Mystery car

New Zealand Classic Car - - AUTOMOBILIA -

Our No. 257 mystery this time round comes from the early ’60s! There’s an in­ter­est­ing story behind it, span­ning two con­ti­nents. Can any­one iden­tify this light­weight two-seater? Send your so­lu­tion to by email to ed­i­tor@clas­s­ic­car.co.nz, or by mail to Mystery Car No. 257 July 2017,

Newzealand­clas­s­ic­car, PO Box 46,020, Herne Bay, Auck­land, by July 7. Last month, we were in Ja­pan, mid to late 1960s, when Ja­panese mo­tor­cy­cle and mi­cro­car man­u­fac­turer Suzuki got things a bit wrong in its first ven­ture into larger sa­loons with the Suzuki Fronte 800. What did it do wrong, and, more in­ter­est­ing per­haps, why did it get it wrong? First, what was wrong. It stuck with two-stroke en­gines — no sur­prise given its mo­tor­cy­cle and mi­cro­car back­ground — but, for slightly larger ve­hi­cles, it had to be four-stroke by this time. Even Euro­pean two-stroke ad­her­ents Saab and Auto-union/ DKW had re­al­ized time was up. Suzuki wasn’t quite so ready, which prompts the ques­tion, why? Per­haps the force of tra­di­tion worked against it, in two ways. One, it knew and had al­ways used two-stroke mo­tors and prob­a­bly just did not want to change, and, two, the limited in-house car tra­di­tion that Suzuki could rely on did not en­com­pass ei­ther larger ve­hi­cles or ex­pe­ri­ence of other power-unit de­signs. A lit­tle more about the Fronte 800 now. It was a two-door sa­loon, with a 785cc three-cylin­der two-stroke en­gine driv­ing the front wheels through a four-speed colum­n­change all-syn­chro gear­box. It looked quite Euro­pean three-box in style, but the de­sign was cred­ited to Suzuki de­sign chief Sasaki Toru. It failed in the mar­ket­place, with to­tal sales of just over 2600 units be­tween De­cem­ber 1965 and late 1969. An an­gle I’d like to ex­plore is the sim­i­lar­ity be­tween this car and the DKW Ju­nior/f11/ F12 se­ries, built from 1959 to ’65. The en­gine, drive train, and sus­pen­sion de­sign are sim­i­lar, and both the styling and the stance of the car on the road are quite alike. Did Suzuki use the DKW as a pat­tern car, as many Ja­panese man­u­fac­tur­ers did with other Euro­pean ve­hi­cles, or was it a thank you to DKW for knowl­edge gained? Look also at Suzuki’s still­born Fronte 1100, the fol­lowup to the Fronte 800. It was canned once the com­pany re­al­ized the Fronte 800 had failed in the mar­ket, but the re­sem­blance of the 1100 to DKW’S F102 model, the last of the com­pany’s two-stroke cars, is once again im­me­di­ately ap­par­ent— 1.1-litre two-stroke three-cylin­der en­gine, and sim­i­lar styling again. Our win­ner for Mystery No. 256, the late 1950s Horch or Sach­sen­ring P240, was Pa­trick Buckley. Well done — that was a pretty ob­scure ve­hi­cle!

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