30 September 2019

More than an old car #118: Daihatsu Fellow

Old Japanese cars are a rarer sight compared to continental models, partly due to a lack of awareness and popularity. Performance issues also crop up every now and then, thus it could be understood why they are not well-loved. I was therefore pleasantly surprised to come across this mint-condition 1969 Daihatsu Fellow SS outside a showroom!

The Daihatsu Fellow was first introduced in 1966 as a kei car, which attracted Japanese consumers due to lower taxes payable. It was designed to seat 4 adults comfortably despite the rather small box-shaped body, and one could load/unload baggage in the trunk easily because of a hinge outside the car. Interestingly, it was also the first Japanese car to feature rectangular headlights. It was offered as a sedan, wagon, mini truck and a panel van.

 As Honda had released the N360 around the same time, Daihatsu attempted to capitalise by making its engine more powerful, leading to the introduction of the SS trim. Although the Fellow helped Daihatsu to increase its market share of light vehicles, it failed to dominate the market. Various facelifts were carried out, most notably the grille design and a front bumper that was mounted higher in 1969. It was powered by a 356 cc ZM 2-cylinder engine, allowing it to reach a top speed of 115 km/h with an acceleration of 25.9 seconds [0-100 km/h]. As a kei car, the Fellow was only 2990 mm long and weighed 495 kg.

Production of the Fellow ended in 1970, where it was replaced by a revamped Fellow Max. This particular unit was apparently the 1st Daihatsu car that was imported by Sin Tien Seng, our local Daihatsu dealer in 1969. It has been preserved and exhibited at their 30th anniversary event in 1999. Up close, you could see how rudimentary the car was: no-frills dashboard, simple seats and non-fancy steering wheel. None have survived for so long, probably due to rust issues that plagued Japanese cars during that era. It is a very interesting piece of history that is worth remembering, since this is not a very well-known car even among JDM fans. Perhaps your parents or relatives have driven one before when times were simpler, hope that this is a walk down memory lane for them!

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