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.
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:
To the svelte lines of the sleek Bubu502:
To the 503:
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).
And yes you can drive it on the road.
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:
But the one that is really out there is the Mitsuoka LeSeyde (which Mitsuoka made for almost a decade):
Early versions were based on a stretched S13 coupe chassis (Silvia owners will recognise the interior)
But the last evolution was based on the discontinued S15 Silvia (look closely at the door and the rear side window)
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!