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

(first posted 11/11/2017)        M’luds, the Daihatsu Mira Gino we saw yesterday was, all things being relative, but a nod and a wink towards retro styling. Today, we shall delve far deeper into the matter, indeed close to the benthic layers of retro, with the Mitsuoka Viewt. It is my stated objective here today to alert the CCourt, as I have tried to do on two previous occasions with the Galue and Galue limousine, that Mitsuoka automobiles represent a threat to good taste and to the mental well-being of the JDM as a whole. I trust this witness testimony will prove compelling to further this argument.

– I now call to the stand the Mitsuoka Viewt. Please state your make, model and year of manufacture for the record.

– Mistuoka Viewt, K12 (or second series), 2005-2016. I am based on the Nissan March / Micra.

– So there was a first series, I assume.

– Obviously, yes. My predecessor, the K11, was launched in 1993 – already on the Micra platform – and built for about 10 years.

– We have a file photo for the CCourt:

– So Mitsuoka-san, am I correct in assuming also that you and your esteemed predecessor were created to resemble the Jaguar Mark 2, one of the most iconic ‘60s saloons ever to come out of Coventry?

– Resemble, perhaps. More like an evocation. I cannot emphasize enough how much I respect and value the existence of the Jaguar Mark 2.

– I would think not indeed. Please outline what specific traits you happen to share with the aforementioned Jaguar.

– Front fascia and rear bootlid, as well as my curvaceous roofline and my small rear window.

– But your raised roofline is to the Mark 2’s graceful greenhouse what a porn star’s silicone implants are to Marilyn Monroe’s breasts.

– That is unfair, ungentlemanly and uncalled for!

– You’re not saying it’s untrue…

– My platform’s smaller wheelbase has naturally placed limitations on what designers could do.

– Precisely. And this bulbous atrocity you chose to term as a roof used to be rather flat in your 1993 predecessor.

– It was the Naughties. I had to get more curves, just to keep up with the trends…

– Trends? You shamelessly ape a fifty-year-old design and you claim to follow trends?

– Of course. Retro as a trend is quite ancient. First there were the Amercian designs, your Excaliburs and Stutzes – not to mention Lincoln. Then British carmakers got in on the deal, such as Panther, soon followed by the French and many others. I came at a time when everything had already been done by the specialist makers.

– So your manufacturer, which had just opened its doors, felt that the ‘60s were to be the new trend of the ‘90s?

– Precisely. And one had to bear in mind the contemporary 21st Century trends as well – flat lines were out, curves were in. It just happened to suit my design quite well.

– That last point is a matter of opinion. Are you exported at all?

– In small quantities, yes. Mostly in other Asian countries. A few Viewts have made it further afield, including to Britain, though I understand they were privately shipped over.

– And what is your retail price in Japan, as compared to the Nissan March you are based on?

– Depending on specs and options, my price when new was anywhere from about US$25,000 to 35,000. Specs include a choice of 1.2 or 1.5 litre engine, all-wheel drive, CVT and such Nissan-made novelties. Full leather trim and all of my interior is hand-made by Mitsuoka themselves, using the best hides available.

– A veritable pocket Rolls-Royce, I’m sure. So you cost over twice the price of a Nissan March?

– Yes, but I’m worth every yen. My clientele is a discerning one. I’m not for the hoi-polloi.

– Hoi-vey! Methinks the Mitsuoka is misleading the CCourt. The discrepancy in price between you and the March tells me that your manufacturer is keen to limit production for the otaku crowd, not to make you some sort of a compact Toyota Century.

– That is your interpretation. Here I stand, on my four wheels. If you start me, do I not run? If you steer me, do I not turn? If you sit inside me…

– Do I not blush? I suppose one would feel a bit conspicuous.

– Call it individualism. I’m a largely coachbuilt, hand-made car with a signature look and a bespoke interior. Mitsuoka is a serious company that makes top-quality products for people who have a sense of humour. I make people smile.

– That is undeniable. But whether they are smiling with you or at you is up for debate. Thank you, you may step down from the stand.

As I hope to have demonstrated to the CCourt, the rather extreme example of Japanese retro that is the Mitsuoka Viewt has intrinsic charm and displays top-level workmanship, but may only appeal to a limited crowd – unlike, say, a New Beetle or a Daihatsu Gino. What we have here is a decidedly Asian view of retro luxury, one that banks on the “kawaii” fashion sense almost as much as on the appeal of the car it has elected to emulate. There is nothing “kawaii” about the Jaguar Mark 2, which is a cult classic associated with the police in its home country. Mitsuoka have purposefully picked a small platform to make this Mark 2 look cute, bubbly and cuddly, which is certainly not what William Lyons had in mind when designing the Jag. Let us adjourn, for tomorrow will bring this case to its paroxysm. Meanwhile, the prosecution naps.