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[ The Mitsubishi 360 / Minica ]
Mitsubishi Minica 1962 – 2011 (昭和37-平成23 三菱 ミニカ)
The Mitsubishi Minica was first produced by Shin Mitsubishi Heavy-Industries from 1962 – 1964, it was one of 3 regional Mitsubishi Heavy Industry auto companies, until they all merged in 1964. In Japan, it was sold at a specific retail chain called ‘Galant Shop‘. In 2011, after 8 Generations of production, the Minica was replaced by the Mitsubishi eK.
The 1st Generation (1961 – 1969)
[ The Mitsubishi 360 ]
The precurser to the Mitsubishi Minica was the Mitsubishi 360 Light Truck, which was first introduced in April 1961. Specifically designed for the lowest kei-car vehicle tax classification, it was powered by an air-cooled 359 cc, 17 PS (13 kW) engine, with an 80 kph (50 mph) top speed, complemented by a fully syncromeshed 4-speed gearbox. After the successful 1962 introduction of the front-engined rear-wheel drive passenger car version, called the Minica, the 360 van and pickup continued alongside the Minica, sharing its development.
[ BODY & CHASSIS CODES ]
2-door, 2-seater van (LT20); 2-door light van (LT21/23) 2-seat pickup truck (LT22/25)
[ The Mitsubishi 360 Pickup ]
1968 – 1969 Mitsubishi 360 Light Van: (LT20)
Originally available as a panel van or light van (station wagon), it was registered as a commercial vehicle for tax purposes, with a later pickup version added in October 1968. The Mitsubishi 360 had suicide doors and were often accented by whitewall tyres and lace curtains*, both standard on the Light Van DeLuxe introduced in April 1962, to complete the picture.
* Lace curtains seem to be an Asian thing, they can still be seen in cars today throughout Japan.
ENGINES: (359cc air-cooled 2-stroke in line twin)
ME21: 17PS @ 4,800 rpm; ME24: 18PS @ 4,800 rpm; ME24D: 21PS @ 5,500 rpm;
ME24E : 26PS @ 5,500 rpm; 2G10: 23PS @ 5,500 rpm (water-cooled).
The 360 and Minica were given a thorough facelift in November 1964, with an entirely new pressed metal chrome grill. The more modern look was accompanied by the new, somewhat more powerful ME24 engine, affording a top speed of 85kph (53 mph).
In August 1966, the Mitsubishi Minicab cab-over pickup truck was launched to complement the Mitsubishi 360 light truck. Powered by the same air-cooled 2-stroke 359 cc engine as the Minica, it came with cargo gates on 3 sides to simplify loading and unloading. In December 1966, the ‘360’ received a less ornate grille. In May 1967, the 360 and Minica were both updated with the new 21 PS ME24D, increasing top speed to 90 km/h (56 mph). In September 1968 a Super Deluxe version of the light van was added, featuring a new plastic grille and more modern interior. At the same time, the pickup dropped the 360 model name and was from now on sold as the Minica Pick (ミニカ·ピック). By 1969, the new Minica Van had superseded the (LT23) and it was no longer produced, although the (LT25) pickup continued to be built until 1971. These late models have the air-cooled ME24E engine with 26 PS (19 kW), although top speed remained 90 km/h (56 mph). It also has the same blacked-out plastic grille as fitted to the Super Deluxe and late 1st-generation Minicas.
[ The Minica Sedan October 1962 – July 1969 ]
The first Minica (LA20) was first introduced in October 1962 as a 2-door sedan (saloon) based on the Mitsubishi 360 light truck, sharing its front-mounted ME21 359 cc twin-cylinder air-cooled engine driving the rear wheels, transverse leaf springs in front and beam axle/leaf springs at the rear. Top speed was marginally higher at 86 kph (53 mph). With its tailfins and scalloped rear windshield, the Minica looked even more anachronistic than its van/pickup counterparts.
(1st Generation Mitsubishi Minica Pickup & Deluxe)
In November 1964 the Minica and 360 received a fairly thorough facelift and the improved ME24 engine (LA21). Power output was up by one, to 18 PS (13 kW), with the new ‘Auto Mix‘ system removing the need for premixing oil and gasoline.
In December 1966, along with a slightly different grille and new badging, a basic Standard Minica Sedan was added, while the regular version was promoted to Deluxe. Prices were ¥340,000 (£2,543) and ¥368,000 (£2,752) respectively. In May 1967, the Minica was given another minor update, with a modified dashboard and a padded centre steering wheel. The engine was also upgraded, with the new reed valve ME24D providing a useful 21 PS.
(Note the different grille and twin headrests)
In September of the following year, a Super Deluxe grade was added, using the new 23 PS (17 kW) water-cooled 2G10 engine developed for the next-generation Minica. This the (LA23) also featured a full vinyl interior and a new plastic grille (as on the Mitsubishi 360 van pictured above). With the July 1969 introduction of the 2nd-generation Minica, the LA series was discontinued.
[ The 1969 Mitsubishi Minica 70 Experimental Model ]
(The experimental Minica with the hatchback styling)
[ The 1969 Mitsubishi Minica GD Jeep Style Concept ]
The 2nd Generation (1969 – 1974)
Sedan: 1969 – 1973; Van: 1969 – 1981; Skipper: 1971 – 1974
The 2nd-Generation Minica 70 was introduced in July 1969 with coil springs front and rear, a 5-link rigid rear axle, and a 3-door sedan body featuring the new ‘Wing-Flow Line‘ style. The new design was much more appealing to young buyers than the dated looks of earlier Minicas, and the rear hatch was a Kei-class first. Two 359 cc 2G10 water-cooled 2-stroke powerplants were optionally available (A101), either the Red 28 PS (21 kW) engine (Super Deluxe, Sporty Deluxe) or the Gold engine fitted with twin SU carburetors developing 38 PS (28 kW). The Gold engine, introduced in December 1969, was fitted as standard to the SS and GSS sport models introduced at the same time. The basic Standard and Deluxe versions (A100) were still fitted with the old 26 PS (19 kW) ME24E air-cooled Yellow engine, with a top speed of 105 kph (65 mph). The better equipped Hi-Deluxe version also appeared in December 1969.
The Minica 70 (A100):
A 2-door wagon body was also added in December 1969 and was to remain in production until its eventual replacement by the Minica Econo in 1981. In October 1970 the ME24F Yellow engine gained 4 hp for a total of 30 PS (22 kW) (the Van did not receive this upgrade) while the Red engine went up to 34 PS (25 kW). The GSS version gained integrated foglights and 4 round headlights, while the SS was discontinued at the same time. A luxurious GL version was also introduced for 1971, featuring high-back bucket seats in front.
1969 – 1973 Minica Van (A100V):
In February 1971 a very minor facelift meant the car was now called the Minica 71. In addition to more aggressive, wider taillights and some trim changes, you could now get the water-cooled 2G10 engine in the lower priced ‘Family Deluxe‘. The Minica Skipper (A101C) was introduced in May 1971 as a 2-door coupé with liftable rear window, and a choice of Red or Gold 2G10 engines. The Skipper was available either as the S/L, L/L or GT. This also meant that the GSS sedan was gradually becoming obsolete, as the focus of the sportier Minicas shifted to the coupé versions. Styling wise, the Skipper represented a miniature version of the seminal hardtop Mitsubishi Galant GTO. To allow for a combination of fastback styling with rearward visibility, a secondary small rear window was placed on the back panel, à la the Maserati Khamsin and Honda CR-X. The top rear window opened for access to the luggage area, which featured a folding rear seat.
Rare LHD Minica Skipper in Okinawa:
By September 1971, with the introduction of the Minica 72, the sedan versions were no longer available with the powerful Gold engine. Changes were limited to a new honeycomb grille, taillights incorporating amber indicators and a new dash similar to that of the Skipper. The Sporty Deluxe version was also discontinued. In October 1972 the 2nd-generation Minica received its last facelift, becoming the Minica 73 to soldier on for another year as a low-cost alternative to the new F4. Sold either as a Standard or a Deluxe, only the de-tuned 31 PS (2G10-5) Red engine also used in the Van versions were now available, placing the ’73’ firmly at the bottom of the Minica lineup. There were no more air-cooled Minicas available. One year later, a Van Custom was added, with 4 headlights and more extensive equipment. In late 1974 or early 1975 the Van was updated to accept new larger license plates that were now required. The Van continued with the 2-stroke 2G10-5 engine until being replaced by the bigger-engined Minica 5 Van (A104V) in March 1976.
1973 Minica Skipper IV
Also in October 1972 the renamed Skipper IV (A102) received the new 4-stroke (2G21) engine from the Minica F4, with either 32 or 36 PS. A new F/L replaced the S/L in the lineup. Along with some safety improvements in October 1973 both engines were replaced by the 30 PS (22 kW) ‘Vulcan S‘ engine, as the Skipper IV lineup was further narrowed. The coupé continued in production until July 1974, but ever more strangled by emissions regulations its market had by then shrunk to almost nothing.
The Van lives on . . .
The Minica Van, based on the 1969 Minica 70, lived a long life until eventually being replaced by the Minica Econo in 1981. Starting with the air-cooled (A100V), it was replaced by the water-cooled (A101V) in late 1972. There was no A102 or A103 van, as the (A101V) remained available only with the air-cooled Red 2-stroke engine until the introduction of the Minica 5 Van (A104V) in March 1976. This was soon followed by the bigger engined Minica 55 Van (A105V), which has the newer 2G23 engine with 29 PS (21 kW) @ 5,500 rpm. The 55 Van was available in a few different equipment levels, from the Standard at the bottom to the Super Deluxe on top.
The 3rd Generation (1972 – 1977)
The 3rd-generation Minica was introduced as the Minica F4 (A103A) in October 1972 with a 359 cc OHC engine using the same layout, but featuring a liftable clam-shell rear window as on the coupé. The Skipper continued in production, as of October 1973 with the new engine, becoming the Minica Skipper IV. The new 4-stroke Vulcan 2G21 MCA engine (Mitsubishi Clean Air) was much cleaner than, but not as smooth running as its 2-stroke predecessors. The 6 single-carb engined versions provided 32 PS (24 kW) while the twin-carb version listed for the GS & GSL models offered 36 PS (26 kW). The Van range continued to use the previous body.
1973 – 1974 Minica F4 GL:
In late 1973, facing shrinking Kei-car sales, Mitsubishi narrowed the Minica F4 range down to 4 equipment levels, Hi-Standard, Deluxe, GL and SL, with the cheaper versions featuring a new grille. The sporty versions were discontinued, as the twin-carb engine fell foul of new emissions regulations. The modified Vulcan S engine came equipped with a balance shaft, later called the ‘Silent Shaft‘ and was cleaner yet, hence the ‘MCA-II’ tag. Power, however, was down to 30 PS. Top speed was 115 kph (71 mph). In December 1974, the lineup was again revamped, with the GL & SL becoming the Super Deluxe and Custom. Mitsubishi also lightly redesigned the Minica to accept the new, bigger license plates now required for Kei-cars.
The 2G2 engine 1972 – 1989:
In May 1976, March for the Minica 5 Van, due to the revised kei-car regulations of January 1976, length up to 3.2 m, width to 1.4 m and engine size to 550cc. Both the sedan and the van received a new long-stroke 471cc engine, a small increase in length, due to new, larger bumpers and a new name, the Minica 5. Both models were also lightly facelifted, featuring new grilles, while equipment levels remained the same. While power output of the new Vulcan 2G22 engine did not change for the sedan (A104A), the van (A104V) received a lower powered 28 PS (21 kW) version. The Minica 5 was an interim model, anticipating the more thoroughly revised Minica Ami 55 which was soon to arrive.
The 4th Generation (1977 – 1984)
In June 1977 the car and engine grew once again, creating the Minica Ami 55. While the side body panels remained the same, length increased yet a little more (3175 mm) and the entire car was widened by 10 mm (0.4 in). The updated 546cc Vulcan 2G23 engine provided 31 PS (23 kW) for the (A105A). Its sibling, the Minica 55 Van (A105V) was updated in March 1977 and was almost impossible to distinguish from the previous Minica 5 Van, apart from badging and a slightly less plasticky front end. The bigger engine provided some useful additional torque, but the sporting Minicas of the early seventies were now a memory. The traditional and unusual amongst Kei-cars Panhard layout remained.
Minica Ami 55 XL (A105A):
September 1978 brought another engine upgrade. The new Vulcan II G23B featured the lean burn MCA-Jet emissions control system with a hemispherical head, aluminium rocker arms and 3-valves per cylinder, but power outputs remained the same. The model code became (A106), with (A106V) used for the van which continued to use the bodywork of the 2nd Generation.
In September 1981 the car received another redesign. An entire new rear end meant a slightly longer wheelbase, up to 2,050 mm and a somewhat longer and taller body. The somewhat boxy rear end, still with a clamshell rear window, looked a bit incongruous paired with the original Minica F4 front wings and doors. The new Minica was renamed the Minica Ami L (A107A), but bigger news was that the Minica 55 Van, based on the 1969 A100V, was finally retired. The new (A107V) Minica Econo, ‘Econo‘ hinting at its primary use as a private economy car rather than as a commercial vehicle, looked very similar to the Ami L but featured a proper rear hatch and folding rear seat, allowing it to be registered as a light commercial vehicle like its competitors the Daihatsu Mira, Suzuki Alto and Subaru Rex. Cargo capacity, compared to the more workmanlike Minica 55 Van, was reduced from 300 to 200 kg (441 lb).
The Minica Econo:
A 2-speed, semi-automatic gearbox was also available on all models, while the standard 4-speed manual received lower gearing for the Econo model. The engine was quieter than before, featuring a milder cam profile. Power output of the G23B remained the same, although the Econo was stuck with a 29 PS (21 kW) version of the old 2G23 engine. Top speed of the Ami was 110 kph (68 mph). In December 1981 a strict 2-seater version of the Econo was added. One year later, the Minica was sold with the new ‘MMC’ logo rather than the old ‘three diamonds‘. In March 1983 the Minica Ami L Turbo became the first kei car to be offered with a turbocharger, offering 39 PS (29 kW) and glitzy graphics. This proved short-lived, as by January 1984 production of the A107 Minicas had ended, with Mitsubishi preparing for the release of an all new, front-wheel drive Minica.
The 5th Generation (1984 – 1989)
The 5th-generation Minica was introduced in February 1984 as a front-engined, front-wheel drive vehicle for the first time. It offered 3- and 5-door configurations, increased size and a torsion beam/coil spring rear suspension. It retained the G23B engine, but modernised with a timing belt rather than the old noisy timing chain. The Minica sedan had 33 PS (24 kW), the Econo 31 PS (23 kW) and the Turbo gained an intercooler and now offered 42 PS (31 kW). Air conditioning finally became an option.
The 5th Generation Minica:
In September 1985 a 4WD model with a live rear axle was introduced. This generation was the first to reach export markets, usually labelled Mitsubishi Towny, originally with a 2-cylinder 783 cc engine and a 4-speed manual transmission. Later in 1987 it received a 3-cylinder 796 cc engine with 45 PS (33 kW) and a 5-speed gearbox, also manufactured locally by CMC motors in Taiwan only as a 5-door, and 3-door panel van was also marketed abroad.
January 1989 Minica:
The 6th Generation (1989 – 1993)
Minica Dangan ZZ
(The Dangan ZZ-4 appears in Kat’s Run: Zen-Nippon K Car Senshuken in Nintendo’s Super Famicom)
In January 1989 the 6th Generation Minica was officially introduced, although the engine, wheelbase, and suspension remained unchanged. In addition to the 3- and 5-door models, a variant with a single door on the right side, two doors on the passenger side, and a liftgate was introduced, named the ‘Minica Lettuce‘, yes Lettuce !! An advanced new turbo engine with double overhead cams and the world’s first mass-produced 5-valve-per-cylinder engine was introduced for the Dangan ZZ AWD (all-wheel drive), producing 64 PS (47 kW). It was later made available in naturally aspirated form as well, while the older design engine was also increased in displacement to 657cc in March 1990 when the kei-car regulations were again updated. A tall 3-door MPV model with optional 4-wheel drive, the ‘Minica Toppo‘, was introduced in 1990. Export versions were still usually carrying the Towny label and featured an 800cc 41 PS (30 kW) engine.
The 7th Generation (1993 – 1998)
7th Generation Minica:
The Toppo BJ:
In September 1993, the 7th Generation 3 & 5-door Minica & Minica Toppo were introduced, with longer a wheelbase. The 5-valve per cylinder 3-cylinder engines were replaced with a pair of 659cc 4-cylinder engines, one normally aspirated with single overhead cam and 4-valves/cylinder, and one turbocharged with double overhead cam and 5-valves/cylinder. A version of the Toppo with 2 doors on the passenger side, similar to the Lettuce, was made available, along with a limited edition RV (recreational vehical) version. In January 1997 versions of the Minica and Toppo with retro-styled front ends were introduced as the ‘Town Bee‘ model, and exported to Taiwan as the Towny.
Retro-Styled Minica Town Bee:
The 8th Generation (1998 – 2011)
Coupé: 1998 – 2007 / Sedan: 1998 – 2011
The enlarged 8th Generation Minica was introduced in October 1998 to take advantage of the new regulations, as 3 & 5-door sedans with torsion beam rear suspension and optional 4WD, with the only available engine the 657cc 3-cylinder overhead cam unit, now equipped with 4-valves/cylinder. A 5-door MPV built on this platform but with a 4-cylinder DOHC (double overhead cam) 5-valve/cylinder turbocharged engine, known as the ‘Mitsubishi Toppo BJ‘ was also introduced.
8th Generation Minica:
In January 1999 the retro-styled ‘Town Bee‘ version of this generation of Minica and the ‘Mitsubishi Toppo BJ Wide‘ were introduced. In October 1999 a 659cc 4-cylinder SOHC (single overhead cam) 4-valve/cylinder turbocharged engine was introduced, and in December 1999 a limited edition of 50 ‘Mitsubishi Pistachios‘ with a 1,094cc DOHC 4-valve/cylinder direct-injection engine was made available only to organizations working to protect the environment. In October 2001 a 5-door wagon version of the Minica was introduced as the ‘Mitsubishi eK Wagon‘, and now serves as Mitsubishi’s primary product in the kei class.
The eK Wagon:
(The replacement Mitsubishi eK uses the same platform as the Minica)
The “Mitsubishi Minica” in Computer Games :
1995 Minica in Kat’s Run – Zennihon K Car Senshuken, 1995; ’95 Minica Toppo inKat’s Run – Zennihon K Car Senshuken, 1995; ’90 Minica in Gran Turismo 2, 1999; ’98 Minica in Gran Turismo 2, 1999; ’97 Minica in Top Gear: Dare Devil, 2000: ’89 Minica in Gran Turismo 4, 2004; ’89 Minica in Gran Turismo 5, 2010; ’89 ‘Minica in Gran Turismo 6, 2013.