Mitsuoka: The BUBU Series

Since the launch of the Le Seyde in 1990, Mitsuoka Motor has brought us a collection of unique vehicles inspired by classic cars. However, its line of lesser known BUBU cars captures the essence of uniqueness in ways that no other cars have before, which led to Mitsuoka establishing itself as the eccentric and distinctive automaker we know of today.

So, what is the Mitsuoka BUBU Series?

The First Mitsuoka Car

A BUBU Shuttle-50 print advertisement. Image Source: Minutia

Launched in February 1982, the BUBU Shuttle-50 is the first original car ever made by Mitsuoka. The company had just started shifting away from fixing cars and towards developing their own car designs that same year.

The BUBU Shuttle-50 is a boxy three-wheeled vehicle, with just enough space for the driver. The ‘50’ in its name comes from the vehicle’s 50cc engine, reaching a top speed of about 65 kph. It boasts its three-wheel The car was branded as “The car closest to human beings” by Mitsuoka, as it reflected the quirky “lifestyle” vehicles that Mitsuoka sought to produce – rather than the usual cars in the Japanese Domestic Market during the 1980s.

The BUBU50 Series

Flashy, Futuristic, and Fun – The BUBU501. Image Source: Mitsuoka Motor

That very same year, Mitsuoka released the BUBU501, which kickstarted the BUBU50 Series. The BUBU 501 looks like the cabin of a cable car, but was very well-received for its futuristic exterior. While many cars had a boxy look, the 501 has a triangular shape that resembled the 1980 Citroën Karin concept car.

A one-seater bus? Image Source: Wikipedia

In 1983, Mitsuoka released the BUBU502. The 502 seemed to mimic double-decker buses of the time. It boasted the spacious interior that allowed drivers to make shopping much easier. While ‘aerodynamic’ is something automakers want to improve in their cars, the BUBU502 defies all sense of the word with its tall, rectangular body. Mitsuoka has always been set on experimenting with individuality and uniqueness, and went beyond the conventional considerations of a car to bring us the 502.

“Cars that we deliver to customers are most characterised by their keen designs that you cannot find in mass production cars.” – Mitsuoka Motor

Is the BUBU503 rectangular or triangular? It depends on how you look at it. Image Source: Automobiles Japonaises

The following year, the BUBU503 was launched. This is the last three-wheeled car that Mitsuoka has produced. The 503 incorporated elements of the 501 and 502, creating a semi-boxy, semi-futuristic looking vehicle that screams personality. From the sides, the vehicle looks triangular. But from the front and rear, it looks as rectangular as the 502. On the roads, one could easily mistake it for a 501 or a 502 – a cheeky way to pay homage to the two discontinued models indeed.

A New Direction

The Classic SSK gives the Mercedes-Benz SSK its own twist. Image Source: Mitsuoka Motor

In 1985, Mitsuoka released the BUBU505-C, a half-scaled version of the SS Jaguar 100. It marked the shift in direction that the company took as it started focusing on producing inspired replicas of classic cars. It was then followed by the BUBU Classic SSK in 1987, a recreation of the Mercedes-Benz SSK that was designed by Ferdinand Porsche before he started his own company, Porsche AG.

BUBU356 Speedstar – The last BUBU. Image Source: Mitsuoka Motor

The world would see the last BUBU in 1989 with the launch of the BUBU356 Speedstar, a replica of the Porsche 356A Speedster. Founder Susumu Mitsuoka incorporated his love for classic cars into his company, and it was clear that he was set on recreating beautiful classics in future models that Mitsuoka Motor would produce.

The BUBU Series is the hallmark of the individuality and personality that Mitsuoka wanted to reflect in their creations. Since then, Mitsuoka has prided itself on the ability to produce affordable cars of the highest quality that pay homage to the stunning aesthetics of timeless classic cars that we know and love!

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