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20 Funny Looking Japanese Production Cars

Vukasin HerbezJuly 26, 2018

  1. Toyota Sera

At first glance, the Toyota Sera looks like a generic Japanese compact from the early 90’s. But when you open the door, you will see why this little car is so special. Toyota conceived it on their regular Corolla platform. They powered it with an ordinary 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine, so the Sera is technically a regular car.

But the design and technical solutions of the cabin, doors and roof are unique. The Sera project showed the world how a boring compact car can be a design marvel. To do so, Toyota installed a glass canopy that partially opened with butterfly-style doors rarely seen on anything except for McLaren F1 supercars.

The production of this feature was demanding because Toyota needed special tools and machines to fabricate the door mechanisms and the specially curved glass. However, Toyota’s engineers managed to pull it off and introduced the Sera in 1990. It stayed in production until 1996, during which time they made over 16,000. Unfortunately, they sold almost all of them exclusively in Japan.

  1. Suzuki X-90

The 90’s were strange times when the Japanese car industry produced some odd vehicles. Back in the day, Suzuki was one of the biggest Japanese economy car brands with millions of buyers in the U.S. However, thanks to the successful Samurai SUV, the company wanted to explore the rising SUV market. But they didn’t want to go with the common Vitara and Grand Vitara models.

Suzuki wanted something completely different. They decided to produce a two-seater, two-door SUV with compact dimensions and a removable T-Top. They introduced the X-90 in 1995 with a 95 HP 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine. The X-90 had rear-wheel drive as standard or optional all-wheel drive. It had limited interior and trunk space.

Suzuki officially offered the car in America, selling 7,000 copies. However, neither the buyers nor the motoring press understood what Suzuki wanted to say with this model. Suzuki discontinued the X-90 in late 1998. However, up to this day, it is one of the strangest Japanese production cars of all time.

  1. Nissan Cube

As you probably know, the Japanese car industry is full of interesting Kei Cars. They are diminutive subcompacts perfectly suited for the narrow streets of Tokyo. And one of the strangest is the Nissan Cube, which they also sold in America and Europe but with limited success.

The Cube is powered by 1.4 and 1.5-liter gasoline engines and features a strange square design with an asymmetrical rear window. The car has compact dimensions although it has plenty of room on the inside. Popular in Japan, the Cube is quite rare elsewhere.

  1. Suzuki Cappuccino

The Cappuccino is a tiny roadster consisting of aluminum with rear wheel drive, a cramped interior and a small trunk. The engine only delivers 64 HP from its 670 cc three cylinder unit. But it likes to rev thanks to weighing only 1,400 pounds. This car has a lively performance and unbelievable driving dynamics.

Suzuki produced it in a right-hand-drive configuration only, selling it in selected markets in Asia and Europe. Also, the Cappuccino is a rare car with the total production of approximately 28,000 examples.

  1. Subaru SVX

Back in the early ’90s, Subaru wanted to enter the sports car market to promote its biggest assets, the all-wheel drive and flat six engine. So, the company hired the Italdesign Company to design the sleek, modern coupe.

In 1991, the Subaru SVX debuted with strange styling and complicated side window patents. But it had sublime handling and a great performance. Under the hood was a 3.3-liter flat six that propelled this rare car from 0 to 60 in 7.3 seconds. They sold only about 14,000 in America until 1996.

  1. Toyota Will Vi

In an attempt to bring some excitement to the Kei Car class, In 2000, Toyota introduced a strange and ugly model they called the Will Vi. They sold the car on the Japanese market only. It featured a concave rear, unexpected design elements and unusual details.

It came with a 1.3-liter four cylinder mated to an automatic transmission, so the performance was quite slow. The market didn’t respond well, so they discontinued the car in 2001 after selling just a few of them.

  1. Mitsuoka Viewt

As we told you before, the world of Japanese Kei Cars is crazy and the Mitsuoka Viewt is just another example. They introduced it in the early ‘90s. The Viewt is a retro-styled subcompact car they built on the Nissan Micra base.

Mitsuoka paid much attention to the details, fabricating a new front and rear end to make the Micra resemble the classic early ’60s Jaguar Mk2 sedan. However, the drivetrain was the same as in the Micra, so it meant that Viewt delivered a modest performance and top speeds.

  1. Prince Skyline Coupe

The car industry in post-war Japan was modest and concentrated on small Kei Cars. But there was one factory that produced luxury vehicles with the looks of those high priced European models. It was the Prince Motor Company.

The best and most influential model was the Skyline Sport Coupe with its sleek design, perfect stance and luxury feel. It came with a 1.9-liter four cylinder engine delivering around 100 HP. Despite its effect on the market, the price was high, so they made just a few hundred of them.

  1. Nissan Pao

Even before retro was a thing in car design, Nissan presented an influential and crazy looking compact model they called the Pao. It was for sale on the Japanese market only and all of them came in right hand drive configuration.

The design resembled the Austin Farina or Mini, but underneath the body, the Pao was an advanced car with an independent suspension and 52 HP engine. Nissan sold it for just three years between 1989 and 1991. They made over 50,000 of them.

  1. Nissan S-Cargo

Often called one of the ugliest cars ever produced, Nissan S-Cargo has a cult following, and not only in Japan, but worldwide. The reason is simply its unusual styling and design that is unique in the car world.

Nissan introduced the car in 1989. It was a highly stylized urban Kei Car delivery vehicle with modest power and dimensions, but great usability and practicality. It got its power from a 1.5-liter engine mated to a three-speed automatic gearbox. However, despite being unique and interesting, they sold only around 8,000 of them.

Which is your favorite on this list of crazy, funny and insane Japanese production cars? Be sure to get your Kei car before it becomes rarer and way more expensive.

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