The first Japanese car sold in Britain was a piece of junk


The first Japanese car ever sold in England was not a Datsun, Nissan, Prince, Toyopet or Honda Civic, not even a CVCC. It was a Daihatsu Compagno, only the company’s second four-wheeler, and it first reached British shores in May 1965. The little Daihatsu, which was available in sedan, coupe and station wagon configurations, even a Vignale-style convertible – set the world on fire? Has Japan’s oldest automobile company appealed to “those who dream of beauty and excitement of sports cars? “Did the well equipped 800, with its standard heater, reclining seats, tinted windows, clock, cigarette lighter and automatic antenna radio transform the import company Dufay – which sold Japanese cameras, so why not Japanese cars? – into an overnight success?

He does not have. When production ended in 1970, Daihatsu only sold six cars.

With 41 horses, Coach found a 0-50 mph time of 21 seconds. The Compagno did not hit 60 mph.

Considering that Daihatsu had managed to build 120,000 Compagnos in six years, that’s, you know, rather unsuccessful. But then, apart from the exact belief that these goldfish tender in sandals could hardly build an automobile, there’s another good reason: it was crap. In its August 20, 1965 issue, the car keeper Autocar gave it a scathing review: “well done,” the reviewer recalled. Stuart bladon in a brief, “but technically backward”. Ten years in the making, with a bouncy ride, horrible grip, tricky brakes, tons of oversteer. The turn signals sounded like “a ping-pong ball bouncing down a long flight of wooden stairs. The headlight switch was translated in the owner’s manual as a “light siren.” Slow: “Its acceleration… to 60 mph was too slow to be timed.” Imp and Ford Anglia. Looking back, the Compagno seemed like the kind of car auto critics would scale on their colleagues for a chance to smear it, with all the hype and hyperbole that has been waiting to be unleashed since winning their race. English. degrees. Displays! Flimshaw!

Why, then, should people care about this shit?

Because it was a first. Because the survivors still float on the mainland, to Finland, as well as Australia, or there are only three left, each undoubtedly supported by enthusiastic tenders. Because it’s interesting: first as a naive experience, then as a flood – in 1966 Toyota brought the Corona and in 1968 Datsun the 1000. It was then, according to another Autocar critic, Martin Lewis: “The British public got their first glimpse of a real Japanese car. And few he or the rather complacent British auto industry realized this. who was waiting for him. ”

Because you can buy one, right now, directly at the source. (Oh, Goo-net, what would the automotive connoisseurs of the world do without you?)

And, because it’s pretty.

Daihatsu Compagno Spider

In 1965, a 958cc engine with 55 horsepower could push the Compagno Spider to 90 mph. “Compagno”, it should be noted, is the Italian word for “friend”.

And, of course, because it is the right of every worthy and respectable automobile enthusiast to imbibe as much knowledge about as many cars as possible into our swirling heads: the better to impress our friends, identify the vehicles. strangers to loved ones, or dominate the next pub trivia night. Think about the alternative of not knowing the Daihatsu Compagno. We run the risk of expressing our perplexity when a 1965 Compagno Spider shows up at the next Cars and Coffee and Carburetors and Caffeine. They seem helpless in front of their macho friends. Imagine the softness of the ribs that follows. Imagine the horror of being rejected as an unbeliever, a suitor, an ignorant fool. The horror. The horror.

At the end-really!– you better know.

Images via Flickr, Old car manual draft

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