CC Capsule: 1995 Copel Bonito (Nissan March K11) – Our Princess Is In Another Castle

It’s getting mighty tough to find something that hasn’t had its CC post already. But for my first piece of 2022, I thought I’d do just that. Feast your ravenous eyes on this travesty of an ersatz of a mock ADO16, made from 99% genuine Nissan parts, the great Copel Bonito!

First things first: what a great name. I already entertained CC with this car’s main rival, the already-interestingly-dubbed Mooku Tokio Princess. But at least the Mooku had “Princess” in there to give you a hint. Copel Bonito sounds like a Brazilian delicacy or something – anything but a March dressed like a BMC VandenPlas 1100/1300.

It’s not easy to know your facsimile Japanese Princesses, but I’m getting to be rather good at it now. The Mooku and the Copel were joined by a concern called Lotas (with an “a”), so that by the turn of the Millennium there were a grand total of three March-based ADO16 kits to pick from. From the front, they’re all pretty similar and remarkably good at looking like a VandenPlas 1100/1300.

But it’s a lot trickier to do something about the rear end. All the faux Princesses managed to graft vertical taillights on the March’s rear end, but only the Copel Bonito did this on a grand scale (i.e. a lot o fiberglass) and coupled it with a remodeled tailgate. Copel also sold the Ministar, which did not include such a refined rear end treatment (and must have cost a lot less).

As per the other mock VdPs, the Copel kit did not include any particular mods for the interior. That’s one difference between these and the Mitsuoka Viewt: at least the Viewt made some effort to emulate the ambiance of a Jaguar’s cabin. The VandenPlas Princess 1100/1300 were very luxurious inside, with real wood veneer and leather galore, but that was a bit beyond the means of Copel & Co.

I have seen a couple of genuine VdP ADO16s about. Haven’t caught one yet, but then capturing a Princess is not an easy task in the land of Nintendo. These DIY VdPs are not too common either, as they are now getting on in years, as we can see with our feature car, which has seen better days. This would never happen to the real McCoy. A K11 March dressed as a Princess is still but a lowly Nissan after all.

It’s not as popular as Nissan’s own retro-themed March derivatives and it’ll never be as well-made and collectible as a Toyota Origin, but the Copel Bonito is the best of the small-time kit bunch, without a doubt. They really did a thorough number on that K11 body, which does have a shape that has an ADO16 feel. Well, more so than a Jag Mark II feel in any case…

More than anything though, the Copel Bonito is an illustration of the British bling retro wave that washed over the world in general and Japan especially back in the ‘90s. This retro, in other words, is passé. For the past decade or so, the Japanese automotive world seems to have been getting over its acute Anglophilia, so these kits are no longer reflecting the retro of today, which is now looking back at the ‘70s and ‘80s, as well as American and Japan’s own automotive heritage. Meta retro or just vade retro?


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CC Capsule: 1997 Nissan March (K11) Mooku Tokio Princess – Van Den Whaaa?, by T87