Mitsuoka Motors, the 10th registered car brand in Japan, is famous its offbeat interpretations of more accessible vehicles. This small producer makes exciting changes to Nissan, Toyota, Porsche, Honda, Volkswagen, and other well-known makes. Ultimately they're producing something new, exciting, and totally different in styling. While under the hood might be remarkably similar, the bodywork is nothing like the originals. Add in an amazing line of microcars, and you have an unapologetically different brand. From 3-wheeled microcars to modern reinterpretations of 1950s race cars, the look of Mitsuoka is unique. Starting in 2015, this small Japanese company started releasing cars in the UK under the auspices of T W White & Sons, launching their Himiko Roadster at the 2016 London Motor Show. Since 1996, Mitsuoka has been creating some of the most interesting rides you've probably never seen.
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The Orochi is the Mitsuoka sports car based on the Honda/Acura NSX. The 2007 version of this vehicle takes a solid, 2-seater sports car and turns it into a super fashion accessory. A full leather interior, power mirrors, and plenty of upgrades make it fun to drive and even more fun to show off. Of course, since Mitsuoka only produced 400 total over four years, not many people have enjoyed a ride in this hidden gem.
The Nissan Crew was given new life by the designers at Mitsuoka under the name Galue in 1996. Using the same engine, this car got a serious style update, combining fun features like the chrome grille of a Bentley, rear lights of a Cadillac, and wood trim on the interior. Over the years the Galue has gone through several reinventions, but the original is what first helped get Mitsuoka off the ground and rolling, along with a little help from the Viewt.
One of the most popular models ever produced by Mitsuoka, the Viewt hit the road in 1993. Made using the mechanics from Nissan's K11 March, it looked like a modern take on the very retro 1963 Jaguar Mark 2. Modern engineering meets classic car looks in this vehicle that started the trend of retro car styling. Selling 12,000 units, this reimagined version of the K1 March became an almost instant classic, with the fixed rear window and rounded rear boot replacing the more functional lines of the hatchback body from Nissan.
The 2010 Mitsuoka Roadster, also known as Himiko, is built on the mechanics of the Mazda MX-5 NC. Its 2-seater roadster roots seem like a distant cousin with the extended wheelbase in front of the A-pillar that mimics the look of iconic English roadsters like the Morgan Aero 8. Fiber-reinforced plastic paneling is another big difference, helping the car maintain performance standards with the modified exterior. The interior features well-known combinations of leather and wood trim, a standard feature in many Mitsuoka cars.
The Mitsuoka Rock Star was announced for 2019, but only 50 are being made. These cars are the Mazda Miata wearing a Corvette suit. Under the hood, it's all Mazda, but on the outside, it looks like a Corvette Stingray from the 80s and 90s. In total, Mitsuoka expects to produce 200 of these rock classics over the course of three years. Unfortunately, unless you've already ordered one, you'll have to live with the knowledge that someone else is enjoying one of these tongue in cheek masterpieces. They're all sold out.
In 2014, Mitsuoka announced the Final Edition of the Orochi, their ridiculously stylish, 2-seater sports car. As the Final Edition, it was an homage to all the years that came before and a goodbye to one of the models that had become synonymous with the brand. This last hurrah only produced five cars, three painted in gold pearl and two in a lush, purple color. The black-painted alloy wheels were a new addition for this model and were not available on any other Orochi vehicles.
Did they say Final Edition? They meant final except for a few special editions like the Evangelion. Named after one of the most iconic anime series of all time, this reentry model was based on the Gold Premium edition with four tailpipes and a variable exhaust system. The multi-colored paint job is meant to invoke images of the giant robots from the show, a throwback to the 90s. Only one of these cars ever rolled off the production floor.
Some cars get called a box on wheels, but the Bubu 502 is an actual box, sitting on wheels. Of course, with the whole microcar running on a 50cc scooter engine, you don't really need to worry about aerodynamics. This thing tops out at 40mph, and slower if you're full up in the cargo space. The three-wheeled construction takes what should be a maneuverable, small ride and turns it into an eye-catching chugger that slows on the uphill and does anything but dart.
Introduced in 1999, the Galue II moved away from the Crew and used the Nissan Cedric Y34 as the base for this retro-styled sedan. The modified front and rear spoiler, along with the upgraded interior fittings are the norm for any Mitsuoka full sized car. The Galue II's styling took a sharp turn from the original model with fun elements like the spoked alloy wheels and oversized grille. It was available in a 2.5 and 3.0L V6 engine, same as you'd get in the Cedric.
Few automakers look to failed companies for inspiration, but Mitsuoka is anything but ordinary. The Le-Seyde is an almost identical version of the Zimmer Golden Spirit from the 80s, reproduced with 90s technology. This cover-up sits on top of the tech from the Nissan Silva S13, and only 500 units were ever made. Given the popularity, you would have thought they'd pop out a few more. Apparently, those 500 were sold within four days, making it insanely popular for a custom style package.
Another version of the Zimmer Golden Spirit is the Dure, the convertible model of the Le-Seyde. It was a limited production run only produced in the summer of 1991, but it differed in its mechanics. Under the hood of the Dure are Ford Mustang mechanics, including the 302-cu-in. V8 engine, giving this version plenty of roar. The styling was identical but for the convertible top, and it sold almost as quickly. Imagine driving around in a Mustang masquerading as a classic car.
When looking at whacky combos, the introduction of the Ryugi in 2014 has to be near the top. It's a Toyota Corolla. But, it looks like a Bentley Continental S2. Take a gas guzzler from the early 60s and plop it on top of a fuel-efficient and reliable car of today. The result could only come from Mitsuoka. Plus, for the first time, there's a hybrid option. That's a world away from anything that would have been available when the S2 was in production.
When talking about crazy mashups, the reinvigorated Galue 204 takes things to the next level. Built on the Toyota Corolla Axio, this Mitsuoka car features a front end that looks shockingly like the Audi R8s and a rear that is lifted right from a Cadillac Fleetwood. All of the dependability of a Corolla with an Old World style that can't be beat. That's what you get with the Galue 204, first produced in 2008.
While the quirky rebrands are a big part of the Mitsuoka brand, so is their microcar lineup. The 2010 Like sits somewhere in between. Built on the Mitsubishi i-MiEVs tech, it's an electric car that has a few major styling changes. First up is the long body which allows for five passengers. The Mitsubishi version only seats 4. Next is the upgraded front and rear paneling that gives the car a bit of style, though nothing like their retro looks on some of the rest of the Mitsuoka lineup.
In a somewhat surprising move, Mitsuoka moved away from Nissan with the Nouera and used the Honda Accord as the base. The iconic styling reaches back to the great details of classic British cars with the large chrome grille and twin circular headlamps. The interior is almost identical to an Accord, with a leather and wood trim package available. It was available in a 2.0 or 2.5L engine and a 5-speed automatic transmission in a 4-door saloon-style car.