Auto Motor Und Sport Celebrates Sixty Years of Kei Cars

Edward Niedermeyer
by Edward Niedermeyer

We’ve missed the actual anniversary- Japan’s first “kei car” specifications were first announced on July 8 1949- but Japan’s city cars still deserve a party. Auto Motor und Sport has a 51-image gallery of Kei-cars throughout the years that is sure to delight fans of tiny, sub-liter whips. For those unfamiliar with the Kei class, can get an update at wikicars, but here are the broad strokes. Original Kei-cars were limited to 2.8 meters in length, 1 meter width and 2 meters in height, and could have no more than 150cc of displacement. The latest rule changes (in 1998) limited Keis to 3.39m in length, 1.48 meters in width and 2 meters height. Displacement is now limited to a heady 660cc, and thanks to Japanese OEM mastery of tiny engines, horsepower must now be limited to 64 hp. Otherwise, the tiny rides come in a staggering array of flavors, from work trucks to baby exotics. Though they’ll never be a viable option on American roads, let’s thank the gods of automotive diversity that these weird whips have flourished with such vigor.

Edward Niedermeyer
Edward Niedermeyer

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  • R H R H on Aug 25, 2009

    I'd love to see Kei cars here. Can I swap a busa engine into one? Or, to keep in spirit of "3", how about a triumph triple? I think I'd still fear them on my 600cc bike. I'm sure they still weigh at least 2-3x what my bike weighs.

  • Church Church on Aug 25, 2009

    My dream key car would be Suzuki Cappucino. Kind of more miata-ish car then miata. Low weigth, engine high-revable like that of motorcycle's and FR layout makes wonderful little 2 seater sport roadster tossable at those twisty mountain roads. IIRC it came from lotus - loosing weigth is greatest tuning for any car.