An adorable forbidden fruit.
The history of Kei car started after World War II with Japan in shambles and they quickly need to rebuild their country and economy with limited resources. Motorcycles worked wonders for short while but soon the need for reliable transportation of people and cargo exceeded the motorcycles’ limits.
So Japanese car manufacturers were given a challenge to make four wheel vehicles that can exponentially transport more than a motorcycle with strict dimension and engine size requirements to conserve material and fuel.
The challenge worked, Japan got themselves back on their feet and now the Kei car culture continues still an ideal car for the dense population and limited land space of Japan. Add to that the quirky designs to make them appeal to younger buyers with incentives such as lower taxes and insurance discounts.
The fourth-gen Suzuki Jimny is one of the latest offerings and is an instant hit with its rugged yet adorable design. With features that an off road enthusiast will approve. Suzuki offers two trim levels the basic trim with a 658 cc turbocharged three cylinder to comply with the Japanese Kei car requirements and top-tier trim called the Jimny Sierra with slightly more bells and whistles and larger 1.5 liter (1,500 cc) four cylinder engine for international markets.
One of those international markets that isn’t on the list is of course U.S. A couple journalists from U.S. got the very lucky chance to test drive a Jimny... on U.S. soil, Suzuki brought two to the U.S. for journalist to test drive and the verdict was unanimous: A truly charming off roader, but could use more power for a $20,000+ car. I think the last part of the verdict is a bit unfair, sure the Jimny in the top of the line Sierra trim only has 101hp but its enough for what it is. It was designed by a world for a world that its performance fit into what is acceptable such as Japan or Europe where road is tight, parking is scarce, and capable of moving out of its way on the freeway.
I concur that the U.S. market maybe a little bit out of the Jimny’s comfort zone. But its a shame that we don’t at least get a chance, because the amount of character the Jimny has over just about any car currently on sale in the U.S. is worth its weight in gold.
There has been a couple diecast brands both well known and new comers recently making the cute yet rugged kei car. This Jimny series is made by Aoshima, but the interesting part is these weren’t distributed the way you think they are. This series is distributed through something called “Gachapon.”
“Gachapon” are little capsules dispensed through little vending machines resembling a gumball machine. The name derives from the mechanical sound of when you crank the knob to get the inserted coins into the machine in return for a toy. The toys range from cartoon character figurines, keychains to miniature replicas of military vehicles, firearms, and kei cars and everything in between, there’s something that can catch anybody’s eye. If you can’t find something that make you say “Wow, this is cool!” then there’s something wrong with you.
Gachapon has become a huge business with the craze leading to entire buildings in Japan dedicated to them and has migrated to my hometown of Taiwan where you can find at least two in front of every convenient store. Here’s a picture of what the vending machines look like and just the sheer number of them.
Aoshima is no stranger to the Gachapon boom. They offer many other toy series for both genders across multiple genres, as Aoshima are also known for figurines and even detailed models to teach human anatomy. Nor is the Suzuki Jimny their first car series for the Gachapon machines. They’ve created a Suzuki Hustler series and one time even a Renault series.
Unlike the Jimny shown by Small Scale Sydney, Aoshima chose to do the base trim model with monochromatic paint job, steel wheels, and the absence of fender flares. Despite that the detail is rich everywhere you look even the base shows all the mechanical components in great detail. It takes a second look to realize these are made of plastic with the only metal part are the axles.
When I saw a Japan seller on ebay who I believe a distributor of Gachapon toys was selling this series as a whole set of 5 for its retail price of 300 JPY each plus shipping I jumped on it. I’ve heard reports of the series being released in Japan sometime in April back in January and I’ve been eyeing them like a hawk. I decided to forego the Tomica release when I discover the scale for the Tomica is 1/57, which is way out of scale and its details and wheels were not impressive to say the least. Don’t get me wrong, I still love Tomica I just don’t like how they represented the Jimny. Now I have a family of Jimnys and looking forward to do more ORAT adventures with them.