Rare Rides: The 1992 Daihatsu Leeza Spider, It's Tearing Me Apart

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis
rare rides the 1992 daihatsu leeza spider it s tearing me apart

Oh hi, Mark. Today’s Rare Ride is a very rare version of Daihatsu’s Leeza Kei car. It’s tiny, turbocharged, and one of only 200 made.

No more The Room jokes, I promise.

Daihatsu launched its Leeza in 1986, as the second model entrant in its contemporary kei car lineup. Prior, Daihatsu had offered only one Kei at a time. That strategy dated back to the Fellow of 1966, which was eventually renamed Mira in 1981.

The Leeza was intended as a more stylish alternative to the Mira, with which it shared some components and a platform. It was more limited in configuration than the Mira, and was offered only as a three-door hatch for the vast majority of its run. And though the hatchback was shaped like a fun “coupe,” most earlier examples sold were considered utility vehicles. Due to Japanese tax regulations, the rear seats installed at the factory were temporary, and there were cargo tie-down points at the rear. Those two features meant Leeza qualified as commercial transportation and thus lesser taxation.

Engines were smaller for the first part of production and included 550-cc three-cylinder mills in naturally aspirated and turbocharged guises. Fitted with carbs, those engines produced either 32 or 50 horsepower, respectively. Leeza saw an update for 1990 when Kei car regulations were altered. It grew in size very slightly and gained new, larger engines. Still inline-three configuration, the 660-cc plants were again offered in naturally aspirated and turbocharged versions. More displacement meant 50 standard horses and 64 with the turbo. Early models used a four-speed manual or two-speed auto transmission, which was upgraded later to a five and a three.

After its low-power and utilitarian beginnings, Daihatsu started to play around with trims, performance modifications, and standard equipment. This was caused largely by the loss of advantageous commercial taxation, as that particular regulation was disallowed. Daihatsu created special editions targeting women (ChaCha) and racer types (Club Sports). And then, along came a Spider.

It debuted in Japan in 1991, as a show car called FX-228. When it entered production late in 1991 it was renamed the Leeza Spider and was available only with the turbocharged 660-cc engine. The Spider was built alongside the standard Leeza through 1993, at which point the model was canceled. Leeza’s hatchback customers were directed to the more modern Opti that debuted in ’92, but the Spider did not see a replacement. In total, just 200 Spiders were produced.

Today’s Leeza is located in Middlesbrough, which is far north of Downtown England. In excellent condition, it asks $10,855. Pictures at the link.

[Images: Daihatsu]

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5 of 8 comments
  • Festiboi Festiboi on Jan 08, 2021

    How ironic this post was made today. I just sold my 1988 Daihatsu Charade this morning. With only 56k miles and in pristine condition, it seriously tore me apart to see it go. It was a perfect representation of how solid and over-engineered anything made in Japan was at the time. As far as the Leeza Spider, it's not their best work. It's cute but in an awkward way. It'd be fun just scoot around town in and start a few conversations

    • See 1 previous
    • PeriSoft PeriSoft on Jan 11, 2021

      People don't like alphanumeric car names, but at least then you don't run the risk of trying to sell the "Daihatsu Absurd Pretense intended to Create a Pleasant or Respectable Appearance".

  • Daveo Daveo on Jan 13, 2021

    Love THE ROOM references and totally got it from the title. SCOTCHKA for everyone!

  • Chuck Norton And guys are having wide spread issues with the 10 speed transmission with the HP numbers out of the factory......
  • Zerofoo "Hyundais just got better and better during the 1990s, though, and memories of those shoddy Excels faded."Never. A friend had an early 90s Hyundai Excel as his college beater. One day he decided that the last tank of gas he bought was worth more than the car. He drove it to empty and then he and his fraternity brothers pushed it into the woods and left it there.
  • Kwik_Shift There are no new Renegades for sale within my geographic circle of up to 85 kms. Looks like the artificial shortage game. They bring one in, 10 buyers line up for it, $10,000 over MSRP. Yeah. Like with a lot of new cars.
  • Ribbedroof In Oklahoma, no less!
  • Ribbedroof Have one in the shop for minor front collision repairs right now,I've seen more of these in the comments than in the 30 years I've been in collision repair.