The Daihatsu Compagno is not an everyday sight around here. Until I caught this one, I had never seen one in the metal. Earlier this year, CC featured its first Compagno, a highly desirable drop-top. So I guess it’s the famous CC Effect (with a few months’ time-lag) that made me bump into its polar opposite, the pickup. A Vignale-designed pickup, if you please.
I captured this gorgeous Daihatsu (words I never thought I’d write) at the same place where I recently caught a 1964 Plodge Valiant – the Department of Land Transport in Bangkok. I was near there again a couple weeks ago and thought I might take a gander at the cars being registered, on the off chance that there might be something interesting there yet again. And boy, was that a good move. Two great finds – this pickup and a much older car that calls for a full write-up.
The Daihatsu Compagno’s particulars and the firm’s history were all expertly covered by JohnH875 in his post, so I won’t bother adding much. Just a quick refresher, then: these RWD separate chassis cars were the first four-wheeled Daihatsus; originally 800cc, they appeared in 1963 (first as a wagon, then a two-door sedan, followed by the four-door, cabriolet, coupé and (in 1965) pickup versions) and disappeared in 1969, by which time Daihatsu had been eaten by Toyota. The performance-oriented 58 hp 1000cc cars were even given a “GT” badge and a specific grille circa 1967.
Our feature car was the second CC I caught there that day, as I mentioned before. The first was an exceptional find and I took a lot of photos of it; I was walking away from it when I saw this orange pickup, which I recognized as a ‘60s Daihatsu, thanks in no small part to this website, in no time at all. Alas, I only managed to take four lousy photos before my stupid phone died. No interior shot (it was on the move), but here’s what it looked like in a ’65 saloon. The sportier versions had the obligotory floor shifter, but the van/wagon, pickup and early saloons had their four on the tree.
In JohnH875’s Compagno Spider post, lots of CCommentors chimed in, yours truly included, to voice their opinions about the Vignale styling. Yes, it’s a good-looking car. And also yes, it does look a lot like other Italian-styled cars of the period. I went for a Vignale Lancia, but others were suggesting PininFarina. If it had worn a Fiat badge, I wouldn’t have batted en eyelid either. But seeing the Compagno in front of me – especially in this pickup guise, the Peugeot 404 (below) suddenly flashed before my eyes, like it was the Daihatsu’s better-fed twin. I know, the 404 is a PininFarina design, but one cannot deny a certain kinship. Crucially though, the Daihatsu’s diminutive size, its Vignale provenance and very high windshield gives this car just enough personality to make it distinctive.
Some of the period adverts for the Compagno, whether intended for a domestic audience or for the gaijin markets, are (unintentionally) humourous. Here’s a puzzling Japanese “Compagno=Spider” ad (circa 1965), complete with nonsensical Engrish phrase. Some things never change – Japanese fascination for bizarre English-language text certainly hasn’t…
The Compagno was sold in various world markets, including Australia and Britain – one of the first Japanese cars to make it there. It was designed at a time when Japan (and the world) swore by Italian styling. Vignale did very well with the Daihatsu account, providing a sober design that was very much of its time. Adding exotic names like Bertone or Touring in the sales brochure was doubtless seen as a great PR move – quite essential when you’re trying to make a name for yourself. Vignale helped put Daihatsu on the map. And they did a couple of really cool specials, too.
Carrozzeria Vignale, who had been involved in the Daihatsu project for some time, were ready with a rather stunning sports coupé and convertible displayed at the 1963 Turin Motor Show. It’s unclear how many (if any?) copies Vignale made. The design was penned by Michelotti, at the top of his game. Aren’t those Lancia taillamps, by the way?
It seems a second series coupé was mooted and shown in 1966, probably with a 1000 GT engine. The Toyota buy-out nixed the whole idea, unfortunately. Funnily enough, the revamped rear bears some resemblance to the second series (1974-80) Peugeot 504 coupé shown below it – another odd PininFarina-Pug connection / coincidence.
I’ve got a feeling the Compagno might constitute a Deadly Sin. (That’s not to say I don’t like it, or that it wasn’t a good car, as per Paul’s Definition of the Deadly Sin.) After all, Daihatsu lost their independence while they were manufacturing it, so something didn’t go according to plan. Perhaps a Japanese Deadly Sins series might exist one day, and if it does, we may have to look into this car again. Which, given its Italian charm, will certainly be something to envisage with pleasure.
Curbside Classic: 1969 Daihatsu Compagno Convertible, by JohnH875