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

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis

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!

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.

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.

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

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

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]

Corey Lewis
Corey Lewis

Interested in lots of cars and their various historical contexts. Started writing articles for TTAC in late 2016, when my first posts were QOTDs. From there I started a few new series like Rare Rides, Buy/Drive/Burn, Abandoned History, and most recently Rare Rides Icons. Operating from a home base in Cincinnati, Ohio, a relative auto journalist dead zone. Many of my articles are prompted by something I'll see on social media that sparks my interest and causes me to research. Finding articles and information from the early days of the internet and beyond that covers the little details lost to time: trim packages, color and wheel choices, interior fabrics. Beyond those, I'm fascinated by automotive industry experiments, both failures and successes. Lately I've taken an interest in AI, and generating "what if" type images for car models long dead. Reincarnating a modern Toyota Paseo, Lincoln Mark IX, or Isuzu Trooper through a text prompt is fun. Fun to post them on Twitter too, and watch people overreact. To that end, the social media I use most is Twitter, @CoreyLewis86. I also contribute pieces for Forbes Wheels and Forbes Home.

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2 of 34 comments
  • Garak Garak on May 30, 2017

    The manual version was pretty quick, with 90 hp and 750 kg. Otherwise the car was a cheap, miserable, thoroughly unsafe tin can with a terribly harsh ride. The interior plastics were especially gross even for their day, they looked and felt like a child's toy, and you always feared you'd snap something off by accident. Charade was a fitting name for that "car".

  • Festiboi Festiboi on May 30, 2017

    It warms my heart to see another Charade on here! This is an uncommon combination; the four door with automatic and four cylinder. Most Charades were the hatch, and initially with the 1.0 litre three cylinder. Rumor has it that Daihatsu added the four door sedan, as well as the automatic and larger four door, several years later in response to the hatch’s weak sales performance in the U.S. This particular Charade looks very clean, and I love the power blue color. Someone obviously loves and cares for it As a current Charade owner (mine with 55k miles was featured on TTAC last year: http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2016/02/reader-review-daihatsu-charade/ ), the issue with parts availability is always a concern. Luckily, these cars are durable and tough, but parts do wear and can become a logistical nightmare to replace. An example of mine was two months ago. The car had an oil leak, which turned out to be a worn 0-ring. After spending hours scouring, there were no replacement parts in North America. One turned up in Australia, but that was all. In the end, we had to fabricate one. And years ago, the muffler needed replacing. Again, no Charade mufflers exist. A Hyundai Excel muffler was almost a perfect fit and now plays the role. Parts take some persistence and creativity. These are great cars; they’re rugged, simple, comfortable, and there is an honest to goodness charm about them. I hope the next owner enjoys this Charade!!!!

  • 3-On-The-Tree Lou_BCsame here I grew up on 2-stroke dirt bikes had a 1985 Yamaha IT200 2-strokes then a 1977 Suzuki GT750 2-stroke 750 streetike fast forward to 2002 as a young flight school Lieutenant I bought a 2002 suzuki Hayabusa 1300 up in Huntsville Alabama. Still have that bike.
  • Milton Rented one for about a month. Very solid EV. Not as fun as my Polestar, but for a go to family car, solid. Practical EV ownership is only made possible with a home charger.
  • J Love mine, but the steering wheel blocks dashboard a bit, can't see turn signals nor headlights icons. They could use the upper corners of the screen for the turn signals. Mileage is much lower than shown too, disappointing
  • Aja8888 NO!
  • OrpheusSail I once did. My first four cars were American made, and through an odd set of circumstances surrounding a divorce, I wound up with a '95 Nissan Maxima which was fourteen years old and had about 150,000 miles on it.It was drove better, had an amazing engine, and was more reliable than any of my American cars. This included a new '95 GMC pickup that went through five alternators in under two years while the dealership insisted that there was no underlying electrical problem while they tried to run the clock on the warranty.That was the end of 'buy American'. I've bought from Honda and VW since, and I'll consider just about anything except American now.