1965 Kasai Itachi Fastback
“As agile as a racing pigeon, as tame as a tranquilized rabid dog.”
In 1961, Kasai’s next attempt at four-door sedan to replace the quickly outphased Model 94 was underway, but midway through the designing phase, the engineers thought, “What if we dropped a bigger engine inside it and see how fast can it go around the track?”
And lo and behold, they actually succeeded.
The Kasai Itachi (“itachi” means “weasel” in Japanese) is a sports sedan built for the more performance-conscious consumers, as the improving global economy at the time meant that there had been a steadily rising demand for a faster family car. The “Fastback” name was borrowed from a certain other manufacturer to describe its slanted rear trunk.
Inside it was the DC6 engine: A larger-than-average 2.2L, dual-overhead cam, twin-4-barrel-carb-fed inline-6 engine capable of generating around 109 hp @ 5700rpm and 160.1 Nm @ 3700rpm. But it doesn’t end there. The car’s whole platform was more sports car-oriented than an average car: 5-speed manual gearbox, 170/12" wheels, 220mm disc brakes on the front and the rear, and advanced safety features. Thanks to it, the car was not a slouch for its time, being capable of reaching 162 km/h and a 0-100 time of 9.9 seconds.
The Itachi didn’t sell as well as its predecessor on its first year due to its higher price tag of $9.000 and the fact that it caters to a more niche market, but it still earned praises for its top-end power and high level of upgradeability straight from the factory. It was described as “like a blank canvas for tuners to paint on”, and the DC6 engine had been reported for having figures of up to 124 hp and 183 Nm with a simple Stage 1 tune (carburetor tuning and compression rate increase). The car didn’t come without its criticism, of course, as its top complaint was the hard suspension setup making it less desirable for everyday drive. Kasai listened to their customers’ pleas, though, and immediately issued a recall to retune the Itachi’s suspensions.
A little over a year later, Kasai released a limited, track-ready version of the Itachi, and all those questionable design choices the car committed to suddenly make a lot more sense.
The track version featured the same DC6 engine base, but its internals were overhauled, completely different from the stock engine. Forged pistons, forged conrods, forged crankshaft, higher cam profile, higher compression ratio, triple-DCOE carburetors, higher rev limit, new exhaust headers, and a straight pipe exhaust. Thanks to this, its power nearly doubled to up to 200 hp @ 6600rpm, 220 Nm @ 6300rpm, a top speed of 196 km/h, and a 0-100 time of 6.3 seconds.
But the craziness doesn’t end there. The car also lost its two rear doors effectively making it a coupe, its wheels were built wider and made of magnesium alloy, its 5-speed gearbox tuned to have a closer gear ratio with equipped automatic lockers, its interior gutted and power steering removed to save weight, and visibly negative wheel cambers and lower car height. Its previously-chrome grille was painted black, it’s got a large wing on the rear-end for better aerodynamics (although between you and me, that “aerodynamics” and “downforce” mumbo jumbo is just a myth), and its badging were cleaned off, save for a small badge on the front grille, giving it a more distinctive, aggressive look. The ride quality was unquestionably even harsher, louder, and drinks a lot more than the stock Itachi, but it was worth the tradeoff for better cornering ability, less wheelspin, terrifyingly quick acceleration, and more smiles-per-mile overall.
Soon, the car became a legend in its own right, with astonishing lap times being recorded in various race tracks. With prices starting from $12.200, it was dubbed by car magazines as the “Performance Car of the Year” for having a great value and tons of fun while retaining the practicality and reliability that its base body provided. Thanks to this performance package, the overall sales of the Itachi Fastback increased, while also increasing brand awareness of Kasai as a performance car manufacturer.
Whew, this was a long one. But it’s not going to get any shorter than this in the future.