Vintage PR Shot: 1954 Flying Feather – “Mr. K” Builds A Microcar


Yutaka Katayama (“Mr.K”) was a driving force behind such exceptional Nissans like the 510 and the Z. Back in the early ’50’s, he had something more basic in mind: a very light, nimble and cheap car for a market segment that was not yet being served by the main Japanese carmakers. The result was the Flying Feather, which used motorcycle wheels and had a rear-mounted 350cc two-cylinder engine making 12.5 hp. Given the featherweight, that resulted in pretty decent performance for the times.

Unfortunately, the Flying Feather never really got airborne. Politics, as usual…

Here’s the blurb that was put out at the time:

The Suminoye engineering works are turning out what they claim is the smallest cheapest and most economical practical car in the world. Named the Flying Feather the car is a 2 seater and weighs about 800 pounds. The canvas roof can be rolled back in fine weather. 13th April 1954.

Katayama was at Nissan at the time, which was building relatively upscale cars, as the Japanese Ministry of International Trade and Industry (“MITI”) wanted the postwar industry to start there before moving down to more affordable cars. But he had a dream of building a lightweight cheap car, and Nissan designer Ryuichi Tomiya set out on their own to design and build the prototype. Nissan wouldn’t touch it, but the body building company Suminoe was willing to take it on. But only some 200 were built, due to the lack of any support from MITI, and then Nissan cancelled a large contract with Suminoe, forcing them into bankruptcy.

Its name is certainly appropriate and evocative; a bit more so than Fairlady (Z).