Many times, 'quirky' and 'classic' tend not to occupy the same space, given people's general impression of old cars as either being grandiose or run-down. However, this 1997 Mitsubishi Minica Toppo Town Bee begs to differ: it was also in my bucket list of 'to-spot' cars and I was glad that I could finally check it off!
First unveiled at the Tokyo Motor Show in 1989, the car was derived from Mitsubishi's Minica kei car: its name is a portmanteau of 'top' (referring to the high roof) and the Japanese 'noppo', meaning lanky. By having a spacious interior space, it was intended to be a selling point. 1st-generation Toppos had asymmetrical number of doors: usually 1 on the passenger side and 2 on the driver side.
The 2nd-generation Toppo appeared in 1993 with a longer wheelbase and round headlights. In January 1997, a retro-styled version known as the Town Bee was released: its name evokes the imagery of worker bees being busy. Town Bees differed from regular Toppos with their 'popping' headlights, akin to goldfish. A special edition known as the Pop Club was released in July the same year, featuring striking San Marino yellow paint, body-coloured mirrors and grilles (see below). The Town Bee received another facelift in October 1997, featuring a new grille, privacy glass, rear reclining seat and rear wiper.
Difference between the post and pre-facelift Town Bee
The Toppo Town Bee was powered by a 659 cc Mitsubishi 4A30 i4 engine, allowing it to reach a top speed of 139 km/h with an acceleration of 18.7 seconds [0-100 km/h]. As a proper kei car, it had dimensions of 3295 x 1395 x 1695 mm and weighed 730 kg, with a fuel consumption of 5.7 litres / 100 km.
Production of the 2nd-generation Toppo ended in 1998 where it was succeeded by the 3rd-generation model. Despite it being a uniquely Japanese domestic market model, Town Bees were sold here in 1997 by Cycle and Carriage, retailing at S$78,800. A few units were also put up as lucky draw prizes! This unit, registered in December 1998, is the last one remaining in Singapore; however the expiry of its COE lifespan at the end of this year means that it must be either scrapped or exported subsequently.
It is a pity that such a quirky and cute-looking car cannot continue to exist here, especially with its pink paint. Then again, trying to maintain the only car in the country requires one to be resourceful and have the right connections, which is easier said than done. The least I could do is to preserve its former existence in this post; hopefully you won't dismiss a flash of pink and see this unicorn before it disappears..