The Daihatsu Motor Company, best-known for its popular kei cars and vans in Japan, made a short-lived attempt to sell highway vehicles in the United States. From the 1988 through 1992 model years, the Charade subcompact and Rocky mini-SUV could be purchased here, after which the brand packed up and went home. As you might imagine, the Charade is very rare and the Rocky nearly nonexistent today, but my junkyard searching never ceases and I find examples here and there. Here’s a 1990 Rocky, found in a self-service yard near Denver, Colorado.
Its narrow track and light weight made the Rocky good for off-road use and the price tag was reasonable, but (as was also the case with the Suzuki Samurai) it didn’t fare so well as an American highway commuter. The main reason Rocky sales never really took off here, though, was the never-heard-of-it manufacturer coupled with a nasty recession.
Toyota, which owned enough of Daihatsu to have veto power over business decisions in 1990, eventually took full control of the company in 2016. Today, Toyota rakes in the yen selling Daihatsu Hijet trucks around the world.
The 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine in the Rocky made 94 horsepower.
Both the Rocky and the Charade could be purchased with a four-speed automatic transmission, but most buyers opted for the cheaper and more fuel-efficient five-on-the-floor manual. In fact, I’ve found but a single slushbox Daihatsu in all my years of junkyard crawling.
This little truck trundled over just past 200,000 miles of asphalt and (presumably) mud, dirt, and snow during its 31 years. For a Daihatsu, that’s very impressive.
But the resale value on a well-worn small truck with three pedals and badges from a mystery manufacturer isn’t so great, so here it sits.
As rare as Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster!
In Japan, shrill cuteness sold Rockies.
In Oz, the Feroza’s off-road abilities kept it from being late to surfing appointments.
Intensely rad Dutch car shoppers could get the Feroza’s canvas top in various
1980s early 1990s pastel colors, to match their leg warmers.