON 4WD (1967-70).
The 1960 Unicar NT
The Unicar NT was produced from 1960 until 1974 and was advertised as being a pickup in the coupé style, with the slogan: ‘The People Has Many Dreams as To The light Vehicle‘ !!
NŌBEL / NŌVEL (ノーベル号) Nōberu
[ Nōbel/Nōvel Automobile Co. Tōkyō ]
The 1952 Nōbel 350cc 4-stroke air-cooled twin was a 2-speed, 2-door 2-seater coupé and was named after ‘Dr.Yukawa‘ the first doctor to get the Nobel prize in Japan.
[Iso Autoveicoli S.p.A.]
The 1954 Iso Isetta light 4-wheeler class bubble car was sold in Japan. The 236cc mid engined layout 2-stroke developed 9.5 hp (14.4 cu in) had a top speed of 85 kph (53 mph) and took 31 secs to reach 30 mph !! The steering wheel and instrument panel swung out to allow better access to the single bench seat through the front facing door. It was famously branded a BMW in Germany. This early model had eight windows similar to the Heikel / Trojan and a canvas roof. In 1955, it was the world’s first production car to achieve 94 mpg.
Length : 2,250 mm Width : 1,340 mm
Weight : 330 kg Transmission : 4-speed
‘NJ Motor Car Works‘
The Nippon Jidōsha Co. of Kawaguchi, Saitama-ken, produced cars from 1954-55 (*Shōwa 29-30). *Japanese years are named after the Emperor of the time.
Only 85 of the model ‘NJ 号’ (nj-gō) of 1954 were produced, it was a rear-engined 358cc OHV air-cooled 2-stroke developing 12ps @ 4000 rpm. Being impressed by the MG logo in Britain, it was decided to call the car an NJ (Nippon Jidosha). The design proved popular as it resembled the little cars used in amusement car rides.
The Nikkei Taro was previously called NJ (see above).
They could be driven on a scooter licence, a big selling point, as on the advert (above far right)