Junkyard Find: 1990 Daihatsu Charade SE

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin

Did anyone in America buy Daihatsu Charade s? In at least one case, yes!

In 1990, car shoppers looking for a small gas-sipping-yet-sporty Japanese car had their needs amply met by the Civic, Corolla, Sentra, Protegé, and Mirage. Hell, even the Geo Storm/Isuzu Impulse held a tiny piece of the high ground needed by Daihatsu to make a go of it with the Charade. Potential Charade buyers, perhaps too distracted by the prospect of the Mother of All Battles to find their local Daihatsu dealership, went to the competition.

But not the buyer of this ’91, who persevered and was rewarded with this lil’ red devil! This example features the not-at-all-sought-after “big-block” four-cylinder engine, which made 80 horsepower instead of the base three-banger’s 53 horses.

All in all, not one of the great moments in automotive history. Still, FAW thinks enough of the G100 Charade to build it to this day in China.

There’s a single Daihatsu Charade running in the 24 Hours of LeMons these days, thanks to Dai Hard Racing in California. It’s been heavily modified with turbocharging and who-knows-what-else and it’s quite fast (and unreliable); I don’t scrutinize the Dai Hard machine too closely when I’m doing BS inspections, because, well, it’s a Daihatsu!

Murilee Martin
Murilee Martin

Murilee Martin is the pen name of Phil Greden, a writer who has lived in Minnesota, California, Georgia and (now) Colorado. He has toiled at copywriting, technical writing, junkmail writing, fiction writing and now automotive writing. He has owned many terrible vehicles and some good ones. He spends a great deal of time in self-service junkyards. These days, he writes for publications including Autoweek, Autoblog, Hagerty, The Truth About Cars and Capital One.

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  • Daihatsu Daihatsu on Jan 19, 2012

    I Have a 1988 XL Hatchback 5 speed 3 cyl. with 200k miles and just totally overhauled (leaky head gasket,still got 42 MPG but I wanted new parts everywhere, see rockauto.com for parts)with now 1200 miles on it. Driving it from since 1993 from Ca. to Fl. to MO. it would get 44 MPG with the air on doing 70 MPH.Has power windows,mirror and Tech. Gets about 39 MPG around town. Painted it yellow and have biggest 13 inch tires on it and it handles like a dream. Detroit screams about trying to make a car that get 30 MPG in 2011 but this was going strong in 1988.

  • Redapple2 I think...... Marketing 101. Prestige / image vehicles need to appeal to the moneyed young. Cadillac is a DEADER than Dead brand to them. What does not appeal to them? A 2 door convertible car with an ICE.
  • Redapple2 Automatic hi beam - low bean is a bad thing. Not a benefit. Steering following headlights are not helpful. Their delayed - then fast catch up - style ? action make me seasick. I turn mine off at night. I do like XM. So,........ BMW- cram it sideways. I dont like being bent over the table. I will not participate in your drama and will proceed to the Lexus dealer.
  • ChristianWimmer Yes, but with a carbureted 500cid V8. None of that fuel-injection silliness. 😇
  • VoGhost Fantastic work by Honda design. When I first saw the pictures, I thought "Is that a second gen Acura NSX?"
  • V16 2025 VW GLI...or 2025 Honda Civic SI? Same target audience, similar price points. Both are rays of sun in the gray world of SUV'S.