“The Fuji Motor Company”
[ The Fuji Motor Company ]
The Tokyo Gas and Electric Manufacturing Company was formed when the former Hitachi Aviation Company merged with the Fuji Automobile Company a few years after the end of World War Two. The Fuji Company here is not related in any way to Subaru’s parent company Fuji Heavy Industries. The Company hired the former president of Nissan and he undertook the manufacture of small motors for motorcycles and scooters, using the Gasuden name. It was decided to build a complete vehicle, and Ryuichi Tomiya the renowned designer (see: Flying Feather) was commissioned to design a covered scooter. He came up with the the futuristic looking Fuji Cabin. It was more like a scooter with a roof than a car.
” T h e 1 9 5 7 F u j i C a b i n “
The 1957 Fuji Cabin model 5A:
The Fuji Cabin had an aeroplane-like steering wheel, and only one headlight it was powered by a Gasuden 5.5 hp single-cylinder 2-stroke and featured some novel engineering. It was a 3-wheeler with independent suspension on the front wheels, and a swinging arm and coil strut at the back. The body was a monocoque design made of insulated fibreglass. There was only one door on the nearside, but at least one was built with two doors. It had a tube running down the centre of the floor to bring cool air to the rear-mounted motor which also helped make the body rigid. Despite all this, it was said to be pretty unstable at speed. That, combined with poorly made bodies due to Gasuden having zero experience with fiberglass, and an extremely cramped interior even for Japanese people, it made the project something of a disaster. Only 85 Fuji Cabins were built between 1954 and 1955, with only 2 or 3 surviving today. A few years later, Gasuden, now using their own name for some reason, decided to try again with another innovative design.
” T h e 1 9 6 1 G a s u d e n M i n i v a n “
The Fuji Motor Company entered the “Gasuden Minivan 360 M36” at the 1961 Tōkyō Motor Show and it is arguably the first vehicle ever to be termed a “Minivan”. The name “Gasuden” meaning gas powered, comes from “Gas” (petrol) and the Japanese for electricity “Den” (power). The 356cc engine was mounted underneath the floor and had a wheelbase of 188 cm and a rigid rear axle with leaf springs. After the failure of the Fuji Cabin, Gasuden went conservative with the suspension, it had leaf springs all around but with a good weight distribution, it was said to drive very well. As one of only two pint-sized vans at the Motor Show in 1961, it garnered a lot of attention, but Gasuden hadn’t fully recovered from the Fuji Cabin fiasco, and lacked the funds to put the Minivan into production. A year later, the company was taken over by Komatsu the giant bulldozer manufacturer. Four or five prototypes were built, but non of them are known to have survived.
Incidentally, there was also a “Gasuden Koken”, which was a long-range research aeroplane. It was built by the confusingly named Tokyo Gas and Electric Industry, the company that later became “Hino” the bus and truck division of the Toyota Motor Corporation. Somehow, they also have a connection to the Gasuden of Minivan fame in the tangled mess of postwar Japanese reorganisation. War effort companies suddenly had to manufacture new products often with no previous experiance in that field. However, I have not been able to gather any more information on this topic. Help needed !!
The “Fuji Cabin” in Computer Games:
’55 Fuji Cabin in Choro Q HG 4 (Choro Q), 2003:
Fuji Cabin sells for $110,000 at auction !!