Do not adjust your set. This is not an April Fools prank, it’s not some sort of Photoshoppery, nor did someone microdose your coffee this morning. This is a real car, in the metal. And of all the many oddball vehicles that Mitsuoka have produced over the past three decades, this has to be the first one that I would completely un-ironically qualify as attractive.
This is the first Rock Star I’ve seen in the wild up close. Rare and fleeting in-motion glimpses were all I had managed up till now, but that’s because these are rather uncommon cars. I found this one sitting in a second-hand dealer’s forecourt and subsequently found it advertised online, too. When Mitsuoka unveiled their newest creation back in late 2018, they announced that only 50 units were to be made. It appears that demand was so high and frantic that they extended production into 2021 and ended up manufacturing 200 for Japan and 20 for a select few export markets.
Whoever bought this one originally got tired of it quite quickly – or realized that they would be able to make a nice return on this particular investment by reselling it quickly. The launch MRSP was ¥4.7m, but by late 2020, Mitsuoka were selling these for over twice that sum. Assuming this one was bought at the original asking price, even with a few optional extras (it does have the “S Special Package”), it’s still now being sold as a three-year-old used car for ¥7.8m (around US$63,000), with under 5000km on the clock. Demand was not entirely satisfied by those 200 units, I reckon.
The basis for this Mitsuoka is the Mazda Roadster, known internationally as the MX-5. So this modern-day C2 Corvette only has a 1.5 litre 4-cyl. under its shark-shaped snout. It’s only got 132hp, via a 6-speed manual, to send over to the driving wheels. Fortunately, those are the rear ones, though reaching 100kph from a standing start will take some 8.5 seconds, which is almost slow these days. But speed is not the point here, obviously.
Mitsuoka ended Rock Star production in 2021 by making a single 2-litre LHD model appropriately named “Only1 Special” (all the other Rock Stars, like our feature car, are 1.5 litre RHD) and organizing a raffle to determine who would have the honour of purchasing it. This took place last February, so the lone LHD Rock Star has been sold already. Sorry folks, but keep an eye on them classifieds, it might come up for sale soon.
I’m pretty sure Mitsuoka made a nice profit for the whole Rock Star gamble. And it was a gamble, as they obviously are in the process of switching their source of nostalgic influence from ‘50s British luxury cars to a ‘60s / ‘70s American look, judging from this and the new Buddy SUV. They still make Bizzarro-world versions of Jags and Bentleys, but those are now legacy designs.
Mitsuoka’s newer stuff is looking towards Detroit more than Coventry, and if they end up looking as cool as this Rock Star, then I’m all for it. There aren’t many reasons to cheer up with current automobile design, but this is definitely one of them.