This is a still from a Japanese animated movie called Shitī Hantā (“City Hunter”). The alarmed-looking character we see here is in the back seat of a…ruh…what is that? It’s got a Pentastar and a “Michigan” badge, and it looks quite a lot like…
…Sacred poo, it is a K-car! A 1986 Dodge Michigan:
The cars are left-drive, which is not surprising since left-hooker cars are an entirely legal status symbol in Japan.
Here we see Lakes Michigan, Huron, and Superior in cameo appearances as oil leaks. Also: turn signal repeaters in the typical Japanese location near the front of the fender, large pivot-mounted sideview mirrors instead of the domestic-market small rigidly-mounted ones, a rear-discharge tailpipe, and very busy taillights that look as though grafted in off a similar-year Mitsubishi (though clearly they were actually built specifically for this car).
Inside, there’s a hosey aftermarket-kit style install of what appears to be a DIN-sized radio set in place of the taller Chrysler-sized unit. Japanese FM radio stations are on even-decimal frequencies like 100.2 rather than the odd ones used in North America like 100.3. I don’t spot much else unusual here, do you?
Those prices in the lower left corner of the first brochure page bear some attention. When these were first –
sold– offered in Japan, the price equated to about $11k in 1985 Dollars, about 40% more than in the States. That’s about $28k in 2020 Dollars. By the end of the offering, the Dollar/Yen exchange had nearly doubled the price to over $21k in 1987 dollars (about 2.6× the US price, and equal to about $49k today). For that reason amongst others, I have great difficulty imagining more than about three of these were bought in Japan, perhaps one for each of the 1985, ’86, and ’87 model years.
But maybe I’m wrong, so in lieu of the bat signal I shine a Pentastar and letter “K” in the sky, hoping Tatra87 will swing into action and find one of these to photograph (T87, see if you can find a Fifth Avenue, too, willya? All we can see in the brochure pic here is a sliver of the front end, and I’d like to see what sort of taillight adaptations they had in Japan).
At least one part of the Dodge Michigan was local; those plastichrome name badges Chrysler installed on everything they built from about ’84 to ’95 were made in Japan. It’s inexplicable, but for some strange reason that wasn’t on Iacocca’s laundry list of gripes about the Japanese, and I also don’t recall him complaining very much about the rust-resistant steel he bought in great volume from them. Pay no attention to the cigar-chomping man behind the curtain, I guess, and if you can find a better plastichrome name badge…buy it!
If you want to get your Japanese-animated Japanese K-car freak on, there are many more stills from Shitī Hantā at the movie’s Internet Movie Car Database page, each of which can be clicked for larger.
Ah yes, Japan. The country that is supposedly impossible for an imported car to sell there.
Wow, I was not aware of this variant. How did Jason Shafer miss it? 🙂
The K car was a decent piece of work, but I have a hard time seeing the value proposition at the prices these things required as Japanese imports. As did most Japanese, as you note.
It having been a while since I wrote the K-Car Chronology, I do remember spending a copious amount of time researching the various locales these were sold. Nothing like this turned up. The Mexican Volare, yes. The Japanese Michigan, no.
All I can say is there was a version of the Caravelle (stretched Reliant) sold by Hong-Ki. Or however you spell it.
The Front Looks very Mercedes-Like?!
The Dodge grille as seen here and on the home-market Dodge Aries less so than the Plymouth version. The pre-facelift Plymouth (https://i.pinimg.com/originals/08/fe/db/08fedb7f738ac235ed6a0b86f95c5f0a.jpg) did so almost to the point of trademark infringement. Early Dodges aped the Cord, but at least that was a long-dead marque (and noted FWD pioneer).
Better img link already at CC (won’t let me edit)
Good grief… I never would have imagined! I wonder if there’s any pictures out there of an actual real-life example of a Dodge Michigan. I can’t help but wonder if these really existed. Of all the vehicles in Chrysler Corp.’s 1980s lineup, this is the one I see having the least appeal in Japan (really, at least they could have offered the wood-paneled wagon K-car version!).
I’m curious how it managed to get in anime. Did someones parents have one? burned in their memory?
CC effect… I was wondering just last night why carmakers never used Michigan places as status symbols. They always use California and Florida beaches (Malibu, Daytona) as status names, but never places that were familiar to the carmakers themselves.
Grosse Pointe, Belle Isle, Grand Boulevard, or from a more gritty angle, Eight Mile. (Come to think of it, 8 MPG used to be a status symbol.) Southfield Freeway was the real Rodeo Drive for Detroit, the place where designers took the new ideas to watch for oohs and aahs.
Leave it to Japan to find the symbols that Detroit missed.
With all respect to Washingtonians, Tacoma, as in Toyota Tacoma, isn’t a particularly appealing place. So it is odd that the Big Three never chose an equally gritty, industrial place, especially to name one of their heavy duty trucks.
Neither is Calais, if I remember correctly.
Well, one could argue that we did get Pontiac (a Michigan city, which itself was named after an Indian chief), and Cadillac (named after Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac, considered to be Detroit’s founder).
But Michigan itself is (or, perhaps was) actually a good model name. Too bad it was used on perhaps the most obscure car that Chrysler ever made.
Alpena, Flint, Jackson, Marquette…
The Chinese did quite well in appropriating American cities to name their various hand tools.
Lots of Buffalo, Pittsburgh, Chicago tools out there. Cities known of course, for their former industrial might. The Birmingham, Cleveland, Akron, can’t be far behind!
Funny how now almost any newer equipment sporting a rust-belt city’s name has become synonymous with junk. A polar opposite of what such a name once represented.
It seems like Buffalo fell first, about 40 years ago.
Fairlane was the name of Henry Ford’s estate.
I assume that the Plymouth Cranbrook was named after the private school that lots of auto execs sent their kids to.
The Chevy Delray was probably named after the neighborhood in Detroit.
Delta township is on the west side of Lansing, but there’s probably no connection between that and the Olds 88 model.
I’m almost expecting Tatra to trip over one now, as he has shown lots of non Japanese cars sell in reasonable numbers in Japan, we get them washing up here used looking immaculate after careful car yard grooming but often mechanically shot to pieces through lack of servicing and constant idling, just because the average Toyondazdassan will do 100,000 kms before you have to lift the bonnet and fit new spark plugs your German built Audi or BMW will not they like fresh oil occasionally before that milestone, doesnt hurt new sales they dont die in Japan only after they emigrate.
The Michigan “Mitten” is reversed.
Artist’s dyslexia must’ve flared up.
I think it is just cut off at the bottom. That is the Grand Traverse bay “pinkie” not the actual “thumb”
I think you’re right. Good catch.
“Imported from Detroit”
Interesting as to watch, especially over 10 years later since Chrysler only makes one sedan now and the 200 was not terribly popular.
I was going to make a snide remark about the absurdity of offering K-cars in Japan, but the more I think about it, the less nutty it seems. Compact exterior, spacious interior, reasonable fuel economy, good performance at urban speeds, decent reliability. Imagine an alternate reality where the K-car was a product of, say, Mitsubishi, and no one would have batted an eye.
I have to think the large turning radius would work against it.
The Mitsubishi 2.6 Hemi 4cyl. was an option for the K-car. I don’t remember how reliable the engine was though.
It is surely absurd. Why would any Japanese buy a boring, relatively compact, reliable by Chrysler standards car at an inflated price? It was a crappy, style-free car for Americans who refused to buy Japanese.
Lots of people import LHD American cars to the UK. They are full size pickups, Challengers etc etc. Precisely nobody imports a Taurus or a Chrysler 200.
“Precisely nobody imports a Taurus or a Chrysler 200” in the UK, eh?
Funny how things are different on this side of the planet.
In the middle of the top brochure photo, it says “American Casual” in blue script.
Better name. Astrological meaning aside Aries the word sounds just as milquetoast, generic, planned by a committee as, well, Stellantis.
The license plate, interestigly, reads “Shinjuku” in characters above the main numbers.
Which of course, is fictional, as a Japanese license tag. Most cars in Central Tokyo will be registered in 3-4 major registration areas:
Nerima (we see this a lot in Tatra87’s photos of cars)
Chrysler sold them in Japan but didn’t get serious enough to sleeve down or destroke the 2.2 to get under the 2.0L threshold for class 5 registration tax (a considerable savings over the class 3 the cartoon car’s plate reflects), nor do right-hand-drive which makes me wonder whether an RHD variant was ever planned since K development would’ve been fairly far along when Chrysler was forced to sell off its’ overseas operations. Would there have been a K-Car Aussie Valiant, would it have replaced or joined the Alpine in the ex-Rootes/Simca European operation?
I think Mitsubishi had already bought out Chrysler Australia by that stage. Mitsubishi’s RWD Sigma, in local production, had become a huge success. Dimensionally the K-car was a bit larger (23cm longer, 7cm wider, 12cm more wheelbase) but not enough so for it to look obviously as the ‘next class up’, so to speak. And you could get the Mitsubishi 2.6 engine in the Sigma. Besides, after years of BMC/Leyland products, Aussies were a bit wary of FWD in a family car then; it wasn’t seen as the way of the future.
Phonetically, “Michigan” doesn’t seem that far a stretch from “ichiban”, which means “number one” or “best” in Japanese according to what I just looked up. I wonder if this had anything to do with the name choice.
That’s a really interesting thought. The Japanese pronunciation of “Ichiban” and “Michigan” would be approximately “Each’bahn” and “Meach’gahn”, respectively, so a parallel could be drawn to almost-lexical car names in English (Lyriq, Acura) and to Anglicised Japanese car names (Camry).
In another life, long ago on another planet, I was briefly a linguistics student, so this kind of idea is fun for me to play around with.
The issue with selling a K-car Dodge Michigan for 3 million yen in 1986 was that you could also buy a Honda (Acura) Legend for 2.5 million yen or a Toyota Camry for 1.3 million yen. Not exactly an easy sell.
Of course, Detroit still haven’t learned anything and continue to offer 3.9 million yen (38,000 USD) Jeep Renegades and 10.5 million yen (100,000 USD) Cadillac CT6 .
Late to this party. I will keep an eye out for this Dodgy Michigan — won’t hold my breath though, as I doubt many were imported in the first place, so survival must be pretty low. But you never know!
Looks familiar, my Father bought a new 1986 Dodge 600 which was similar. His had column shift (wish you could still buy those) and didn’t have the console…funny now you barely see any vehicles that don’t have a console whereas back then they were mostly in smaller cars that had the shift mechanism between the seats.
Dad’s 600 didn’t stay long..my middle sister totalled it in 1989 after borrowing it when her car was being serviced ( 1986 Ford Escort)…was my Dad’s last MOPAR, after having bought his first new car in 1956 a Plymouth Plaza. After this, he bought 3 Mercury Sables in a row, then 2 Chevrolet Impalas (my Mom still owns the last one, after his passing almost 5 years ago now).