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 email@example.com, 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!