By on March 19, 2014

13 - 1990 Daihatsu Rocky Down on the Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee MartinRemember the Daihatsu Rocky? No? That’s OK, several vehicles of this type sank without a trace during the late 1980s and early 1990s (e.g., the Dodge Raider), and Daihatsu itself fled the United States in 1992. I see Daihatsu Charades in self-serve wrecking yards about every six months these days— including this ’89 and this ’90— and I don’t bother photographing most of them. A Rocky, on the other hand… well, let’s just say that this is the first Rocky I’ve seen anywhere in at least five years. How many are left on the street in North America? Hundreds? Dozens?
01 - 1990 Daihatsu Rocky Down on the Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee MartinThere must be at least one in the Denver area, because this junked example has been picked clean.
07 - 1990 Daihatsu Rocky Down on the Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee MartinThese little trucks came with a 1.6 liter engine and front- or four-wheel-drive.
04 - 1990 Daihatsu Rocky Down on the Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee MartinAre project Rockies worth anything? Apparently not.
20140315_120504Right after I photographed this Rocky, I felt compelled to go on eBay and buy a vintage Daihatsu Racing sticker for my travel laptop. I also got a Daihatsu patch for my race suit.
DaihatsuTerios2-900x540I was so inspired by the sight of this Rocky that I dove down the rabbit hole of 21st century Daihatsu mini-SUV ads, and there I found some seriously frenzied Daihatsu Terios-thrashin’ stuff. Perhaps Daihatsu will return to the US soon, with a Rocky-badged Terios. All right, let’s watch some Rocky ads!


The actors in this JDM Rocky ad need to lay off the helium, is all I have to say.

In Germany, a romantic approach was used to pitch the Rocky (badged as a Feroza in Europe).

For Australia, the Rocky (Feroza) was compared to the body of Surf Iron Man Champion Guy Leech.

Another Australian (or maybe New Zealand) ad shows the Turbodiesel Rocky, which was apparently half Ferrari and half tank.

Also an excellent choice for surfers who liked to crash through sand dunes. Wouldn’t some of those impacts have set off the airbags? Oh, right— pre-airbag era, carry on!

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39 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1990 Daihatsu Rocky...”


  • avatar
    I've got a Jaaaaag

    You have a Clermont Lounge sticker? Thank you for the flashbacks to alcohol infused bad decisions of 10 years ago.

  • avatar

    I remember these. I’m not sure what kind of performers or how durable they were, but they were cute as a bug’s ear.

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      A friend had one about twenty years ago. He’d bought it new and put a couple hundred thousand miles on it. Unfortunately, once Daihatsu was gone, parts were hard to come by. This was in the days before universal utilization of the internet, and tracking down brake parts and wheel bearings in 1996 was difficult enough that he bought a new truck and retired the Rocky to one of his family’s farms. He replaced it with a new Dodge Ram 2500 4×4 IIRC, which must have been quite a change after driving about a thousand miles a week in a Rocky with a ragtop.

  • avatar
    raresleeper

    I bet performance wise these little guys were right on par with the Samurai. And every bit as tippy.

    Not to mention the few Rocky’s that do manage to make it on to Ebay still sell for very little, even with lower mileage and in very good condition.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      Show proof! They never show up, and when they do they’re crap!

      • 0 avatar
        raresleeper

        If, and when, one shows up, Sir, I will send you a notification.

        I’ll be sure to place a bid on it for you, as well.

        And once you bring it home, get used to everyone asking, everywhere you go… “what is THAT?”

        “Die-a-WHO?”

      • 0 avatar
        Joseph67

        Hello i own 2 rockys first one i got 20 yrs ago and she still on road …got 2nd one about 3 yrs ago as a parts car it has all the bells ans whistles..and it runs as well justinside shot to hell from weather exposure over the yrs..i wouldnt sell mine for anything plan on passing down to my daughter as her 1st car..tuff lil things the stories i can twll ya lol…

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      These were far more powerful than Samarais, not that it means they were actually powerful. They were closer to the Sidekick/Tracker four cylinders of the day in performance though.

      • 0 avatar
        NoGoYo

        It’s not hard to beat 63 horsepower…I’d guess these Rockys had somewhere around 100, give or take 10 horsepower.

      • 0 avatar
        GeneralMalaise

        Yes, I bought new and owned a Sammy for 5 years. Had to have the trannie rebuilt at 65k and put a total of 95k miles on it before selling it. I think the Rocky was a better effort all the way around and had a wider stance/was much less tippy than the Sammy.

  • avatar
    mkirk

    You sure these were FWD? I seem to remember them having conventional layouts with a real High/Low range conventional transfer case and transmission. The Orientation of the motor and the beefy transmission tunnel in your example support this. I thought they were more in line with the Samurai.

  • avatar
    mkirk

    Yes, mint one on E-Bay…6 grand starting bid LOL but it does look like a real 4×4 not a FWD based deal.

  • avatar
    high_speed_chase

    Here is a local CL ad:
    http://knoxville.craigslist.org/cto/4373681104.html

  • avatar
    Joe McKinney

    In recent years I have seen more Rockys than Charades. This amounts to one Charade and two or three Rocky’s.

  • avatar
    NoGoYo

    I remember seeing a Rocky around town…once. Years ago.

    But it was in good shape.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    On that last video link, glass roof option whaaaaat!?

    Clarkson did a test of the Terios in the English countryside probably 4-5 years ago. He liked it and it proved very capable.

  • avatar
    LALoser

    I almost bought one of these in ’92. Same dealer had Isuzu, Mits…and something else. I went with the Isuzu P/U. Great trucklet. 4cyl, 5M, 4WD. Short wheelbase. Big fun on Guam running the boonies.

  • avatar
    Pebble

    There are a couple Rockys running around Vegas to this day, and a Mitsu Raider I see often.

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      There are a few of them on the roads of San Diego too. They’re uncommon enough that I point them out to my mostly disinterested friends.

      • 0 avatar
        luvmyv8

        Come to think of it, I had a customer call into my work looking for parts for his Rocky last week. Nice enough guy, he had heard that Toyota owned Daihatsu (which they do) but that’s strictly JDM. Unfortunately I couldn’t help the guy as all I can get is USDM Toyota parts on my catalog….. it doesn’t even cover the Mexican Hilux sold roughly 30 miles south. Going back to the Rocky, he told me that parts are practically impossible to find, even in the aftermarket and these are super rare in junkyards.

        I’ve seen maybe 2 of these…. maybe? Very rare. I’ve literally seen more Nissan Skyline GT-R’s (yes, seriously) vintage Corvettes and the like, clean unmolested Jeep CJ5′s, hell even a LaForza!

        These are pretty cool and are curiosities….. but here’s the problem…. why would you buy this over a Jeep Wrangler or even a Sammie?

  • avatar
    Land Ark

    When I was growing up, we would listen to the radio every morning before school (my parents were both teachers). And for a while I distinctly remember hearing ads for the Daihatsu Rocky. I think our local Chrysler dealer also sold Daihatsus. But whoever paid for those radio ads had it pay off as I remember seeing enough Rockies running around town and not thinking twice about it.
    Of course, I also remember thinking Daihatsu cars were a total joke on the same level as Yugo. But they entered my consciousness the same time as Hyundai did, so that may not have helped.

    • 0 avatar
      Mullholland

      I thought that Daihatsu was owned by Toyota and that it designed, engineered and build the bulk of their JDM mini cars. I believe the Charade, a subcompact, had the largest wheelbase of any car they made.

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      Daihatsu definitely suffered for coming here coincident with a wave of low cost/lower quality cars. While they were tarred with the Hyundai/VW Fox crap-brush, they were also every bit as expensive as the best compacts. The combination made their cars pretty much sale-proof. The Charade looked like a Subaru Justy or Geo Metro on paper, but it cost as much as a Civic. Bizarrely, Charlottesville’s BMW-Audi-Porsche dealer picked up a Daihatsu franchise. I vaguely recall a buy-one-get-one-free promotion involving Charades and 750iLs.

  • avatar
    Crabspirits

    Too bad this example doesn’t have much left in the way of clues to it’s final voyage/owner, other than it ended face-first into a K-rail.

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      It looks more like a sideswipe while turning right. That’s some nice pre-VOC paint. But the EPA never asks if we’d accept slightly worse air pollution in exchange for quality auto paint, an acceptable trade-off to a guy dealing with #&$@%* water-based paint fade.

  • avatar
    Russycle

    A friend of mine has one of these. It’s great for putting around town in the summertime. I’d never heard of the car until I saw his.

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    During their short life here in the states in the 80′s and 90′s Daihatsu’s were quite a rare find here in the Northeast since their dealer network was mostly in the west and south. Back in the early 90′s I used to see a Rocky like this one tool around Brooklyn. Their mini-compact with a 3-banger was aptly named Charade. A comparable Geo Metro was a better vehicle.

  • avatar
    autojim

    Writer friend of mine may still have hers on her property. The US-market Rockys (Rockies?) got a wider track and bigger fender flares than the JDM versions, because Suzuki Samurai and the number of teen girls who rolled same.

  • avatar
    CAMeyer

    This is a rare find. Apparently it was in an accident and managed to stay right side up.

  • avatar
    AnsonYu

    The Daihatsu Rocky has all but vanished in Australia. I haven’t seen one in ages.

  • avatar
    Tree Trunk

    This model was sold as Feroza to the rest of the world, while the bigger brother shown in few of the ads was the Rocky.

    Liked mine back in Europe. Economical and nimble but with such a short wheel base the suspension left things to be desired at times.

    Reliability was good once a number of supposedly minor thing it came with were taken care of. The dealer jumping with joy yelling sold at what was supposed to be me insulting offer!

  • avatar
    NoGoYo

    http://allentown.craigslist.org/cto/4388172119.html

    Wow, I found a Rocky near me. 2 grand is a decent price for such a rare vehicle, but I’d be so afraid of breaking something and finding zero parts that I’d never drive the thing…

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      Truly, that car is made of lots of unobtanium. It looks very sturdy, in a “third world SE Asian jungle town mud street” kind of way.

      • 0 avatar
        NoGoYo

        Whenever I watch TV shows or movies and see stuff like FJ70 Land Cruisers and old Nissan Patrols, I always get a little bit jealous because those are some tough vehicles…

        And yeah, the Rocky definitely looks like a sturdy little off road thing, just like the Samurai did.

  • avatar
    Defender90

    They were called Fourtrak here in the UK and came with a 2.8 turbo diesel, a firm farmers favourite as they’d pull heavy trailers and were very durable. Until the rust got to them, (when it did the 2.8 d was whipped out and plonked into a pre TDi Land-Rover as pre 1990 Defenders did not have a good diesel option).

  • avatar
    windsormarxist

    As the Fourtrak, these sold these in the UK well up into the early 2000′s. They were very good trucks, with independent suspension on the latest ones, and a very tough diesel engine. The LWB models seated seven and looked similar to the 2 door Land Rover Discovery. However, there the similarity ended. These were very tough and today are loved by country farmers and people with land they need to drive across and horse boxes to tow. I think they are really the replacement for the FJ/BJ40- a good short wheel base go anywhere Toyota. 25-30mpg with a diesel and rugged 4wd system are good, but sadly rust can be as bad as the old FJ’s, well hidden under plastic bodywork until it is too late. Buy a good one and a mig welder and you can be off roading for years.


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