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Founded in 1907 to manufacture the internal combustion engine, by 1930 the company was manufacturing three-wheeled vans. It was not until the early 1950's that Daihatsu began the manufacture of passenger cars, it owing much of its design to the earlier vans, even carrying over the three-wheeled layout and rear mounted 540cc air cooled engine. By 1963 Daihatsu had managed to add the much needed 4th wheel to their Campagno models, although these early iterations were still extremely small in size; available in saloon, sports and station wagon variants, all were equipped with the Daihatsu 797cc four cylinder engine.

By 1966 the engine capacity had grown to 958cc, it producing 65 bhp, then in 1967 the company again returned to the manufacture of light-weight mini cars, this time with the 356cc "Fellow"; despite its diminutive size it would prove extremely popular in the domestic market, and would remain in production into the early 1970's. Absorbed into the Toyota conglomerate, the companies offerings were soon to mimic those of its bigger brother, although they were always smaller and cheaper. The Compagno was replaced by the Consorte, and in reality it was only a thinly disguised Corolla.

Most notable though was the Taft; this Jeep like 4x4 was powered by a 958cc four cylinder engine and would begin a trend that would see Daihatsu manufacture a long line of very profitable light 4 wheel drive vehicles, the only real competition in this section of the market coming from Suzuki's LJ80. By 1977 the Fellow had grown to a 547cc four stroke engine, however the use by date had long expired, it being replaced by the Cuore fitted with a transverse mounted engine. Then came the wonderful little Charade, a front-wheel-drive car fitted with a unique 60.6ci 993cc three cylinder engine mated to a 5 speed gearbox.

Incredibly popular, the engineers even set about fitting the little Charade with an ultra-economical turbo-diesel. For a time the Charade held the honor of being the only 3 cylinder car in the world, excluding of course the Italian built Innocenti, but even this car used the Daihatsu engine.

Daihatsu F20  

Daihatsu F20

1979 - 1985
On bush tracks the Daihatsu really shined, the relatively large engine size (in comparison to body size) allowing the performance to be leisurely, and unlike the Suzuki, not requiring the driver to continually change cogs to get the best out of it. The achilles heel when off-road was found with the standard dampers, they fading rapidly on corrugated and hard-packed ripple surfaces, giving the car a pitch and bounce ride. Many owners chose to replace these dampers with good quality after market units – a strategy that quickly solved the problem. More >>
Daihatsu Charade  

Daihatsu Charade

1981 -
The diminutive Charade was the star performer among petrol-engined vehicles in the 1980 Australian Total Oil Economy Run, achieving a staggering 5.4 liters per 100 kilometres over the 1600 km course, which included mountainous conditions and had to be negotiated at high average speeds that required some energetic driving, especially by crews of the smaller cars. More >>
Daihatsu DeTomaso Turbo Charade  

Daihatsu DeTomaso Turbo Charade

1984 - 1987
When the Daihatsu DeTomaso Turbo Charade first appeared at the Tokyo Motor Show in 1982, there were more than a few chuckles from various motoring journalists and writers - surely this was a "concept only" toy car that would never make it into serious production. More >>
Daihatsu Rocky

Daihatsu Rocky

1984 - 1999
The Rocky went on to enjoy a long 15 year stay, however in the latter years the vehicle was seen as rather primitive. The 2.0 liter petrol engine was phased out in 1989, followed by the non-turbo diesel in 1990. By the mid 1990's the off road virtues of leaf spring suspension were largely forgotten, and the competition had evolved well beyond the solid underpinnings of the Rocky. What was once seen as solid was now perceived as primitive. More >>
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