By on January 8, 2021

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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