Curbside Classic: 2008 Mitsuoka Orochi – Kill It Before It Spreads

It’s the first Mitsuoka of the year, and boy is it a whopper. Looks like this was fished out of the Marianna Trench, underwent some sort of explosive decompression along the way and possibly had some sort of congenital condition to start off with. I know, you could say that about most of this carmaker’s creations, but somehow with this one, they cranked it up to eleven.

Most Mitsuokas are essentially heavily chromed body kits for regular production cars. Given the volumes this carmaker churns out and their handmade production methods, building a whole four-door monocoque would drive up costs and prices to prohibitive levels. But there is one niche where a high price is not an issue, but an asset: supercars.

So Mitsuoka went about making their own supercar. The Orochi, authored by the company’s chief designer Aoki Takanori, was first glimpsed at the 2001 Tokyo Motor Show (top two pics above). It was a pure show car at that point in time – the car was not road legal, though being based on a Honda NSX chassis, it could be driven. It seems the total whackiness of the design resonated with enough punters for Mitsuoka to actually press ahead with the project. New iterations of the car, each with a few changes. were exhibited in 2003 (lower left pic) and 2005, along with a “Nude Top” roadster (lower right pic) that never saw production.

By this point though, the NSX was no longer made. That did not matter than much, as Mitsuoka decided relatively quickly to design their own chassis from the ground up – playing in the big leagues. They kept the mid-rear engine layout, but apparently took more inspiration from Ferrari for the suspensions (double wishbone both front and rear). The body was made of aluminium, but the width of the car still made it tip the scales at over 1500kg. Something of a sumo in the supercar dojo.

That left the engine. But this was early 21st Century Japan – surely Mitsuoka were spoilt for choice. Nissan V8, Mazda rotary, Toyota V12? Something new from Yamaha, perhaps? Nope. Mitsuoka opted for Toyota’s 3.3 litre V6, pushing out a *whopping* 230hp via a Toyota-sourced 5-speed auto. Yes, that is the same engine seen in such legendary contemporary supercars as the Highlander, the Camry XV30, the Solara minivan or the Lexus ES330. The Orochi’s top speed is allegedly just over 220kph (135mph) – impressive in 1955, but a bit less so half a century later.

Can a 1500kg vehicle with a 230hp V6 mated to an autobox be called a supercar by any stretch of the imagination? Yes, because it’s not all about the meat, it’s about the sizzle – the “super” element. This thing ticks all the visual boxes to attain supercardom, and then it ticks them again just to be on the safe side.

In the front, you get two grilles instead of one. Not two, but four headlamps. Whatever those tiny holes are on the bisected front bonnet, they added more, just to make things another level of weird. Those are matched by eight gills on the engine cover, of course. And all that is wrapped together in a veritable smorgasbord of violently swooping curves, all of it low and wide and signifying “Orochi”.

Orochi is a mythological eight-headed serpent, by the way. Apparently, it has eight tails, too. Sound kind of like eight snakes close together, doesn’t it? It’s a very good name, though. There definitely is something menacingly reptilian about this Mitsuoka.

Here’s the boudoir. Almost normal compared to the exterior, it looks mismatched. Maybe they ran out of LSD by the time they got to designing it. That’s quite a pity – imagine a ‘60s Cadillac sporting a British walnut burl dash, or the Citroën DS with a Peugeot 403’s interior. Kind of what we have here. The only slightly strange thing it the stitching, which is literally everywhere. And what isn’t stitched is riveted.

The Orochi made it to the Japanese market in late 2006; the first deliveries occurred early the next year. Another supercar feature is exclusivity, partially dictated by an outrageous price. These cost the equivalent of US$90,000 at the time – quite a hefty price for a so-called “fashion sports car”. Exclusivity-wise, things were also pretty supercar-like: Mitsuoka said they would make 400 units. So Orochis have kept their value, like all of it. There are six for sale on goo-net right now, and they’re all around the ¥10m mark.

There are no production numbers available for these, so it’s up for debate whether 400 of these rolling nightmares ever did crawl out of the Mitsuoka factory, but Japanese sources seem to imply that the overwhelming majority of them seem to have been put together in the first couple of years. Maybe the Orochi really did make it to 400 units. It’s likelier that they put together somewhere around half that number in 2006-08, hit pause when the financial crisis hit and then put together a few more until they called it quits in 2014, using mothballed V6s, as Toyota had quite putting those in their cars since 2010.

Obviously, some folks at Mitsuoka thought the standard Orochi was a bit too tame and that despite having made a five-unit “Final Edition” batch earlier in 2014, the world needed the multicoloured animé-themed Orochi Seven Eleven Evangelion after those were sold. The very final car then (some sources say they intended to made eleven of these, but if they did, I reckon they chickened out) was sold in November 2014 via a 7-Eleven raffle (because of course it was) for the special price of ¥16m. They actually released another final car in 2018, for some obscure reason. It’s called Orochi Devilman. Finally some truth in advertising.

The Mitsuoka Orochi was famous for its controversial looks. Countless column inches were dedicate to dissing this car back in the mid-‘00s, and quite a few more celebrated its demise in 2014, but few if any of the folks who wrote about it in non-Japanese publications ever had the experience of seeing it in a dark alleyway, just sitting there smirking maliciously, glistening with evil and proudly flouting its many alien orifices. Yours truly did see the Orochi, and it’s not as bad as they said it was. It’s much, much worse.

And on the off chance that contagion might spread, I think measures indicated in this post’s title ought to be considered. I do not usually advocate extreme solutions like this, but… Look at that lower mouth, the frowny one with that big bucktooth in the middle. Would you be able to sleep tonight knowing you saw this a few blocks away from your home?