Japanese Faux Retros

The Japanese once seemingly endured a phase of retromania, over a decade prior to the rebirth of the Volkswagen Beetle and the new Mini. Instead of brand new designs though, they tended to recycle already existing platforms and coachbuilt an interesting exterior.

This week’s WTF? feature was a perfect example of this retro movement in Japan. Although cunningly appearing to be a Mini carrying a few extra pounds, the vehicle in question was none other than a simple Daihatsu kei-van.

At Motor Hipster, we are fans of all things retro, so now let’s celebrate a few of Japan’s most prominent time-travelling experiences.

Nissan Figaro

Isn’t she gorgeous? Go on admit it, you love it. Everything from the 60’s Datsun Fairlady inspired design to the heart warming cream leather seats screams instant classic. Based on the humble Micra, only 20,000 were ever made – most of which probably now reside in the UK.

Subaru Samba


Slyly named the Sambar, after a trim level of a certain split screen hippy van, this Japanese kei-van looks familiar. We can’t quite put our finger on it though. Does anyone know which classic bus this could be imitating? Answers on a post card please.

Nissan Pao

Another retro Nissan, from the same era as the Figaro. This time, the aim was to integrate multiple classic designs into a medley of motoring goodness. Door hinges from an Austin A40 Farina Countryman? Check! Flap up windows inspired by a Citroen 2CV? Check! External door hinges mimicking those of the original Mini? Check! Over use of question marks and exclamation marks? Damn right!

Mitsuoka Le-Seyde 


What a master/disasterpiece! The Mitsuoka Le-Seyde is based on the neo-classic American Zimmer Golden Spirit, a design which already paid tribute to designs of yore. Originally designed crudely whilst drawn upon a napkin, the Japanese firm decided to create their own version in 1991. All 500 Nissan Silvia S13 based limited edition models sold out in four days. Very odd for a car which resembles “The Homer” from the Simpsons (below).

Mitsuoka Viewt

Is it a bird, is it a plane? No it’s a MkII Jaguar. Oh wait, it’s actually another Nissan Micra in a Halloween costume! For over twenty years now, Mitsuoka have been providing styling kits to transform your granny-spec Micra into a ride that even Inspector Morse would be proud of. Certainly a vehicle which turns heads in the local Morrison’s car park.

by Mike Armstrong

Behold the Ratbant!



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