16 July 2015

Collector Classics: Mitsuoka Roadster

Japanese company turns a Mazda Miata into a Morgan Aero 8 look-alike

The Mitsuoka Motor Company Ltd, was founded in 1968 by Susumu Mitsuoka.

The unique Japanese Automobile manufacturer was until only recently a well-kept country secret, best known for transforming existing cars into wannabe classic British-style saloons.

Some of Mitsuoka’s earlier work involved converting a four-door Nissan Micra into a copy of a 1960’s Jaguar MKII by grafting a one-piece fibreglass front and rear end onto the Micra shell. The finished product looks like it has been left in a tumble dryer for too long and has shrunk, and I don’t think Inspector Morse (John Thaw), a huge Jaguar fan, would be at all amused!

Mitsuoka calls this model the Viewt (a fittingly odd name).

The company’s latest creation is named the Roadster (in Japan, the Himiko) and has the look of an instant classic.

It has been available in Japan, at a cost of $50,000, for a few years now.

This month it is making its European debut and will be available from a distributor in England at a cost of $86,000. Sooner or later one or two will slip into our country, but don’t expect to see one in Canada for at least another 15 years.

The Roadster begins its life as a Mazda Miata; it is put on a jig and is stretched into a long-wheelbase sports car. The finished product is something that from the front looks like a Morgan Aero 8 with a Jaguar grille.

The traditional Morgan lineup has always been considered a driver’s car and not exactly brimming with high-tech gadgets and creature comforts.

The hand-built Roadster is available in three different levels of trim. The engine is a standard Mazda 2.0-litre four-cylinder available with either a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic gearbox. The 170-horsepower power plant is capable of moving the 2,800 lbs. two-seater at a reasonable pace.

In addition, it sports what is purported to be the world’s fastest power-retractable hardtop, opening and closing in 12 seconds with just the flick of a switch.

If you Google “Mitsuoka Motor Company,” the first entry should be the company’s global website where you can spend some time navigating and looking at some of the interesting cars that they have created over the years. Or visit mitsuoka-motor.co.uk.

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