“The ‘A’ List”
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[ Kei-cars of the 20th Century ]
T H E
(The Minor Players)
(In Alpabetical Order)
Auto Sandal; Autozam; Baby Condor; Cony; Daihatsu; Datsun; Dynastar; Fuji Cabin; Gasuden; Giant; Hope Star; Iso Isetta; Kokuei; Komatsu Nōminsha; Kunomack; Kurogane Baby; Mitsuoka; Musashi Paddle; NJ; Nikkei Tarō; Nobel/Novel; Orient; Pilot; Right Pony; Smart; Spark; Suminoe; Suzulight; Tachihi; Teruyan; Toyo Light; Tuten; Yamaha; Yanase; Yanmar.
* * * AUTO SANDAL (オート·サンダル) Auto Sandal * * *
[Nakano Automobile Kogyo Co.Ltd.]
Mr Nakano (above) the company founder is pictured with the first prototype.
(1952) 349cc FN, FS & FN-L: (1954) 238cc Roly:
The Auto Sandal: (friction drive)
Sandal refers to a type of shoe or flip-flop. All 3 of the last remaining Auto Sandal cars are in working order and are in Kurume, Japan in the ‘Sepia Collection‘ of Mr. Hideki Matsuzaki.
* * * AUTOZAM (アウトザム) Autozam * * *
[Mazda Motor Corporation]
The Autozam marque specialised in small cars and kei-cars with many models being re-badged Suzuki’s.
(1990-94) ‘Carol is a rebadged Suzuki Alto‘
(1990-94) ‘Scrum is a rebadged Suzuki Carry‘
(1992-95) ‘AZ-1 mid-engined sports coupé‘
An offshoot of the giant Mazda Corporation, Autozam was formed in the late 1980’s and ended in the mid 1990’s due to adverse economic conditions.
* * * B A B Y C O N D O R (ベビー·コンドル) Baby Condor * * *
The 1956年 Baby Condor is a chain driven 2-seater microcar coupé. The left-hand-drive coupé bodywork was made of fibreglass reinforced plastic (FRP).
* * * (コ二―) Cony * * *
[ Aichi Machine Industry co.ltd.]
(1955) Cony AA-25F: & the (1956) Cony AA27:
(1960) Cony 360 AF3 ‘Giant‘:
(1961) Cony 360 AF11 Truck & Van:
(1961) Cony 360 Wagon & Light Van:
(1962) Guppy AE82 Pickup & Coupé:
(1962) Cony AF8 pickup: Coach & Van:
The Cony company was founded in 1943 and in 1965 it became part of the Nissan group. Initial production was of 3-wheeler trucks.
* * * DAIHATSU (ダイハツ) Daihatsu * * *
[ 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.
1957-72 Daihatsu Midget (1st Generation): (3-wheeler)
* * * DATSUN (ダットサン) Datsun * * *
[Kaishinsha Motor Works]
Datsun founder: ‘Den Kenjiro‘
The Kaishinsha Motorcar Works was founded in 1914, and made the first cars using the Datsun name. The ‘D’ in the company acronym ‘DAT’ was from ‘Den’ after one of the founders’ Den Kenjiro and was later changed to ‘Datsun’.
(1965) Datsun Baby 200cc Coupé
The Datson company was acquired by the Nissan zaibatsu (financial conglomerate) in the 1930’s.
* * * D Y N A S T A R (ダイナスター) Dynastar * * *
[Ōmyiya Fuji Sangyō Co. Ltd.]
(1953) Dynastar T7 SV single 198cc: (1954):
* * * FUJI CABIN (フジ·カビン) Fuji Cabin * * *
[Fuji Motor Corporation]
Only 85 Fuji Cabins were built between 1954 & 1955, with only 2 or 3 surviving today.
(1955) Fuji Cabin 5A (aka Metro 125)
The Fuji Cabin is more like a scooter with a roof than a car. It has an aeroplane-like steering wheel, and only one headlight.
* * * G A S U D E N (ガスデン) Gasuden * * *
[Fuji Motor Corporation]
The Fuji Motor Co. 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‘. A year later, the company was taken over by Komatsu the giant bulldozer manufacturer.
* * * G I A N T (デャイアント) Giant * * *
[Aichi Kigyo Co. Ltd.]
(1948) Giant AA3: (1951) Giant Coach (6-seater):
(1951) Giant AA3 (デャイアントAA3): (OHV single 636cc 19hp)
* * * HOPESTAR (ホ―プ·スター) Hope Star * * *
[Hope Motor Co.]
The Hope Motor Company was founded in April 1952 by ‘Ono Yoshisada‘, the company existed until 1974, when its licenses were sold to Suzuki.
(1953-67) Hope Star ON 346cc 15hp
(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.
(1960-74) Hope Star Unicar NT
The Unicar NT was advertised as being a pickup in the coupé style, with the slogan: ‘The People Has Many Dreams as To The light Vehicle‘ !!
* * * ISO ISETTA(イソ·エンジェー·イセッタ) Iso Isetta * * *
[Iso Autoveicoli S.p.A.]
(1954) Iso Isetta 236cc
The Iso (little) Isetta was an Italian-designed microcar built under license in a number of countries, it was the top-selling single-cylinder car in the world at the time.
* * * K O K U E I (コクエイ) Kokuei * * *
[Kokuei Zoki Co. Ltd.]
(1950) Kokuei 346cc Romance Car (4-passenger)
* * * (コマツ) Komatsu * * *
Komatsu Nōminsha (コマツ 農民車)
The 1960年 Komatsu Nōmin-sha is an interesting vehicle. It was made by Komatsu the bulldozer and tractor manufacturer. The open jeep style vehicle had a centrally mounted single seat and steering column. The driver’s seat sits directly over the engine, behind which there is seating for 2 people.
Built specially for the farming community, the tyre arrangements front and rear were very tractor like. The vehicle had towing ability and I believe a power take off was available when the vehicle was at rest. With a top speed of only 15 kph (9 mph) it was not suitable for use on the highways of Japan.
* * * K U N O M A C K (くのマック) Kunomack * * *
[Kunomack Manufacturing Co. Ltd.]
(1954) Kunomack 354cc (8.0hp)
* * * KUROGANE (クロガネ) Kurogane * * *
[Nihon Nainenki Co.]
The Nihon Nainenki Co. was formed in 1936 and primarily made small scout cars for the Japanese military.
[ Mitsuoka Motors (光岡自動車) mitsuoka-jidōsha ]
Susumu Mitsuoka: Akio Mitsuoka:
‘Susumu Mitsuoka‘ is the company founder and Chairman, his vision is ‘to create cars that expressed spirit and soul and share them with the world‘. ‘Akio Mitsuoka‘ is the current Representative Director and President.
It is a small company noted for building unique cars with unconventional styling, some of which imitate British vehicles of the 1950’s & 60’s. It is primarily a coachbuilder, taking production cars and replacing various aspects of the bodywork with its own custom designs. Mitsuoka was recognised in 1996 as the 10th Japanese auto manufacturer to be registered in Japan since Honda in 1963. It bases its current cars on Nissan and other Japanese car manufacturers. It also has a retail outlet in England supplying a limited range of grey imports.
(1982-85) Bubu 50 Series 3-wheelers
In the early years, it produced many tiny vehicles like the BUBU Shuttle-50.
(1996-99) Ray 1G is based on the Mazda Carol
The 1st generation Mitsuoka Ray is a heavily modified Mazda Carol. The car started out as a 3-door, however, in 2002 Mitsuoka changed it into a 5-door car. The price ranges from ￥911,000 (£5,734) to ￥1,359,750 (£8,553). Mitsuoka described the Ray as ‘like a dignified and graceful flower‘.
(1998 – 2000) MC-1 & K1’s are mid-engined
The MC-1 was marketed under the slogan ‘Microcar for your life‘.
(1999 – 2000) Ray 2G is based on the Mazda Carol
The Ray earned mixed reviews, earning a place on the ‘Ugliest Cars in Britain‘ list due to problems with quality and design. However, it was voted the most attractive car in Australia !!
* * * MUSASHI PADDLE (ムサシ·パドル ) Musashi Paddle * * *
The 1959年 Musashi Paddle 360 cc Coupé / Pickup Truck was manufactured in Tōkyō by a company which normally made 3-wheelers. The front engined 2-seater was simple in design with clean lines and was fitted with roof and side rails as standard.
* * * NJ (エン·ジェー) NJ * * *
[Nippon Jidōsha Co.]
(1954) NJ 号 (NJ go)
Only 85 of the model NJ 号 (nj-go) were produced. Being impressed by the MG logo in Britain, it was decided to call the car an NJ (Nippon Jidosha).
* * * N I K K E I T A R Ō (ニッケイ·タロー) Nikkei Tarō * * *
[Nihon Jidōsha Co.]
(1957) Nikkei Tarō
The Nikkei Tarō was previously called an ‘NJ’. It could be driven on a scooter licence, a big selling point at the time.
* * * NŌBEL / NŌVEL (ノーベル号) Nōberu * * *
[ Nōbel/Nōvel Automobile Co. Tōkyō ]
The Nōbel/Nōvel was named after ‘Dr.Yukawa‘ the first doctor to get the Nobel prize in Japan.
* * * O R I E N T (オリエント) Orient * * *
The 1955年 Orient was made at Ōsaka in the Prefecture of the same name in the Kansai region of Japan. The shaft driven 3-wheeler 2-seater pickup truck with no doors was of simple design with handlebar steering and was very easy to drive.
* * * P I L O T (パイロット) Pilot * * *
[Yamamoto Manufacturing Co. Ltd.]
(1954) Pilot 3-wheeler: (air-cooled OHV single 220cc 5.5hp)
* * * R I G H T P O N Y (ライト·ポニー) Right Pony * * *
[Koei Kōgyō Co. Ltd.]
(1951) Right Pony: (1952) SV single 148cc:
(1953) Right Pony: (1954) 200 cc:
* * * (スマート) * * *
Smart offered a kei version of its Fortwo called the Smart K in Japan at Yanase dealerships from 2001-2004, with specially developed rear fenders, reduced tyre dimensions and track width, in order to conform to the current kei car standards at the time.
* * * S P A R K (スパーク) Spark * * *
[Nippon Tokushu Togyō Co. Ltd.]
(1954) Spark 3-wheeler: (air-cooled SV single 249cc 9.0hp)
* * * SUMINOE (スミノエ) Suminoe * * *
Mr Katayama: (aka Mr K)
The ‘Flying Feather‘ was conceived by ‘Yutaka Katayama‘ and designed by ‘Ryuichi Tomiya‘ in the late 1940’s.
(1955) Suminoe Flying Feather FF-2
Mr. Katayama had a dream from childhood to build a very light weight car, mostly out of motorcycle parts. It was to have a combination of good performance and economy (air-cooled, 12.5 HP, 2-cylinder), rather like a ‘gull in flight‘, hence the name,’Flying Feather‘. It is the predecessor of the modern kei car.
* * * SUZULIGHT (スズライト) Suzulight * * *
[Suzuki Motor Corporation]
(1955-69) Suzulight ‘S’ series
The 1955 Suzulight Sedan was the first production car to be made by Suzuki.
(1964-69) Suzulight Carry Generations 1 & 2
Suzulight Carry trucks & vans were the first to use the Carry name & are still in use today.
* * * T A C H I H I (タチひ) Tachihi * * *
[Tachihi Kōgyō Co. Ltd.]
(1950) Tachihi TR6: (SV single 148cc 3.1hp 3-passenger)
* * * T E R U Y A N (テルヤン) Teruyan * * *
After 5-years of research, the 1954年 Teruyan SK-36 Coupé / Pickup came to fruition. It was manufactured at Shinagawa-ku in Tōkyō. The 360 cc Coupé weighed in at 350kgs and the power output was 13.6 ps @ 6,000 rpm. The suspension was coil sprung and the top speed was 80 kph (50 mph).
* * * T O Y O L I G H T (トヨ·ライト) Toyo Light * * *
[Toyomotors Co. Ltd.]
(1953) Toyo Light: (air-cooled 2-stroke single 88.4cc 3.0hp)
* * * T U T E N (ツーテン) Tuten * * *
[Aichi Toyomotor Manufacturing Co. Ltd.]
(1954) Tuten 3-wheeler: (air-cooled OHV single 208 cc 7.2hp)
* * * (ヤマハ) Yamaha * * *
[ The Yamaha Motor Co. Ltd. (ヤマハ 発動機 株式 会社) yamaha-hatsudōki-kabushiki-gaisha ]
(1997) Yamaha Ami (YM Mobilemates) Ferrari F40 !!
YM Mobilemates, a branch of the Yamaha Motor Company, announced the production of the Ami, with a Ferrari F40 inspired design. The ami was a Daihatsu Opti variant with a dummy mid-engine design body. It came with the same engine as the Opti’s SOHC or DOHC 12-valve 55 bhp engine.
(1982) Yamaha PTX-1 commuter car 50cc single seater
The Yamaha PTX-1 was shown at the 1983 Tōkyō Motor Show.
* * * (ヤナセ/簗瀬) Yanase * * *
[Yanase Motor Company]
(1957) Yanase YX360 coupé
The Yanase YX360, 2-cylinder 360cc was a 2-door 4-seater kei-car with smooth rounded coupé styling.
* * * (ヤンマー) Yanmar * * *
[Yanmar Motor Co.]
‘The Yanmar Co. 249cc Diesel Engine’
The engine could be used independantly of the truck by farmers out in the fields.
(1958-59) Yanmar KT Diesel: (pickup truck)
(1960) Yanmar KTY 356cc Pony: (cab-over design)
The 356cc OHV air-cooled V-twin diesel engine was now positioned just behind the cab and produced 9 hp at 3,600 rpm.
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