Basic motoring

The Evolution of the Modern Ultralight Economy car.

Chapter 3 The World in the Eighties


Autobianchi A112

Autobianchi  A112
By the beginning of the nineteen eighties there was longer two separate small economy car markets; European and East Asian, the latter being effectively the Japanese sphere of  influence; but a world wide small car market that would increasingly be dominated by the Japanese manufacturers who had been exporting kits of cars for local assembly and complete cars in significant numbers since the middle of the nineteen sixties, mostly to South Africa, Thailand, Australia, the United States and India, with well over a million units by the nineteen seventies. Exports to Europe and the United States was limited by quotes and extra tariffs, despite that, Daihatsu, Datsun and Honda exported their small cars to Britain in the late nineteen sixties end seventies but as Nissan and Honda‚Äôs  cars became larger it was left Daihatsu with the Domino and the Charade and Suzuki with the SC100, Alto and Swift SA310 to carry on. There were only four new ultralight economy cars produced in Europe in the nineteen eighties and two of them the Fiat Panda introduced in 1980 and the Seat Marbella in 1986, derived from it could be seen as utility cars in the style of the Citroen 2CV and Renault R4 being of value in the country as well as in the city. The Fiat Panda  was available with engines of 652 cc air-cooled twin derived from the 126, to  water-cooled fours derived from the 127  from 764cc to 999 cc, driving the front wheels.  the Marbella was only produced until 1988; but the Panda was in production until 2003 with four and a half million made.  FSM Fiat in Poland began making the last in the line of rear engined models evolved from the 1950s 500 the126bis in 1987. It had 704 cc water cooled twin cylinder engine and was made until1991. One common feature of the European ultralight or economy cars with the exception of the couple of remaining two-stroke engined models still in production in Eastern Germany, was the use of overhead valves in their four stroke engines all of which were initially designed in the nineteen forties and fifties. The Innocenti Minitre the other model in Europe was the exception. This was because Innocenti had replaced the British designed engine in their version of the Mini that they had been making in Italy since 1974 with a unit sourced from Daihatsu, with sizes ranging from 547 cc to 993 cc. All were overhead camshaft four-stroke units of two or three cylinder configurations. The Minitre was produced from 1982 to 1993.

Daihatsu Mira 1980

                                                                                                                                                                  Daihatsu L55 Mira
This takes us to the ultralight cars from Japan all of which had overhead camshaft engines in the same period. The smaller Japanese ultralight cars the Kei cars were still restricted to a capacity of 550cc at this time and increasing restrictions on emissions limiting power output manufacturers had to produce more efficient and sophisticated engines to keep the type viable. The Daihatsu L55 series Mira/ Cuore/ Domino was produced from1980, replacing the  Max Cuore, again with the twin cylinder 547cc engine. A larger 617cc engined version the L60 Cuore  was produced along side the L55 from 1982 for export. Both were produced until 1985 when the L70 series was introduced, it had a longer wheelbase and the latest version of 547 cc engine. Export versions mostly had a 847 cc three, in was made until 1990. The 1984 Mitsubishi Minica/Econo was now a front wheel drive car, it had a 546 cc single overhead camshaft three cylinder engine and was revised in 1989. Suzuki introduced the Cervo Coupe in 1984 based on the Alta, again with a 543cc single overhead camshaft three cylinder engine. After a gap of eleven years Honda again produced a Kei car the Today, in production from 1985 to 1998. Initially with a twin cylinder engine derived from a overhead camshafts  motorcycle unit, After 1990 a three cylinder unit of 647 cc later 656 cc was fitted taking advantage of the 1990 change in the Kei car regulations allowing engines up to 660 cc to be used. Suzuki introduced a revised Fronte in 1984 again in two versions, the Kei version for Japan with the same 543 cc engine and the export version with a  796 cc unit with the Alto name, this model was also produced in China, India as the Maruti 800 and Pakistan as the Mehran 800 and remain in production until 2013. Revised models were introduced in 1986 and 1988 with revised rear suspension, disk brakes and in some versions a double overhead camshaft engine. The Fronte name was dropped in 1989 and the Alta name used for all models. The Autozam Carol Mk1 was produced by Suzuki for Mazda in 1989, Autozam was a name some Mazda cars were sold under. It used the Alta platform and had a 547 cc engine, It was updated in 1994. In the one litre sector Daihatsu was still making the Charade throughout the nineteen eighties as did FAW Tianjin in China from 1986, and it was joined by models from Suzuki, Nissan and Subaru. The first of the NiNissan
        Micrassan Micra/March k10 model was first produced in 1982 initially until 1989 with only a 1 litre engine available a four cylinder unit. Over two million where produced in the eleven years.

The Suzuki SA310  was a front wheel drive car and had a 993 cc three cylinder overhead camshaft engine. It was assembled in seven countries around the world and sold with many names such as Suzuki Swift, Cultus, Khyber Forsa, Holden Barina in Australia, Chevrolet Sprint/Sprint Metro, Pontiac Firefly  in Canada, Isuzu Geminett in Japan and was in production from 1983 to 1988 in its first version. The Subaru Justy  was a front engined front wheel drive later four wheel drive hatchback Both were fitted with the Subaru EF10 of 997cc, single overhead camshaft, water-cooled, three-cylinder units. This version of the Justy was produced from 1984 to 1994.

Nissan Micra/March K10


Links to Chapters