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Rare Rides: This 1990 Daihatsu Charade is the Essence of Car

Image: Daihatsu Charade, via Craigslist

I really enjoy encountering the cheap and cheerful compacts of the past. Their lack of technological complexity, superb integrity in exterior design, and complete absence of flim-flam is refreshing.

Our Rare Ride today is such a compact, from a company many in North America don’t know. It’s the Daihatsu Charade.

But before we get to this light-blue box, here’s some history for you.

Daihatsu is one of the oldest existing engine manufacturers in Japan. Founded in 1907, the company produced its first vehicle in 1930, the HA Model (which had three wheels). In 1937, Daihatsu produced its first four-wheeled vehicle, which it also called the HA Model. Throughout the next couple of decades, Daihatsu would make more three-wheel vehicles, and other small four-wheeled vehicles intended for transporting freight. Its first foray into the passenger market was with the Compagno line in 1963, when the company built several different body styles on a single platform. The Compagno range included two and four-door sedans, a delivery van, convertible, and a pickup truck.

Daihatsu was fully independent until 1967, when Toyota became a major shareholder. The Japanese government encouraged domestic investment in auto companies in the late ’60s, since the doors of the market were set to open to imported vehicles. Over time, Toyota increased its stake and control in the company, and obtained 33.4 percent of Daihatsu’s shares in 1995. With veto power, Toyota controlled the company’s actions and increased its share to 51.2 percent in 1998. Just recently, in August 2016, Daihatsu became a wholly owned subsidiary of Toyota.

The company played in the United States market for just a few years beginning in 1987. It brought over two models, the Charade we have here today and the Rocky compact SUV, which was much like the Suzuki Samurai. But as often with small manufacturers here, the company faced sales difficulty on US shores with a limited model offering and dealership network. It gave up on the US market in 1992.

In other markets, Daihatsu continued to be a very successful producer of small vehicles. In 2006, the company posted a net income of 4 billion dollars, and it employed nearly 12,000 people around the globe.

The history lesson went on for a bit there, eh? Time for the Rare Ride!

Image: Daihatsu Charade, via Craigslist

The Charade you see here is for sale on Craigslist in Eugene, Oregon. A temperate Oregon climate helps explain its excellent condition. A careful long-term owner must be a factor, too.

Image: Daihatsu Charade, via Craigslist

This Charade has 128,000 miles on its 1295cc inline four-cylinder and automatic transmission. It’s probably very speedy a thrilling adventure on onramps. The seller says it will do 40 miles to the gallon.

Image: Daihatsu Charade, via Craigslist

The interior is in excellent condition; everything laid out simply and sensibly, as you’d expect.

Image: Daihatsu Charade, via Craigslist

The Pioneer head unit adds a nice vintage touch as well.

Image: Daihatsu Charade, via Craigslist

Perhaps someone in the comments can fill us in about parts availability here, because I’m imagining it’s sketchy at best. The seller is asking just $1,495, making this our most affordable Rare Rides to date. Surely it’s worth the asking price.

[Images via Craigslist]

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