1955 Mitsushita Constanza: The People’s Car with a Touch of Flair.
While the Kuruan was selling at a steady pace. It was clear to Mitsushita that there was a demand for smaller and cheaper automobile. The company went to work starting right after the Kuruan hit the market. Something that’s a bit more economical for a country which was still in dire strait.
In order to make the new, small car. Mitsushita drafted in help from French and German engineers to work on the new small economical car. Available as 2-door, 4-door, and convertible. It was decided that the new small car would be rear engine for simplicity and weight reduction. And the engine would be only a 3-cylinder unit.
Unlike the Kuruan, this new engine is simpler, overhead valve design. Displacing 1347cc and fueling through single carburettor. 55 gross horsepower is sent through 3-speed column shifter, allowing the car to reach it’s top speed of 117km/h and 0-100km/h can be achieved in 20.4 seconds.
It’s an incredibly small car, with only 3.5 meters in it’s length and with light front end. The new car, which was christened the Constanza after a city in Dominican Republic, has it’s defining characteristic in being incredibly zippy and with light, effortless steering.
Not only that, but the styling was positively original, and very much au courant for the era. It was also good 40% cheaper than the Kuruan. All of this ensured that it would become a hit in the market.
The suspension was all independent, similar to existing rear engine design. It’s actually one of the earliest Japanese design to incorporate front anti-roll bar in a car. This, along with the rear engine design, gave the car it’s defining characteristic as depicted above. While the rear suspension didn’t have the camber change risk of swing axle design so it was a very stable and steady car to drive.
The economy was not as good on long, motorway cruise. Because in order to cruise at 110km/h expected from such test the car would needed to be driven flat out. Unlike the Kuruan which will comfortably go at 120km/h all day long. But the Constanza wasn’t meant for long cruise anyway. And in city driving, this small displacement and 600kg car, 400kg lighter than the Kuruan, was in a class of it’s own.
Not long after it was launched, a company called Morishita Engineering Works, situated near Mitsushita headquarter in Yokohama got hold of one. And decided to spice things up a bit.
Morishita would later become the foundation of Mitsushita Works. The in house tuning department for Mitsushita. Creator of classics such as the Kuruan V8, the Kitty GT, the Karna TZi-20, the Jesta Baleno TCS, and the first Sesta R. This was the first car to adorn the famous blackcurrant purple on gold wheels colour scheme.
Still with it’s defining characteristic, the Constanza 1300 S, as it was called, was stiffen, with better brakes. The engine was souped up with hot cam, new high compression piston and DCOE carburettor. This 1347cc engine produced nearly 70 gross horsepower in a car weighing in at 630kg.
All of this creates a spritely performance. 0-100km/h in 11.8 seconds and top speed of 134km/h. Costing about the same as the basic 1600 Kuruan. It was a popular choice for club racer with it’s handling characteristic comparable to German Sports Car. Although it was not a great car to drive on the road due to rough idle, high octane requirement, harsh ride, and low level of comfort.
Production for the Constanza ran until 1962. In the end nearly 60,000 units in all variants were produced. It helped cementing Mitsushita reputation as a dependable car company.