Monday, April 03, 2017

Classic cars: Back when Hino made cars - the Hino Contessa 1300 Coupe

HINO is known in these parts as a reliable truck maker. It has been like that since the 1970s when the first set foot into Malaysia and slowly grew their brand into what it is today. Of course, it wasn't like that in the mid-1960s. The company made cars then.

HINO Motors used to build cars in the 1950s and 1960s. They first had an arrangement to sell Renaults in the 1950s and later on developed their own cars by 1961. Like Renaults of the time, the Hino cars were pretty unique. It was rear engined and rear wheel drive. You could say that it took after a Volkswagen Beetle or a Porsche 911. And then you add the fact that Hino actually got Italian coachbuilder Michelotti to design their cars, you know they were quite serious in some ways. 

Their sole model was the Contessa. It could be had in the four door sedan as well as a coupe. The Contessa lasted two generations, the first was a dainty 900cc car and the second was a 1300cc car. The dainty first gen car was nicer looking in some ways, but it was just a nice body with a swing axle rear suspension which could have given its driver a fright if the rear wheels suddenly decided to fold inwards during hard driving. 

I like the second generation one you see in the pics here. The Contessa 1300 coupe is one of those cars where you can see its European genes oozing from its bodywork. It has that slightly alternative view on what a car should look. Very French. Must be the Renault rear engined car influence as well as the fact that a rear engined three box shaped car would have no need for a grille.

 It was quite exotic in some ways and if Hino were to stay in the car business, and kept with the RR (rear engine, rear wheel drive) format, there could have been some pretty interesting drives coming out from the company. 

Of course, Toyota bought over Hino and assumed more control in the mid 1960s. That put an end to Hino's car manufacturing dreams.Toyota's 51% stake in Hino effectively put them in Toyota's hands and they were basically tasked to concentrate their efforts in the commercial vehicle sector after that. One less car competitor for Toyota to worry about.

I do wonder what would have been if Hino was left to their own devices. So much potential. Especially when you look at the pic of this slightly modded Contessa below.


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