CC Capsule: 2017 Mitsuoka Himiko Ran – Chutzpah

We’ve not had a Mitsuoka on CC for a while, but boy have I got a juicy one for you here. Most models made by Japan’s newest and smallest manufacturer are heavily made-up saloons and wagons – formerly mostly Nissans, but they’ve started to broaden their choices. The Himiko we’re looking at here is also hewn from a well-known base, but the transformation process was more extensive than usual.

I won’t bury the lede any longer: what you’re looking at here is a 3rd generation Miata. No kidding. The original car had a 233cm (91.7’’) wheelbase, but the good people at Mitsuoka stretched that to a whopping 303cm (119’’) – and none of that was for the occupants. The Mazda 2-litre 4-cyl. under that long hood remained identical to the stock car, though, producing 170hp.

The object of this considerable stretch was to evoke “a ship riding the high seas, cruising majestically as one of the waves.” I’m not seeing it either, but you have to admire the Kriss craft. The name Himiko is a reference to a legendary Japanese queen from the 2nd Century AD. Not sure about what that has to do with the price of tea in China, either. Those inscrutable folks at Mitsuoka strike once again.

This Morganesque vessel was unleashed upon the world oceans in December 2008 and about 190 units were built in ten years. In 2018, a second generation was introduced with few notable modifications, barring the replacement of the metal top by a fabric one and the fact that it used the new Miata ND platform.

So this is one of the last of the first generation Himiko, a 2017 model. Even though the MC Miata was out of production by the time it was sold, Mitsuoka always keep a few cars of the old generation to carry on production while they work on adapting to the new model.

Even for a Himiko, this one is quite singular. Initially, I thought the car was a little dusty, but on closer inspection, the “dust” seemed to be imbedded in the paintwork. Turns out this is one of only four Ran (“乱” = discord, chaos) special edition cars, featuring unique alloy wheels, a very special interior and that crazy paintjob made to look like lacquerware, befitting the medieval Sengoku-era theme of the car. There are gold leaf flakes in the paint, which were applied by a traditional method called “Hanabufuki,” finished with clearcoat and sanded down multiple times. As a result, creating this Himiko’s paint job took three times more labour than a standard model.

The same red and black with gold theme is naturally carried through into the cabin. Mitsuoka announced the cars were up for grabs in September 2017 and four lucky punters parted with ¥6.38m (roughly $59,000 in 2017) for the privilege of owning one of these singular vehicles. That was over ¥1.2m more than a standard 2017 Himiko, by the way.

Present-day Himikos might as well all be special edition cars anyway. In late July, Mitsuoka let it be known that they would produce a grand total of ten units in 2024 and that the order books were open, at a price of ¥6.87m a pop. It only took three days for the orders to be filled.

It takes a certain amount of cojones to devise a special edition version of an extremely small production retro-styled drop-top that costs 20% more than the standard MRSP. Just like it takes a lot of brass to announce that you will make a dozen units of a car for a single model year. Love ‘em or loathe ‘em, Mitsuokas are in a league of their own, because they dare to be different.