For decades, Japan’s Mitsuoka has been turning out quirky classic-looking custom cars based on unlikely underpinnings. Now its Buddy, a wannabe Blazer built on a Toyota RAV4, has become a surprise best-seller, with production sold out for two years.
With its massive chrome grille, stacked headlights, vertical tail lamps, and classic rims, the Buddy bares hardy any resemblance to the Toyota underneath. It became an instant hit, with 200 cars sold in just four days. Despite costing around $45,000, it evokes memories of late-1960s Blazers and Broncos, but with the steadfast reliability of a RAV4 and fans flocked to buy it.
The Buddy follows on from the 2018 Rock Star, a rather lovely $40,000 Corvette-alike based on Mazda MX-5 Miata, which marked a design departure for Mitsuoka. Prior to the Stingray-inspired convertible, the company had been obsessed with grafting classic curves onto unlikely candidates.
The Himiko Roadster, for example, turned a Miata into almost-a-Morgan, but the design wasn’t exactly cohesive. At over $70,000, who in their right mind would have chosen one over a Malvern-made original? Mitsuoka’s website describes it as a “beautiful assassin,” which doesn’t inspire confidence about its standards of safety either.
Prior to the Roadster there were the Galue and Ryugi, bizarre attempts to convert a Nissan Cedric and Toyota Corolla into a Bentley, and the 1993 Viewt, which grafted a front end plagiarized from a Mk II Jaguar onto a Nissan March, much to the amusement of many.
Finally, after almost 30 years of oddballs, Mitsuoka has found its winning formula. Count us as fans, but what do you think?