T H E   K A I S H I N S H A   M O T O R C A R   W O R K S

The Kaishinsha Motorcar Works was founded in 1914, and made the first cars using the Datsun (ダットサン) name.  

The “D” in the company acronym “DAT” was from “Den” after one of the founders’  Den Kenjiro.  Later changed to “Datsun”, the company was acquired by the Nissan zaibatsu (financial conglomerate) in the 1930’s.

T H E   D A T S U N   B A B Y  (ダットサンべビ)

Datsun  made just 100 units of the Datsun Baby 2-seater coupe in 1965, it was based on the Aichi Company’s Cony Guppy.  With 4-wheel independent suspension, front double wishbones and a 200cc motor, it was made just for children to drive.  The car could only be driven at “Children’s Country” (kodomo no kuni), an amusement park in Yokohama.  The top speed was limited to just 30kph (18mph). A bumper-car like skirt surrounded the lower edges of the car.

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Transmissions were automatic, supplied by Okamura Corporation, the firm that built Japan’s first torque converter, and the steering wheel had a spring-actuated self-turning feature.  About 300,000 kids drove the cars and they remained in use until 1973.

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After the ride’s closure, the 100th car was displayed in the amusement park.  Forty years later, a team of volunteer Nissan employees calling themselves the Nissan Restoration Club took it upon themselves to bring it back to life.


The project was undertaken to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Kodomo no Kuni and it takes the team, which was founded in 2006 and only has time to restore about 1 or 2 cars per year, about nine months to finish.  Although not strictly a kei car, it is of interest nevertheless.


The Aichi logo : kc49 愛知機械工業株式会社 (Aichi Machine Industry co.ltd)

kc50  Cony cars (コ二―) were built by the Aichi Machine Industry Company in Nagoya.  The company was founded in 1943 and in 1965 it became part of the Nissan group.

kc51  1955 Cony AA-25F

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Initial production was of 3-wheeler trucks.

kc52  Cony AA27  1956  kc46


The Cony Guppy AE82 is a small pick-up truck.  It is powered by a 199cc 11hp 2-stroke 1-cylinder engine.  The engine is mid-mounted just behind and below the seats.

kc72   1962  Cony Guppy AE82 Pickup 1964 –  kc73

kc71  1962 AF8 Pickup 199cc     kc76  1968 Cony 360 AF 7V

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The Cony Guppy pickup (above right) was used in the Narutaro animation film.

kc32  The Cony Guppy Sports coupe is based on the Guppy pick-up.

kc36  kc37  kc38 The Aichi Machine Industry Co., Ltd. launched the Cony Guppy, an ultra-light truck smaller than a minivehicle with a loading capacity of 100kg.  In addition to its low price of  ¥225,000 (£1,408), the Cony Guppy featured 4-wheel independent suspension and a torque converter for clutchless operation.  Production ended after a little over one year, with less than 5,000 units manufactured in total.  The vehicle was customised by the dealer, Aichi Giant Co., Ltd. Into a convertible.


kc40   The Cony AF3-360 Series is powered by a 354cc 18hp two-cylinder engine.  It was available as a pick-up truck (360 wide), a 2-seater delivery van and also as a 4-seater “Coach” model.  It was also sold as the Cony Giant as in the poster (above left).                静岡ヂャイアント株式会社 (shizuoka gianto kabushiki kaisha)

kc64  1960 CONY  AF3 – 360  Pickup  334cc

kc67  1961 CONY  AF11 – 360  kc69  1961 CONY  360  Wagon

kc70  1961 CONY  600  Light  Van  400 Kg

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kc53  ” T H E    A U T O   S A N D A L   M O T O R   C O M P A N Y  “

日本オート·サンダル自動車  (nihon-ōtosandaru-jidōsha) 

The Auto Sandal (オート·サンダル) was made between 1947 and 1954 in Tokyo, Japan.  Approximately 196 cars were thought to have been produced.  Sandal refers to a type of shoe or flip-flop.

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kc78  The Auto Sandal FS (left) is a pre-production version.  All 3 of the remaining Auto Sandal cars are in working order and are in Kurume, Japan in the Sepia Collection.

kc79  1953 Auto Sandal 348cc  kc92  The Auto Sandal friction drive.

kc90  Just after World War ll, production started in Nagoya, under the auspices of a Mr Nakano Yoshimishiro (中野嘉四郎氏).  The company Nakano Automotive (中野自動車工業) later changed its name to Auto Sandal (オート·サンダル軽自動車製造).  Mr Nakano is pictured above standing behind the prototype version.


m6  Daihatsu Motor Co., Ltd.

ダイハツ工業株式会社 (daihatsu-kōgyō-kabushiki-kaisha)

m28  1951 Daihatsu Bee 540cc about 300 were made.

m9  Daihatsu Midget (1st Generation 1957-72)

Daihatsu is the oldest Japanese car manufacturer, mostly known for its range of smaller models and off-road vehicles and its earlier 3-wheelers.



The Hope Motor Company ホ―プ自動車株式会社 – was founded in April 1952 by Ono Yoshisada and had its headquarters in Taitō, Tokyo, using the brand name Hopestar.   The company existed until 1974, when its licenses were sold to Suzuki.  Production finally ceased in April 1974, ending production of the Hopestar models that were still being made.

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kc101 The 3-wheelers sold in their thousands and were perfect for Japanese roads.

my36  Model Overview :  Hope-Star ON (1953-1967). Only about 15 ON 360’s were produced, it was a mini Jeep powered by a Mitsubishi 356cc two-stroke engine.  It was sold to Suzuki and eventually became the Suzuki Jimney.

Hope-Star SM (1954-1961)     Hope-Star SY (1957-1962)     Hope-Star ST (1960-1974)   

Hope-Star OT Star (1961-1974)   Hope-Star OV (1962-1974)   Hope-Star ON 4WD (1967-1970)

The Hope-Star Unicar NT   my37 kc105

The Hopestar Unicar NT was produced from 1960 until 1974 and was advertised as being a pickup in the coupe style, with the slogan :  The People Has Many Dreams as To The light Vehicle!!

my38  A Hope-Star 3-wheeler in modern day traffic.


njjj   ” N J  MOTOR  CAR WORKS “

日本自動車工業株式会社 (nihon-jidōsha-kōgyō·kabushiki·kaisha)


The Nippon Keijidosha Co. of Kawaguchi, Saitama-ken,  produced cars from shōwa 28 to 30* (1954-1955).     *Japanese years are named after the Emperor of the time.

kc80  Only 85 of the model NJ 号 (go) of 1954 were produced, it was a rear-engined 358cc OHV air-cooled 2-stroke developing 12ps @ 4000 rpm.  Being impressed by the MG logo in Britain, it was decided to call the car an NJ (Nippon Jidosha).  The design proved popular as it resembled the little cars used in amusement car rides.

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N I K K E I    T A R O  (Previously called NJ (see above)

日本軽自動車株式会社 (nippon kei-jidōsha-kabu·shiki·kaisha )

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NJ / Taro’s could be driven on a scooter licence, a big selling point, as on the advert above.

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kc123     S U M I N O E   M A N U F A C T U R I N G

kc122   1955 FLYING FEATHER FF-2 350cc   kc125

kc124  Mr Katayama (aka Mr K) at the 2002 Z Car Convention in Texas.

The Flying Feather was conceived by Yutaka Katayama and designed by Ryuichi Tomiya in the late 40’s.  A prototype was built with a 200cc engine (built in-house by Nissan in 1951).  Only 50 were made. From a technical point of view the Flying Feather left a lot to be desired.  For example, the wheels came from a motorbike and the roof construction was inspired by the Citroën 2CV.  With drum brakes only on the rear wheels the Flying Feather either doesn’t brake at all or stops at once.   It is the predecessor of the modern kei car.

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Mr. Katayama, had a dream from childhood to build a very light weight car (mostly out of motorcycle parts).  It was to have a combination of good performance and economy (Air Cooled, 12.5 HP, Twin Cylinder), rather like a gull in flight.  Thus the name,”Flying Feather”. 

In the late 40’s, Mr. K discussed this concept with Ryuichi Tomiya and a sketch was completed instantly.  Ryuichi Tomiya had been in charge of body design at Nissan Motors Ltd. before WWII and he was considered to be a genius, later to be called “the Leonardo da Vinci of Japan”.

kc131  The 1955  Flying  Feather (フラインぐ·フェザー)  kc132

kc133 kc134 kc135  A rare 1:43 Model by ROCO of Japan.  Only 20 of these were handbuilt in resin.  The wire motorcycle wheels are a real work of art.


kc145   SUZULIGHT October 1955-1969

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         1957 Suzulight SL           Suzulight SD            Suzulight 360 TLll    1967 Suzuki Fronte

Suzulight was the brand used for the kei cars built by the Suzuki Motor Corporation from 1955 to 1969 at Kosai, Hamanagun in Shizuoka.  They were Suzuki’s first entry into automotive manufacturing, having previously only produced motorcycles.  The Suzulight sedans and light vans all had transversely mounted engines and front-wheel drive.  The Suzulight Carry trucks and vans were the first to use the Carry label, still around today.  

The body styles and pricing were as follows :       

1955 Apr Suzulight SF (suzuki 4-wheel car) SF is the series name ;      

1955 Oct Suzulight SS (sedan)   ¥420,000  Only 43 were built ;      

1955 Oct Suzulight SL (light van)   ¥390,000 (£2,563) ;       

1955 Oct Suzulight SP (pickup)   ¥370,000 (£2,431) ;       

1955 Nov Suzulight SD (delivery van) ;       

1959 Oct Suzulight TL (van)   ¥398,000 (£2,616) ;      

1961 Suzulight TL ll;       1962 Suzulight TL lll;       1962 Mar Suzulight TLA (passenger car).


F U J I   C A B I N

The Fuji Cabin is more like a scooter with a roof than a car.  The unrestored example is a prototype with an airplane-like steering wheel, and only one headlight.   Made by fuji jidōsha.

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my57  1957 Fuji Cabin model 5A  my58



The Nihon Nainenki Company was formed in 1936 and primarily made small scout cars for the Japanese military .  It made the Kurogane Baby (くろがね·ベビー) kei truck in the early 1960’s.

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The 1961 Kurogane Baby KB360V

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1 9 6 2   K u r o g a n e   B a b y   S e d a n

1962 Kurogane Baby KB360, 4-seater 4-door sedan, mid-engined rear wheel drive, petrol, in-line 2-cylinder, air-cooled, 356cc 21.6 cu in 2-stroke, max power: 18ps @ 4,500rpm, max. torque: 24ft-lbs @ 3,400rpm.  Gearbox: 4M, Wheelbase: 68.9”, Front track: 42.1” Rear track: 41.3”. Length: 117.9”, Width: 50.4”, Height: 64.8”, Weight: 1058lbs, Max. speed: 40mph.

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The Commercial Canvas Back KB360