When we think about it, you’ve probably got more chance of predicting next year’s lottery numbers than guessing what crackers Japanese coachbuilder Mitsuoka is going to do next. Over the years, this wonderfully zany outfit has built some properly crazy cars. They include the Orochi, a bizarre sports car based on an eight-headed, eight-tailed dragon. It’s also grafted many a face onto a car, from old -chool Jaguar XK120s to the Mitsuoka Roadster, a third-gen Mazda MX-5 it morphed into a sort of art-deco Cruella de Vil cartoon.
But more recently, the brand has been inspired by good old America. A few years ago, it showed us the Rock Star, a Mazda MX-5 that went for a haircut clutching a picture of a classic Corvette C2. And it’s apparently not finished with the American dream yet as we’ve just been sent this, the Mitsuoka Buddy.
Getting its hands on a Toyota RAV4, Mitsuoka sharpened its scalpel and cut out some influences from old-school yank tanks before splatting them across the front and rear of a crossover built on the other side of the Pacific. What you’re left with is quite...dramatic.
Let’s start at the front, where there’s chrome for days. Clearly robbing design cues from Chevy’s back catalogue, Mitsuoka has added a shiny K5 Blazer-style full-width grille, stacked two-piece rectangular headlights, a big chrome jaw/bumper, and some new LED nostrils. It’s an iconic look...which, weirdly, it kind of pulls off. Until you look at the side, where it’s pure RAV4 roofline and silhouette, save for some new creases in the bodywork and chunky All-Terrain T/A tires wrapped around ’80s-style steel wheels with chrome hubcaps. Because chrome is king, remember.
Then it’s back to a time warp as you walk around to the rear, where Toyota lights have been chucked in the bin and replaced with some slender vertical options not too dissimilar to those on the Cadillac Brougham, while a big fat contrasting trim panel made famous on Jeep Grand Wagoneers has been slapped across the back and decorated with chrome lettering. Because remember, chrome is king.
Dropping an inefficient large-capacity V8 would be the obvious thing to do next, but Mitsuoka doesn’t deal in obvious. So, your options are Toyota’s 2.0-liter four-cylinder turbopetrol engine, or—if you’re feeling fruity—a 2.5-liter four-wheel-drive hybrid, both from the current generation RAV4.
Unfortunately, there are no photos of the interior yet, but if you’ve ever Googled ‘Americana,’ you’ll probably have a good idea of what could pop up. We’re imagining ’60s diner vibes with plenty of checkers, maybe a good ol’ American cheeseburger in the glove box, and a “Yee-haw” horn.
Order books for the Buddy will open in Japan on 26 November. How much it’ll cost? No idea. But given the re-skinned Roadster (which was a last-gen Mazda MX-5 wearing baroque fancy dress) cost £53,800 (P3.37 million), we doubt it’ll be cheap. Can you really put a price on character?
NOTE: This article first appeared on TopGear.com. Minor edits have been made.