f7RcJKY0 Mazda Carol 360 2
Mazda Carol 360 2
Mazda Carol 360

The year Japanese cars turned the corner

If you want to pinpoint a turning point for Japanese car makers, it was 1962.

Sixty years later the events of that year are still being felt around the globe.

It was the year Mitsubishi first used the name Colt on a car. 

The engine was rear mounted, air-cooled and 594cc in size.

The doors were hinged at the centre pillar and opened backwards.

At that time Mitsubishi did not yet exist as an autonomous company and vehicles were being produced by subsidiaries of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries.

It was the year Mitsubishi also released its first K-car — the Minica

K-cars, short for kei-car, are a class of car that was established by the Japanese Government after World War II.

It was sold at a specific retail chain called the Galant Shop.

Originally restricted to just 150cc, in 1955 engine capacity was expanded to 360cc. 

The Minica was a sedan version of the company’s 360 Van and powered by a two-stroke air-cooled engine. 

Mazda’s first four-passenger car was the Carol 360 and and complemented the three-wheeled Mazda Mazdago. 

The tiny water-cooled 358cc engine produced 13kW and was located in the rear.

It’s one of the smallest motors that has ever been used in a passenger car. 

Mazda Carol 360 1
Mazda Carol 360


With an overall length of 2990mm, the 360 was shorter than the wheelbase of a 1962 Ford Galaxie.

These cars established a foundation for both companies on which they were able to perfect their design and production expertise.

Over the next five years, they developed appealing cars that spearheaded export drives into the US and Australian markets.

Mitsubishi and Mazda are now top five sellers in the Australian market.

Prince, Datsun and Toyota all released re-styled big cars in 1962. 

The Prince Gloria and Toyota Crown were the most changed from previous models. 

Datsun’s Cedric was given a makeover by Pininfarina, with the four headlights switched from stacked to horizontal, making it 18cm longer. 

All models were equipped with white wall tyres.

Crown was built by AMI in Australia from Completely Knocked Down (CKD) kits. 

AMI assembled many brands including Triumph and, for a short time, Mercedes-Benz.

A two-door Crown Convertible was displayed at the 1963 Tokyo Motor Show but was not put into production.

The significance of the Gloria, Cedric and Crown is that they spearheaded their maker’s international aspirations, with styling, size, six-cylinder engines and unbeatable value for money that appealed to buyers in overseas markets — even if the names didn’t.

Toyota is now number one in Australia and looks like staying there forever.

David Burrell is the editor of Retroautos.com.au


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