The link between Nissan and Austin is an ancient one, but this is taking it to a whole nother level. As I’ve documented before, the 1992-2002 Nissan March / Micra was subjected to countless retro-infused variations. The Mitsuoka Viewt probably takes the cake, but, noblesse oblige, let’s pay our respects to the Princess, as she is graciously granting us an audience.
OK, fair warning: finding reliable info about the Mooku Tokio Princess it not exactly straightforward. I have had to dig in the deeper recesses of the Japanese web, which is kind of tricky as I don’t understand most of it – even after I run the pages into Google translate!
Still, a number of things seem pretty clear. One is that Mooku Industrial Design is an actual company that sells retro kits, including a Citroën H van (on a Subaru Sambar base) and our famous Tokio Princess. As far as I can tell, the Princess kit costs just under ¥500,000 and is still available. It is only adaptable for the Nissan K11 March, though. And those are getting on in years.
They’re getting on, but they’re a darn sight more usable and far cheaper than the VandenPlas Princess 1100/1300 (or is that Princess VdP? I could never figure out the model name from the marque, with those BMC Princesses). These versions of ADO 16 were the most luxurious, complete with slatted Bentleyesque grille, Connolly leather seats and burr walnut picnic tables.
It would be interesting to know the minutiae of the work involved in enabling this particular type of March madness. I’m not sure how one is supposed to proceed once the kit is ordered, or how they match the colour of the rest of the car, for instance. I suppose the whole car gets resprayed once the kit has been bolted to the body, but I could be very wrong.
I gather that some places are renowned for installing these kits and working their magic on the whole car to the client’s specifications. One of these places is Goodwood Park, who do their own bizarre March-based retro mod (the Herbie, based on the K12), but can also put together a Princess kit. Another renowned place is Iga Motors – they will source a kit and do the work for a mere ¥750,000 (lob off two zeros to get an approximate value in US$). They call their version “Lotas Princess,” but as far as I can tell, it’s the same Mooku kit. On the other hand, some sources seem to say that Mooku and Lotas are different in some way, but it’s unclear if that is actually so.
One thing it is not is a Copel Bonito, which is a rival kit conversion (or a Goodwood Park-type artisanal coachbuilder, it’s not clear). Theirs is a little bit more extensive, too, including GRP cladding for the tail and a daring cabriolet variant. I’m not sure of those are still being made, unlike the Mooku.
I did not bother taking a photo of the interior, as it looked absolutely stock. Nothing was out of the ordinary – even the steering wheel hub still said Nissan. This also happens with older Mitsuokas, so it’s to be expected, though I’m sure a number of Princess owners have tried giving their interior the “Banden Pras” treatment.
The profile is really this car’s worst angle. That elongated schnozz completely ruins the design’s balance and the rear fins are too stubby to counter it. But the other angles, especially the front, are pretty decent.
I mean, if you saw this going down the street, it would take you a moment or two to process what the deal really was. The “face” of the Princess 1100/1300 is rendered about as well as anything else, and it completely distracts from the March body behind it. It’s certainly much more convincing than the Mitsuoka Viewt or most neo-retro cars, especially in kit form. The fender mirrors add a perfect touch of authenticity, too – nicely done.
The rear end is less well resolved. The Copel Bonito did it a bit better perhaps, by emulating the original’s more rectilinear tailgate design. Our Mooku Princess, making do with the Nissan March’s standard hatch, tries to dress it up with a slathering of chrome and places there a little crown logo, for good measure, which also appears on top of the front grille. And yet, we are amused.