Mitsuoka: not your typical JDM car maker

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Keen students of the JDM car scene will be familiar with the name Mitsuoka. Best known for a Nissan March/Micra based Jaguar Mk2 conversion called the Viewt (above) a highly popular item in Japan, with over 1,000 sold (have a close look at the Japlish slogan in the picture above!). But Mitsuoka is also known for quite a lot of other wacky stuff.

Perhaps the wackiest is the Bubu range of microcars that were made in the early 80s. Powered (if that is the correct word) by a 50cc 4 stroke engine, the Bubus were tiny little, 6ft long devices.

Dirt cheap to buy at under $4000, the main attraction of these contraptions were that you could drive them on a 50cc moped license.

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Getting a car driver’s license in Japan is something that inexplicably costs quite a few thousand dollars and takes quite a long time, so this was quite a big selling point.  Even motorcycles licenses are graded, and the very lowest, easiest license to get was for a 50cc moped.  And this is where the Bubu came in.

Bubus made up to 1985 were all 3 wheelers, ranging from the the Bubu501:

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To the svelte lines of the sleek Bubu502:

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To the 503:

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The license laws were changed in 1985, and you could no longer drive a Bubu on a scooter licence.  Popularity of the Bubus plummeted overnight, but in 1987, Mitsuoka released the Bubu SSK, which is a golf-cart sized replica of the Mercedes SSK of the 1930s (except of course that it’s only got 50cc and is rear engined).

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And yes you can drive it on the road.

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But that’s not the end for Mitsuoka…in the next 15yrs, Mitsuoka would go onto manufacture nostalgic-looking Nissan-based cars, which sold very well. They are mostly olde-worlde British influenced like the Riley-esque Mitsuoka Ray:

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But the one that is really out there is the Mitsuoka LeSeyde (which Mitsuoka made for almost a decade):

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Early versions were based on a stretched S13 coupe chassis (Silvia owners will recognise the interior)

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But the last evolution was based on the discontinued S15 Silvia (look closely at the door and the rear side window)

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If you have to ask, you can’t afford one…the LeSeyde retailed for Y5.5mil….the price of a R34 GT-R at the time. Sounds expensive, but given that it’s got Silvia mechanicals, you could easily set it up for drift with off the shelf parts….and you would certainly stand out from the crowd of AE86s and S13s….and with that long wheelbase nobody could overtake you once you got it sideways!

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10 Responses to Mitsuoka: not your typical JDM car maker

  1. leongsoon said:

    Hey, you left out the Orochi with the pouty lips! It’s nice to see someone covering Mitsuoka, they’re like the Citroen of Japan in terms of car styling, coming out with radical and unique designs!

  2. altoidsburnme said:

    Bubu502 – the offspring of a telephone booth and a vending machine.

    Oh well, Mitsuoka…is/was/will always be… the alt-/punkrock of the JDM scene. Not loved by everyone, but definitely different.

  3. MrHijet said:

    But to be honest, some modification were really small.

    Ray: http://specs.amayama.com/mitsuoka/ray/2002_6/
    vs.
    Mira Gino: http://specs.amayama.com/daihatsu/mira_gino/2002_8/photo/10295/

    Cheers,

    Daniel

  4. Tony said:

    The LeSyde looks like a more modern, (classier, even?) version of that terrible Z31-based Spartan.

    I agree though, it’d look fantastic getting sideways, although that mammoth wheelbase isn’t gonna make it easy. Seriously, it’s got the wheelbase of a stretch limo!

  5. J-Spec said:

    The LeSyede is actually a replica of a Tiffany Classic, which was powered by a 5,000cc V8 and made in the US.
    http://www.j-spec.com.au/list/index.php?ID=12247

    The S13 based LeSyedes were NON turbo only, given that they weighed close to 2 tons with all the Mistuoka bits tacked on and they must be so depressing to drive. I fantasized of putting a turbo engine in and drifting it many years ago, but with all the extra weight, the lengthened wheel base (look at the pics again) and changed suspension with the chassis mods and I don’t think it would be particularly easy 🙁

    Ben

  6. Kev said:

    Included in my “Fantasy JDM Garage” is a LeSeyde drift car (photoshop, anyone?) and an Autech Stelvio set up for circuit 🙂 A Parkway 26 with 20B running twin T88s and NOS for drags would complete the set 😀

    Muhuahaha.

  7. Bernard said:

    I am the lucky owner of a BUBU 501. same color red as in ad this page. I would like to obtain either a repair manual or parts list. I need to replace the oil pump, and am not finding any serial numbers on the engine. also would like to know model scooter wheels are from. the front wheels on mine have been modified with wide tires, and I would like to put original wheels and tires on front. any help is appreciated. also what is JDM ? thanks in advance

  8. Ben said:

    Sorry, I don’t know where to find parts but “JDM” stands for Japanese Domestic Market.

  9. James Hayes said:

    I love Mitsuoka cars,,, But I got a Viewt 1996 for my wife,,,Can we get a light for it No,,,
    It needs one of the smaller lights on the front, but can we find it anywhere,,,,So I if some out in this great big world know where I can buy parts for the above please let me know…

  10. steveg said:

    I also have a BUBU 501 called the ZOE ZIPPER here in the states, since most wer convertibles here,, cut down, I am building a new top of fiberglass.. only a few survive i think and parts are nonexistant since most came from a scooter not imported to the US..

    I would like to contact other owners here in the states, and Japan and swap photos and such..
    email me scg13803@yahoo.com steve G. upstate NY USA.

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