It’s been a while since CC broke new ground and inducted a completely novel marque to its Pantheon of Asian carmakers. Provided we stretch the meaning of “car” a wee bit to include those of the Lilliputian variety, I think the Abbey brand of microcars, proudly made by Takeoka Auto Craft, might just qualify. Mind your heads and suck in the guts, we’re about to squeeze into a Carrot.
For those who have been paying attention, there were warning signs that I might encounter one of these, in the sense that I already posted a couple of these in 2019, which I photographed in a mini-junkyard that had a bunch of weird vehicles. I also caught one in one of my monthly “Singles” collections. They’re singles for a reason – usually because the subject vehicle is parked in such a way that only one of two pics are possible. In the present case, the exact opposite was true. I had an unfettered view of the whole egg-straordinary affair, much better than in most cases. That’s how I like my Abbeys – photogenic, well lit and fully accessible. Amen to that!
According to the Japanese websites I’ve had to peruse (and “translate” via Google, so most of the information I gathered should be filed under “maybe/TBC/WTF?”), the Abbey Carrot is the most well-regarded and popular 50cc microcar available on the JDM. Of course, that implies that there are other 50cc microcar manufacturers – of which I know absolutely nothing. There’s a whole microcosm out here to be discovered…
The Takeoka Auto Craft company was founded in Toyama City in 1982. The Abbey (that’s how they spell it officially in romaji script) line of microcars is just one of several that Takeoka have developed in the past four decades, but it’s one of their star products. It has also been in production and constantly improved since the company began trading, though the Carrot variety we’re dealing with here only arrived in 1988. It’s Takeoka’s Beetle, in a way.
Numbers do not lie, do they? Statistics perhaps, but cold hard measurements are surely more trustworthy. So here are this vehicle’s key data points. Ahem. Full length, width and height: 2150 / 1140 / 1350mm – in barbaric money, that’s 84.6 / 44.9 / 53.1 inches. The Abbey’s total weight, minus the driver of course, stands at a modest 160kg, or 353lbs. Big for a Fabergé, but very small for a four-wheeled vehicle.
The Abbey Carrot is propelled by a 50cc Honda 4-stroke water-cooled single-cylinder moped engine mounted just ahead of the rear wheels. This miniature mill churns out 4.5hp to the rear wheels via a Honda V-Matic CVT, but then the Carrot is quite light and, presumably, aerodynamic (more so than a scooter, in any case). Therefore max speed, according to users, is a surprising 54kph (33.5mph), though Takeoka round that off to a positively brisk (and optimistic) 60kph on their website. Yours for the tiny, egg-shaped price of ¥843,700 sales tax included. The cheapest kei car is closer to ¥1.2m, so this is cheaper, but a Honda scooter would be cheaper still.
Of course, Takeoka have an all-electric microcar on offer, the T10. It’s similar to the Abbey, but it is a more modern design. It’s also more expensive and heavier, as well as much quieter, though there is a T10-G version that has the same Honda 50cc as our feature car. Takeoka have developed several other microcar designs that may be better suited to certain clients. For instance, even though the Abbey Carrot has a loyal following among certain people with disabilities, wheelchair users will not necessarily find it very accommodating.
Other clients include older folks who have lost their right to drive bigger cars – driving licenses are subject to regular renewal and tests in Japan, so every year some people lose theirs, but the requirements to operate a 50cc vehicle are much lower. And cheaper too: getting a driver’s license is very expensive in this country – we’re talking the equivalent of US$4000 and about two months of mandatory classes, both theory and practice, just to be allowed to sit the exams, which are not easy to pass. Some people might prefer puttering about in one of these instead of getting wet on a scooter.
Furthermore, these microcars are as thrifty, fuel consumption-wise, as the latest hybrid. They can also be parked literally and laterally anywhere (sometimes for free) and, beyond getting them registered for the road, they’re not subject to the dreaded yearly (and very costly) shaken car inspection and other taxes, so the only expenses incurred would be petrol and repairs.
That’s enough good points to make the Carrot an evergreen, I guess. I’m not sure how old this one’s been rolling about, to be entirely honest. They’re certainly not easy vehicles on which to guess the model year. Nor can I shed any light on how production numbers, which I imagine must now be a respectable cumulative total, if only because these have been made continuously since the late ‘80s. Recent Abbeys seem to have rectangular rear lights and a few other small differences, though present-day production switched to LEDs and went back to a round taillamp design, albeit with separate turn signals. So this one seems like a slightly older model – maybe not that old, but things seem to age differently in this country.
Other questions I still find myself pondering are certain technical details I’ve not been able to uncover, such as the brakes (mechanical or hydraulic, discs or drums?), the exact nature of the suspension and, though most of the thing is GRP, what kind of metal frame is used, if any. Automatic translations provide enigmatic answers sometimes, so many aspects of the Abbey Carrot remain clouded in mystery. Never mind. Though some doors will be staying closed, but the ample glass area means a panoramic view of the interior.
“This Carrot’s going to be a tight fit,” said the bishop to the actress. Our feature car has a steering wheel, but Takeoka could fit a motorcycle handlebar if preferred as a no-cost option. That’s a good thing, seeing as the seat cannot be adjusted. Slightly more alarmingly, seat belts are also optional and this car doesn’t have any.
All kidding aside and this post’s rather egg-cessive bad pun count notwithstanding, I do have a soft spot for this Abbey. The nonsensical name, the pool-tile colour, the ovoid and antediluvian design and the sheer oddity of the whole thing makes it irresistible, an all-round good egg, if I may be so predictable (you know me – anything for an easy yolk).
Nowadays, European microcars look like fun-sized present-day normal cars, i.e. no fun at all, whereas the Abbey’s exceptionally long career has enabled it to add a layer of classic car cuteness that folks like Fiat and Mini can only try to ape with their retro designs. In the kawaii world if nowhere else, this 50cc pre-omelet beats them all – the Carrot takes the cake.