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

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis

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]

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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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!

  • Bob65688581 We bought zillions of German cars, despite knowing about WWII slave labor. Refusing to buy something for ideological reasons is foolish.Both the US and the EU have imposed tariffs, so the playing field is level. I'll buy the best price/quality, regardless of nationality.Another interesting question would be "Would you buy one of the many new European moderate-price EVs?" but of course they aren't sold here.Third interesting question: "Why won't Stellantis sell its best products in America?"
  • Freshblather No. Worried there will be malicious executable code built into the cars motherboard that could disable the Chinese cars in the event of hostilities between the west and China.
  • Bd2 Absolutely not - do not want to support a fascist, totalitarian regime.
  • SCE to AUX The original Capri was beautiful. The abomination from the 90s was no Capri, and neither is this.It looks good, but too similar to a Polestar. And what's with the whacked price?
  • Rover Sig Absolutely not. Ever.