Mitsuoka M55: The Ultimate Fusion of Nostalgia and Quirkiness
Mitsuoka, the Japanese automaker known for its neoclassic creations, has once again captivated car enthusiasts with its latest concept, the M55. While it’s based on the current Civic hatchback, this unique vehicle takes inspiration from 1970s American muscle cars, offering a fun-size hatchback with a distinctive twist. Let’s dive into the fascinating world of Mitsuoka and explore what makes this concept so intriguing.
Mitsuoka is a small-scale Japanese manufacturer that specializes in building neoclassic cars on platforms from popular automakers like Toyota, Mazda, and now Honda. With just 80 employees, this quirky company in Toyama City, located approximately 250 miles outside of Tokyo, has been following its proven recipe for over 50 years. Each neoclassic car is hand-assembled by two craftsmen in a meticulous process that can take up to two months to complete.
The Mitsuoka M55, although currently a concept, showcases the company’s bold vision. Unveiled as a unique fusion between the Civic hatchback and the iconic styling of American muscle cars, the M55 pushes the boundaries of creativity. Featuring rear louvers and a square-jawed front grille reminiscent of domestic American iron, this concept offers a fantastic blend of classic and contemporary design elements.
Underneath its striking exterior, the Mitsuoka M55 houses a turbocharged 1.5-liter engine paired with a manual transmission. Mitsuoka’s transformation of the Civic hatchback into a Charger lookalike is both hilarious and impressive. Purists might grumble, but there’s no denying the sheer enjoyment that comes from this quirky creation.
Mitsuoka has a history of producing Euro-themed models, such as the Viewt, which resembles a Nissan inspired by the Jaguar Mk II sedan. However, with the company’s general manager, Minoru Watanabe, envisioning a new direction for Mitsuoka after its 50th anniversary in 2018, the focus shifted towards capturing the essence of vintage American cars. The Mitsuoka Rock Star, infused with the spirit of a 1960s Corvette, was one of the company’s first steps in this new direction.
An even more endearing creation from Mitsuoka is the Buddy. Based on the RAV4, this delightful vehicle channels the charm of the K5 Chevy Blazer. With its funky handbuilt nostalgic looks and dependable Toyota reliability, the Buddy has become a hit among enthusiasts. Surprisingly, these coachbuilt creations are relatively affordable, with the Buddy priced at around $45,000. However, due to high demand, there is currently a two-year waitlist for this adorable vehicle.
Turning our attention back to the M55, its rear profile exudes characteristics reminiscent of Japanese coupes from the 1970s, such as the C110 Nissan Skyline, Datsun B110, or Mitsubishi Galant GTO. The Mitsuoka M55 perfectly combines the Civic’s functionality with a touch of retro charm. Inside, you’ll find exquisitely executed retro-inspired seats, further enhancing the nostalgic feel of this concept.
While Mitsuoka states that the M55 is a concept not intended for production, their decision may depend on the level of interest it garners. The company will be showcasing the M55 in Toyama and later in Tokyo over the winter, allowing enthusiasts a chance to experience its “hot magma” of 1970s inspiration. However, with Mitsuoka’s limited production capacity, it’s unlikely that the M55 will make its way to the American market. Although older Mitsuoka models have occasionally appeared through gray-market importation, the company currently has no plans to expand beyond its established markets in Asia, with only two official dealerships located in the UK and Monaco.
Nonetheless, the Mitsuoka M55 raises an interesting question: How much would U.S. buyers be willing to pay for a run-of-the-mill car injected with an immense personality? Flex Automotive, a Japanese dealership in San Diego, already modifies early 2000s Land Cruisers to resemble those from the 1980s, suggesting a potential market for nostalgic vehicles. Whether or not this concept becomes a reality, the Mitsuoka M55 is a celebration of pure fun in a world where automobile manufacturing often takes itself too seriously.
In conclusion, Mitsuoka continues to defy conventions and push the boundaries of automotive design with its neoclassic creations. The Mitsuoka M55, with its fusion of 1970s American muscle car styling and the practicality of a compact hatchback, epitomizes the company’s unique approach. While its production remains uncertain, the M55 serves as a true testament to Mitsuoka’s dedication to craftsmanship, nostalgia, and sheer enjoyment.