The roads in Japan outside the cities were very bad in the 1950s and 60s with speeds of 50 to 60 Kilometres per hour being the norm, it wasn’t until the five year road building programme beginning in 1971 that greater speed were possible.
Honda introduced their first front wheel drive car in 1966 the N360. It was fitted with a transversely mounted air cooled O.H.C four stroke parallel twin cylinder engine. Honda had extensive experience of this type of engine in their motorcycles. Other versions were the N400, N500, and N600, made from 1967 to 1973, that had engine sizes to match the name. Over 1.1 million examples had been produced by 1971 when the "N" series cars were replaced. In 1970 Honda began producing the Z range of two seat miniature coupe's based on the N range mechanicals, from the Honda Z360 Kia cars to the Z600 which was for sale in markets other than Japan. Production ceased in 1972 with over forty-thousand made. As well as the Z models Honda made the Life model from 1971 to 1974, larger and with a water cooled engine it was more refined than the Z models.
Daihatsu began production of a model in the Kia car category in 1966 the Fellow. With a water-cooled two-stroke twin-cylinder engine of 356cc producing 23hp. It had a front engine, rear wheel drive layout. It was in production until 1970. Daihatsu's replacement for the Fellow, was the Fellow Max. First produced in 1970, it had a 360cc two-stroke twin-cylinder engine, located at the front and driving the front wheels. Subaru replaced the 360 with the R2 in 1969, still with an air-cooled two-stroke engine of 356cc. This was replaced with a water-cooled version in 1971 and production ceased in 1972. In 1967 Suzuki replaced the Suzilight with the Fronte 360 LC10, it had a rear mounted lightweight tree-cylinder air-cooled two-stroke engine the produced 25 hp that gave it a maximum speed of 110 km/h. Mazda resumed Kei car production with the Chantez in 1972. It had a water-cooled two-stroke engine at the front driving the rear wheels. Kia car sales had increased steadily, reaching a peak of 750,000 in 1970. Throughout the 1970s the government kept reducing the benefits offered to Kia vehicles, which combined with ever stricter emissions standards to lower sales drastically through the first half of the decade. Honda and Mazda withdrew from the manufacturing of passenger Kia cars in 1974 and 1976 respectively, then sales steadily declined, reaching a low water mark of 150,000 passenger cars in 1975, eighty percent less than 1970 sales. Many were beginning to doubt the continued existence of the Kia car, New standards were announced on 26 August 1975, increasing the overall length and width restrictions by 200 mm and 100 mm respectively. 1972 Mitsubishi Minica
Engine size was increased to 550 cc, taking effect from January 1, 1976. To take advantage in changing regulations, Daihatsu substituted a 547cc single overhead camshaft four-stroke engine for the two-stroke engine in 1976 again a twin cylinder unit. This was carried over to a new body shell in 1977, the name be changed to the Max Cuore. Production ceased in 1980. The Subaru Rex replaced the R2 in 1972 and was in production until 1992. During that time the rear mounted 258cc two-stoke engine was replaced with a four-stroke until that was later increased to 490cc then finally to 540cc. A Mitsubishi Minica with a single overhead camshaft, four-stroke engine the F 4, was introduced in 1972 and was in production until 1989 as with the Subaru, the engine capacity was increased as regulation's allowed.
In 1976 Suzuki introduced two new Kia cars the Cervo SS20 a two seat rear engined model and the Front 7-S a four seat also with a rear engined both with a three-cylinder inline two-stroke engine, The Front initially with a 443 cc version later sharing the 539 cc version with the Cervo. Export versions of the Cervo as the SC100 were fitted with a four-cylinder water-cooled overhead camshaft engine of 797 cc or 970 cc. The Front 7-S was produced until 1979 and a later version of the Cervo the SS40 until 1990. Suzuki introduced the first in the line of Fronte/Alto models the SS30/40 in 1979 and produced it until 1984, it had the T5B 539cc three-cylinder engine at first that was replaced by a 543 cc single overhead camshaft three-cylinder four-stroke engine in 1980. The engine was transversely mounted at the front driving the front wheels that were sprung by coils struts the rear axle being dead beam located and sprung by leaf springs. Export versions of the Alto had 796 cc version of the same engine and was also in production in India by Maruti as the 800 model. Interest in the one litre engined car in Japan was at a low ebb in the late sixties and seventies with only three new models during that period The Subaru 1000 produced between1966 to 1969, it being the first front wheel drive Subaru models also the first with a horizontally opposed water-cooled four-cylinder engines in this case with a capacity of 977 cubic centimetres. The Datsun Sunny B10 also known as the Datsun 1000 had a front engine rear wheel drive layout with a 988 cc four-cylinder inline water-cooled overhead valve engine. I am unable to determine the chassis type; but it had independent front suspension by wishbones and a transverse leaf spring, the live rear axle was hung on leaf springs. It was in production for only four years from 1966 to 1970. The Daihatsu Charade was a new front wheel drive model with a new three-cylinder belt driven overhead camshaft engine the Daihatsu C series engine of 843 cc or 993 cc. Japanese Car of the Year in 1979 and was made with successive revisions from 1977 to 1993. It was assembled from kits in many countries around the world.
During the period covered in this chapter the two stroke engine had given way to the four stroke engine in all models and seen the emergence of the three cylinder four stroke configuration not seen since the beginning of the century, an engine type that would become dominant in the ultralight car in the future. The trend towards the front wheel drive layout was well under way and would dominate in the future.
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