Yup, I have found another model of my favourite Japanese oddball - the Hino Contessa. This time, it is the Coupe version in 1/43, cast in “White Metal” by ii ado in their “FineModel” range.
If you are not familiar with the car,here’s a bit of background info: Many designs that got the Japanese moving after 1945 came from Europe. And one of them was the Renault 4CV, built under licence by Hino Motors.
After the 4CV, Hino still used Renault derived engines and drive trains, but their design was now farmed out to Giovanni Michelotti - a famous Italian designer with a large and glamorous list if clients. He designed the A110 for Alpine - another Renault based car - so maybe he was the logical choice. But if you look at the Hino closer, you can see bits and pieces of other car’s designs.
A bit of Triumph 1300 roof line here, a touch of BMW “Neue Klasse” there, a hint of Alfa around the rear end perhaps? Small wonder - Michelotti had designed all of these, and then some. His client list also included Ferrari, Maserati, Lancia - hell, even DAF.
The car shown here was the last (and best looking) of their kind. And they were exported! To Australia, Switzerland and The Netherlands. I have never seen one in the metal though, They even were assembled in New Zealand and Israel. In the US, none other than Pete Brock’s BRE Racing Team ran them!
So then, what happened to Hino? After all, the cars were pretty, had some sporting success and some exports going- having earned a reputation for excellent build quality. Where did it all go wrong?
Actually, it didn’t go wrong at all. As it happened, Toyota needed another factory to expand its line-up of commercial vehicles. And it didn’t need more competition in the small sedan and coupe market, as they were planning to release something of the kind themselves, called the Corolla.
So they bought out Hino lock, stock and barrel in 1966. They used up existing stock until 1967 - and then simply shut down car production.The Hino factory was used exclusively for commercial vehicles and trucks, and today Hino is still a major player in heavy duty trucks and military vehicles.
The Hino Briska pick up received Toyota engines instead of Renault units, and was re-launched as the “Toyota Hilux”. And that became the best selling vehicle in its class until today. BRE Racing switched from Hino to Datsun and did rather well too. A Win-Win all round then.