CC Capsule: 1998 Mitsuoka Viewt (FHK11) Convertible – Just Plain Viewtiful

Just when you think you’ve seen it all, this materializes on a cool day. I don’t mean “seen it all” as in every type of car of course, but I thought at least that I had the Viewt subspecies of the Mitsuoka marque pretty much documented, done and dusted. But the smallest Japanese carmaker’s greatest hit will just not be pinned down by a lowly CContributor such as myself. It’s a hard lesson to learn, but learn it we must.

Behold, the Viewt Convertible’s august rear end, wholly handmade by Mitsuoka’s skilled craftsmen. Not sure how any of this bears even a passing resemblance to a Jag’s rump, but that’s not necessarily the point.

So what is the point? Exclusivity and trying to get a semi-balanced shape out of a very strangely-proportioned design. Mitsuoka’s front end treatment, long and bulbous, called for a similar rear end, lest the Viewt Convertible look like an automotive Jimmy Durante.

Just like the standard-issue Viewt (which is sort of a contradiction in terms, but whatever) saloon, the Convertible is based on the Nissan March – in the present case, the rare March Cabriolet. I’ll include a few photos of the March version here for contrast.

Nissan presented their March Cabriolet at the 1995 Tokyo Motor Show, but it took them over a year and a half to get production going, which took place at Takada Kogyo, one of Nissan’s top subcontractors. Production only lasted just over a year, from May 1997 to August 1998; I could not find how many were made exactly, but it’s safe to say well under 10,000 units.

The great thing about the March Cabriolet was that it combined the K11’s bulletproof underpinnings with a very decent four-seater cabin under an electric soft top. The hefty price was the only downside, it seems, as well as Nissan’s ailing health at the time.

Mitsuoka saw the Cabriolet and immediately adapted the new body variant for the Viewt. The front end did not require anything too novel, but the rear was completely new. I’m not sure when Nissan were done selling March Cabriolets, but it is said Mitsuoka kept turning them into Viewt Convertibles until about 2005, or even later.

The Mitsuoka treatment being 100% à la carte, there is no hard and fast rule as to the interior. Some Cabriolets have more wood than this one, including on the centre stack and the steering wheel. This one only went with the instrument binnacle appliqué – remarkable restraint. Leather upholstery, which this one has, may seem like a no-brainer in a convertible, but folks here are not usually keen on cowhide.

The strange thing about this car is how the sticky-out rear, with its massive chrome bumpers, coupled that with the beige colour of the body and the brown fabric top, makes this purported Jaguar pastiche look far more like a 7/8th scale model of a ‘40s American convertible than a ‘60s British saloon. Especially from this angle.

I have no idea how many of these were made exactly, but they’re rare. This is the only one I’ve ever seen in three years – and Mitsuokas have a disturbing tendency to find me.

Not that this one is flawless, despite its scarcity. There is evidence of a pretty major fender-bender on the left rear, plus a torn soft top. Fixing these issues would probably require spending more than the car is worth at this point. Straightening or replacing the damaged body panels would have to be undertaken either by Mitsuoka themselves or by a highly qualified restoration outfit. The soft top is another challenge, as NOS ones do not exist. That’d be a lot of coin to drop on a 25-year-old March. As always, the price of individuality is steep.


Related posts (by T87):


Curbside Classic: 1993-2002 Mitsuoka Viewt (K11) – Jaguar Mock One

Curbside Classic: The Japanese Retro Trial (2nd Witness) – Mitsuoka Viewt K12