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YESTERDAY, THE TOPIC WAS the Japanese Automobile Industry, circa 1955. Today’s Part 2 continues with a well known marque as well as a few rather less familiar. As in Part 1, unless otherwise noted, quoted comments come from Tom Probst’s “Cars in Japan,” Road & Track, January 1955. Internet sleuthing revealed other tidbits.
Toyopet. “Four cylinder, 1453 cc.” Wikipedia notes, “Toyota started developing its first full-fledged passenger car, the Toyopet Crown, in January 1952. Prior to the Crown, Toyota had been outsourcing the design and manufacturing of auto bodies, which were then mounted on truck frames made by Toyota.”
In 1958 the company attempted to market the Toyopet Crown in the U.S. It failed to catch on, with exports suspended until December 1960.
Prince. “Four cylinder, 1484 cc. The Prince is Japan’s handsomest car and somewhat reminiscent of the 1950 Ford.”
Prince, founded in 1947 as the Tokyo Electric Car Company, continued building luxury (non-EV) automobiles until its merger with Nissan in 1966.
Other Japanese Marques. Probst cites five other companies, with varying degrees of production.
Auto Sandal. “A tiny, rear-engined car pushed along by a 1-cylinder, motorcycle engine of 5.5 bhp. The car holds two people, has a canvas top and ‘excellent’ economy.”
FF-2. “Hand-formed over wood patterns and mounted on 4 bicycle wheels. Engine is 2-cyl., 350 cc, V-type, placed in front, developing 12.5 bhp.”
NJ. “A roadster with lots of chrome, and an air-cooled, 2 cyl., V-type engine developing 12 bhp.”
Shibaura. “More shades of the U.S. Ford, with a revamped motorcycle engine.” Shibaura grew out of WWII machinery production and began making engines and tractors from 1951. In 1973, the company began a joint effort with Ford producing tractors.
Daihatsu PCA “Bee.” “An interesting closed, 2-door sedan, mounted on a 3-wheel chassis, 2 driving wheels behind and steerable wheel in front. Engine is flat, 2-cyl., 539 cc, and 13.5 bhp. Top speed about 45 mph.”
Daihatsu began with motorized tricycles in 1930. The 1951 Bee was its first passenger car. It was popular as a taxi, as Japanese licensing regulations permitted bargain rates per mile for three-wheeled vehicles.
Since 2016, Daihatsu has been a wholly-owned subsidiary of Toyota; its speciality, Japan’s Kei car class. ds
© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2022
Sakichi Toyoda was an inventor of weaving looms. He had factories in Japan and Shanghai and was famously a good and generous employer.
My first car was a 1970 Toyota Corona, automatic, 4 door. I was gifted it in 1982 by the original owner, who’d flown to California in late ’70 or early ’71 to get it off the boat and drive it home to Chicago, where it mostly lived in a garage. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a garage, and it couldn’t withstand the winters. I remember having to coast to the curb after the entire electrical system died once, and propping open the butterfly to start the car on rainy nights. Rust eventually overtook it. That Corona was a great little box on wheels, and I have many fond memories of it.
You can take pride in being a real automotive pioneer! I recall when Toyotas were a real rarity on St. Thomas.