We’ve seen a lot of Mitsuokas on CC already. The kei car. The compact. The luxury sedan. The limousine. The WTF coupé. The almost cool roadster. Are there any more out there? Yes, I’m afraid there are. Meet the Ryoga, the family-sized Mitsuoka. Just the thing to drop the kids off at school, if you really want them to be mocked by their friends and pitied by their teachers. Ryoga, Ryoga, why did you exist? A question no one can answer.
We’re back at the “premium used car” lot that we visited a few weeks ago. Our old friend the S110 Crown hardtop, seen on this site recently, had a whacky neighbour. I was careful not to reveal the Ryoga while shooting the Crown – that sort of photobombing would have been improper, but as long as you don’t see a Mitsuoka’s face, it’s a fairly anonymous-looking backdrop.
Mitsuoka launched the Ryoga in 1998, based on the Nissan Primera. It originally came in either 1.5 or 1.8 litre flavours. This first generation did not last very long, however. The Primera was about to trade its low-key (to be charitable) design for a completely new and bulkier look that might prove challenging for Mitsuoka to adapt.
For their part, perhaps Mitsuoka thought the Ryoga mark 1 a tad tame by their standards. So they went back to the junkyard where they must source a lot of their inspiration, found some oblong rear lights off a ‘60s Karmann-Ghia and put those on the tail. (Ok, they’re not exactly like Karmann-Ghia taillights, but they’re pretty damn close). From late 2001, the Ryoga would use the Nissan Sunny as its host, still with a 1.5 or a 1.8, but soon only the smaller engine was left, due to tightening emissions regulations.
By the way, both the Galue and the Ryoga were offered as wagons, if you can believe that. And if you can’t well here’s a photo from the web. I have seen a couple Mitsuoka wagons in traffic here, but I have yet to catch one. All bad things come to those who wait, so let’s be patient. They cannot escape the CC treatment forever.
The front end on this car is, to say the least, an acquired taste, particularly in such dignified and Crowned company. It looks like a Jaguar S-Type that melted under the rising sun, its mascot having leapt off the radiator for the relative safety and shade of a nearby bonsai tree and its dignity evaporated into the stifling humidity of the Japanese summer. It’s an unforgiving country, in many ways.
Disappointingly, this Ryoga’s interior has no distinctive features that I can see, apart from a steering wheel that is ageing poorly. Apparently, these usually have some leather on the seats and a few strips of wood on the dash, but we’re perhaps in the presence of a so-called “Deluxe” Ryoga here (i.e. base trim), as opposed to the superior “Royal 1500” treatment. But given how these were made, it’s not really clear.
What I mean is that if you were the proud owner of a Nissan B15 Sunny, you could simply go to Mitsuoka at any point and ask them to work their magic on the poor thing. Mitsuoka made the 2nd series Roygas from 2001 to 2004 only as brand new cars, but they continued turning second-hand Sunny saloons into Ryogas until 2014. (And incidentally, they could transform your precious P11 Primera into a 1st series Ryoga until 2007.) This may be what we have here – a “late transformation” Mitsuoka from a base model Sunny. There is no way of telling, as far as I know, the “original” Mitsuokas from the Nissans that were disfigured later in life, though hit could be that the simpler interior might be explained this way.
The 2nd series Ryoga’s mercifully short lifespan, therefore, was stretched to over a decade and overlapped with the 1st series Ryoga, as well as the successor model, the 2004-08 Mitsuoka Nouera. I do hope I’ll be able to catch one of those one day, as judging by the photos I’ve seen on the web, it’s just as scary as its predecessor. Love the tacked-on reverse light on this car’s bumper, though. And the rear end in general is much less jarring than the faux-Cadillac look of the larger Galue.
As CC’s self-appointed resident Mitsuologist, I will endeavour to uncover more of this bizarre genera and share my discoveries with the world. Rest easy (if you can close your eyes after seeing this full frontal shot), there are still many, many Mitsuokas to go.