Remembering Japanese cars from the past

Dare to stand out: buy a Mitsuoka!

What JNC is so ugly that it is cute? That was basically JNC’s last weeks question of the week. I’d say anything that leaves the Mitsuoka factory. I’m reposting my comment because I think it is an answer that I have that deserves a bit more length than I gave it in the comment. Also don’t take this posting too seriously: I’m ranting more than reasoning down below. ;)
Mitsuoka BUBU Shuttle-50
Mitsuoka started their car company by producing the Shuttle 50, passed on its technology to the BUBU 50 and by then things still were fine. It started to go downhill once Mitsuoka built a Mercedes-Benz SSK and Porsche 356 lookalike cars using the underpinnings of existing cars.

Both cars were received quite well and to illustrate how well they did their job, can you see the difference between a Porsche 356 and the Bubu 356 below?
Mitsuoka Bubu 356
I have to look at least thrice to notice tiny little differences… So there is nothing wrong (yet) with these almost perfect replicas. However these two cars initiated the shift in focus towards retro styled cars.

From then onwards Mitsuoka became a carrozzeria that built retro-lookalike cars based upon an existing chassis (mostly Nissan and Honda). This would not have been bad at all if they did things like Nissan did with the Pikes cars (Be/Figaro/Pao/S-Cargo). Mitsuoka chose instead for the baroque way and created hideous cars in the 90s like the Le-Seyde (S13 meets Cruella de Vil), Ryoga (Primera P11 meets Jaguar XK120) and best (or worst) of all the Viewt (March K11 meets Jaguar Mark 2).

Mitsuoka Le-Seyde: Nissan S13 meets Cruella de Vil

The Germans invented a term for Mitsuoka’s style in the 19th century: Kitsch.
To quote Hermann Broch: kitsch mimics its immediate predecessor with no regard to ethics—it aims to copy the beautiful, not the good. (taken from wikipedia)

In other words: the problem with Mitsuoka is that they take an existing (Nissan) car, modify the front and rear, but leave the mid section as is. The mid section is, of course, a typical 90s soap bar styled car while the front and rear are retro 50s and 60s styling. The result is that the front and rear look beautiful while the mid section looks like the Hunchback of the Notre Dame. As we all know from the Walt Disney movie, the Hunchback was actually kind of cute.

Mitsuoka Viewt: Hunchback of the Notre Dame?

That leaves me why Mitsuoka cars are both ugly and cute: the panels are so nicely done and the 50s and 60s styling is applied to a way smaller car that the original was copied from that it looks cute, adorable and cuddly. Mitsuoka must have realized that and they even feature a model called Mitsuoka Cute and yet again: based upon the Nissan March.

Mitsuoka Cute: too cute to be ugly?

Those early Mitsuoka cars are becoming JNC one by one. Early Viewt models are now 22 years old and are already becoming collector items abroad. Also the La-Seyde is 25 years old now and its S13 underpinnings make it a very attractive car to own: cheap to run, plenty of parts available and easily repairable/modifiable. And there is already someone who found that out in Japan:
Mitsuoka Le-Seyde drift (c) Nori Yaro
Should we care about Mitsuoka? Yes we should. Even if the whole company is outputting nothing but kitsch retro styled cars they still offer us a breeze of freshness over the original cars that they were built upon. Dare to stand out: buy a Mitsuoka!

Photos via: Mitsuoka, Juiceboxforyou, Motorstown, My9909 @ Cardomain and Nori Yaro


  1. B-san

    I’d love to own a LeSeyde or Himiko though!
    The rest is are just cool because they are so hidious and different.
    Their are two Mitsuoka’s for sale in Holland atm though

    • banpei

      I only see one Galue for sale in Schiedam. Got a link to the other one?

      • B-san

        Bij; hebben ook een S-Cargo te koop staan (en figaros). Stond laatst ook een hele mooie President en Figaro op Marktplaats. Helaas heb ik de schuur als vol staan met Eunos’en en Miata’s… maar als er ooit een betaalbaar Figarootje langs komt…

        • banpei

          Right. Zal eens een bezoekje plegen binnenkort…

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