Italian styled Japanese cars

The 1960s was a significant period for Japanese cars, where their ambitions grew to overseas markets. In order to appeal to the European market, several Japanese companies utilised Italian design schools to create more appealing looking vehicles. Some like Bertone were very resolved to a European sense of aesthetics but had limited appeal in their home market.

The very first Japanese import to the UK was the 1964 Daihatsu Compagno. Styled by Vignale, with some beautiful little touches it nonetheless made no impact here.

Nissan went to the masters Pininfarina for their 410 Series Bluebird. Not impossible to envisage with an Alfa Romeo badge, certain mainland European countries received them up until 1967.

At the top of the range, the 130 Cedric also saw the visual detailing of Pininfarina, elements of which found their way on to other Nissans of the era.

Mazda employed Bertone to create an astonishingly resolved series of mid-range saloons and coupes. Unfortunately, that connection was severed by the time the 1500/1800 Luce series ended production in 1973.

Isuzu had established a styling connection with Giugiaro while he worked for Ghia. Clearly, there is a hint of Fiat Dino Coupe in the 117, the car was surprisingly long-lived.

It was replaced in 1981 by the Piazza, by another Giugiaro creation who was running Italdesign at the time.

Giugiaro also was responsible for the equally distinctive Suzuki SC100 Whizzkid. The car is derived from the 1971 original which was based on his Rowan Elettrica.

The 1979 Mitsubishi Lancer EX was also penned by a lesser-known school called Open Design. Only sold as a 4 door saloon, it marked the clean if slightly anonymous look for the brand over the next decade. 

Moving things forward to the ‘80s and Italian design in Japanese cars had become more of a novelty rather than necessity but the final two examples were head-turners. The Honda Beat was an original Pininfarina concept that was bought by Honda, one of a wave of Kei sports cars of the era.

We finish with a flourish with the Giugiaro styled Subaru SVX from 1991. Taking elements from various supercars of the era, it was to become their first and only purpose-built sports car.