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.
Heh, on the Mini-Carlo article last week I said that what Leata had been doing was not at all different from Mitsuokas’ business model, and guessed a CC on the Viewt was in order.
Ok, Humorously written..But, make it left hand drive, Import it to North America, make it a reasonable price, AND IT WOULD SELL LIKE HOTCAKES!!! Never under estimate We Americans (you Canadians as well) To glom onto “retro” I give you the HHR, the PT Cruiser, The “New” Beetle. The revival of the British type sports car, the very cool Miata.
Can’t say I agree with the idea the Viewt would sell in big numbers. For starters, the “base” car had a 1 liter, NON turbocharged engine. And while it would not matter to most drivers, the Nissan Micra has the reputation as being a real penalty box to drive. The just re-designed Micra changes that, but it is no Ford Fiesta to drive.
Oh, I almost forgot, the Micra is MICRO sized inside, as in average sized American drivers will feel cramped behind the wheel.
I was going to say something similar about our recent affliction with new-old caritis, i.e., PT Cruiser, HHR etc. As much as I may have liked some of those iterations, I’m glad we got over the mass nostalgia.
And it’s based on the Micra, which sells very well in Canada, which I wish Nissan would sell here. I’d much rather have this retro styling with new electronics / drivetrain reliability and safety features than the current Tammy Faye running mascara trend that’s so prevalent at Toyota.
I’d buy one!
John Thaw is turning over in his grave…
I think the K11 works quite well, but not so much the K12 – the chrome side trim fails to flow into the edge of the bonnet/hood.
Not my favourite example of retro though – perhaps because I had a MK 2 in my youth ( when they were cheap to buy ).
It was William Lyons at Jaguar, William Towns brought us such greats as the seventies Lagonda. Wonderful article, and there is a case for the defence…
D’oh! Will amend forthwith.
I think that it is a piece of feces as a bad imitation both for exterior and interior. Perhaps the designers were fresh out of ideas. Perhaps that had a bad dinner the night before they started the design work. Perhaps they are fools. YUK!
I never cared much for the Jaguar Mark II styling, so I’m not particularly offended by the Viewt.
When I looked at the brand, the image of marijuana came up quickly. Even the same number of rays and blades between them. The designers must have been inspired to come up with this oddball after smoking the spliff…
I would love to be able to show up at Cars and Coffee Richmond in one of these. The jaw-dropping reaction would be worth whatever shortcomings the car has.
Haw. Who knew ? Yes, actor Thaw would be chagrinned — at least. But this one, while red, doesn’t have the black vinyl top, an unnecessary gilding of the (original) lily . . .
(Speaking of which, someone should do a piece on cars appearing in period-set British TV series; Insp. Gently’s Rover 2000 TC comes to mind. Or has that been addressed ?)
This is an odd combination of adorable and painful; like getting clawed in the face by a kitten. I can’t really bring myself to hate it, but there are just so many jarring elements it ‘s hard to appreciate as a whole.
Saw one at a car show it kinda works until you get to the A pillar then the design is crammed into too small of a space, there is some issue with compliance here it appears they cant be registered easily if at all the Viewts that pop up on trade me are all without plates.
Plenty of registered ones in the Waikato Bryce – there’s even one here in Taumarunui!
You know, I don’t think it’s THAT bad. And if you were to show side by side pictures of this car and, say a Riley Elf or Triumph Mayflower to someone who isn’t a car person, not sure they would notice much difference.
Good call on the Mayflower. A contemporary caricature of razor edge design that really doesn’t work on any angle.
I love it; seriously. People take things way too seriously; this is a hoot. And really quite well done. The high roof is perfect given its size and role, as a city car.
What’s not to like?
I agree. This would be fun to take to a British car show and watch the reactions. You are right, Paul. This thing is rather well done.
First time I saw one of these in Japan I thought I was having hallucinations from jet lag. They have a certain foul charm.
I’ll wait for the “Hello Kitty” trim option.
The idea kinda reminds me of those ‘Rolls Royce’ hoods and grills they put on early `70s VW Beetles to make the car look like something it wasn`t. But I guess that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.
I really like this Mitsuoka! Don’t take it so seriously, this was just a cute little way to distinguish yourself from all those others small cars on Japanese streets.
Love it! Both K11 and K12 a have charm that I don’t see when looking at most modern metal.
I love this car too .
I’d like to see it in some other color though…..
It makes me think of a cartoon car come to life. You know what it’s supposed to be but they exaggerate the daylights out of it so the manufacturer can’t complain.
That was very funny, thank you.
As for the car itself, given the ephemeral nature of most conveyances today no lasting harm is done so I’ll give it a pass. Like Hollywood repackaging an Austen novel it gets people to seek out the original and draw their own conclusions.
No, I’d never want one myself.
I was glad to read the last few paragraphs; the author gets it. That’s the part that’s usually lost on indignant, disgusted, or otherwise perturbed Western readers: Mitsuoka and its customers are 100% in on the joke.
Thanks everyone for your kind words. It seems the Daihatsu Gino from yesterday got a lot of thumbs up, but this one is more controversial, though I see a majority of you seem to like it too.
Tomorrow’s witness will be more of a test: the rehash of a copy of the controversial Airflow.
Nice article. You don’t see a lot of Mitsuoka’s here in Tokyo – at least in my neck of the woods (outer suburbs). When I ask my Japanese friends who a typical buyer is (for the retro versions, not the sports car), they invariably say female, single, with a significant amount of disposable income. They buy it for the fashion statement – just like a designer handbag.
The ones I’ve looked at thought show very high quality body work – body seams all uniform and tight. The interiors,save for some seat fabrics, are all carryovers from the donor model – same dash, etc… so the flash is all on the outside.
Mitsuoka’s non-retro cars were PURE kawaii, with some wonderful Engrish in the ads.
IMHO, the world would be a sadder place without the Viewt and other cars of its ilk. I think it is critical to believe that the Japanese are, as mcc.pj says, in on the joke. Otherwise, the car would have been placed on a platform more Jaguar sized. In fact, there is no valid argument against it as offered on a small chassis. Artists reference past masterpieces all the time, Sometimes it’s no more than a change of scale that makes the new a fresh piece, ala Oldenburg.
I guess we all have a valid opinion, but to me it’s guilty as charged, partly because the interior is just so inconsistent with the exterior.
But beauty is in the eye of the beholder and all that….
I’ve been CC-offline for a bit, but linked back here through an irregular Viewt search. I can’t seem to shake an interest in this little oddball. Could be one of those cars that I would have to try on. It’s impossible to gauge a reaction without being in the same space with one. A set of Borranis would be impossible to resist, given a spare $3k lying around.
This video of one, duded up with wide whites and hot rod wheel covers, literally speaks for itself:
Found this on the internet. It’s taken in Hong Kong. I can only presume it’s a Mitsuoka as who else would build something like this. Any idea what this model’s called?
That is a Toyota Classic; only 100 were made in 1996.
Yes, Toyota Classic, factory-built by Toyota. It’s basically a ’96 Hilux crew cab with new front and rear clips. Chassis, mechanicals, doors, windscreen, interior are all Hilux (albeit with lashings of leather and fake wood)
I see Duncan Imports has finally gotten a couple of them. What took them so long? K-11s, which aren’t optimal, given their square edges. A K-12 with wires would be wonderful. Then you import an LHD Micra and get to work in your garret atelier moving the steering wheel.