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Pocket Rocket: 1991 Daihatsu Mira J Turbo

Well here’s something you don’t see every day in the U.S., or ever. Most of us know the name Daihatsu for its trucks or possibly for the short-lived (in the U.S.) Charade or 4×4 Rocky. The company makes fantastic vehicles but they just aren’t selling cars here anymore. The seller has this under-the-radar 1991 Daihatsu Mira J Turbo sedan posted here on craigslist in Corona, California and they’re asking $5,990. Here is the original listing, and thanks to numskal for the tip!

This car isn’t going to interest muscle car fans in the least, and I can’t even imagine having to count the laughing emojis on social media when this one goes live. You’ve all heard the saying, “It’s more fun to drive a slow car fast than a fast car slow.” and this is the epitome of that mantra. You can drive a Chevelle or Barracuda fast in a straight line for sure, but make mine a tiny, oddball turbo like this Daihatsu every time. I’m not the only one who feels that way, believe it or not.

Daihatsu only offered passenger vehicles in the U.S. market for a handful of years, from 1988 through 1992. No, really. In those five years, they offered the Charade, a small passenger car, and an incredibly cool and rugged 4×4 called the Rocky. There was also an offroad vehicle called the HiJet. The Mira was never for sale here, at least new. Now that this example is over 25 years old, it’s eligible to be imported, although the seller emphasizes in all-caps that this car is not compliant with California emissions regulations so it can’t be licensed there. That must explain the Pennsylvania plates.

A lot of our Barn Finds family of readers are in countries where right-hand-drive vehicles are the norm, so this one will feel right at home. They’re not seen too often here in the U.S. but it doesn’t take that long to get used to them. This Mira is a four-door sedan but they also made a two-door and also a “walk-through” van, which would be a great little motorcycle hauler. A five-speed manual is on tap here to send the turbo power to the front wheels. Sadly, the seller doesn’t pop the hood to show us the big deal with this car, the little turbo engine.

The engine should be Daihatsu’s 659-cc SOHC inline-three, which with a turbocharger put out about 63 horsepower and 68 lb-ft of torque. 475 horsepower it is not, but I dare you to drive this car to the limit and not step out of it with a smile on your face. Any thoughts on this tiny turbocharged terror?


  1. HoA Howard A Member

    I always enjoy the authors posts, and he knows full well how I feel about these cars, but I wouldn’t be caught driving this without a bag over my head. A ’58 New Yawker it ain’t. In countries that have limited space and fuel sold by the liter, these have to work, in crowded Hong Kong next to rickshaws and pedicabs, but this is America, dag nabit, with wide open spaces( where I live) and interstates that we could roll tanks down (their original intent, btw). In places where monsoons are prevalent, you always see these bobbing down the flood path. I think I used a Daihatsu forklift once, but that’s it.

    Like 9
    • Vegaman Dan

      My Honda Acty gas Mileage: 45 mpg
      My Suburban gas Mileage: 14 mpg

      For my daily commute and local gas prices, that works out to be $4 versus $16 for a round trip.

      I don’t my big Suburban to just haul me around. For my use case, kei vehicles make sense.

      Like 6
      • JohnfromSC

        Needs a 426 hemi to replace the back seat. Already has the glass to show it off.😁

        Like 4
      • HoA Howard A Member

        Well, I’ll tell ya’ pal, on a commute on todays roads, I think the Suburban on your commute just may be the best $12 dollars spent. I say that because, there’s a huge campaign going on to stop impaired drivers in Colorado. More crashes than in any time in history, they say, and I all but guarantee, in the Suburban, you’ll most likely walk away, a Honda Whatsis, not so much. While it’s perfectly normal to think about the savings a small car can offer, my old man loved big cars, and used the analogy, big cars save lives, even without seatbelts. Hard to argue with that.

        Like 1
    • Harry Kritis Member

      With the same amount of money you can find a Fiat Uno turbo of the 90’s 2 or 4 doors, same size, LHD, around 130 hp, plenty of spares in EU. From the same era & money you can find the even smaller Fiat sport 60 hp & the best selling at the time Lancia-Autob Abarth 70 hp w. leather seats, tinted windows, full instrumentation.

      Like 1
  2. Rick

    For sale in California with a Pennsylvania rear license plate. Hmm…

    Like 3
    • Scotty Gilbertson Staff

      I mentioned that in the third paragraph, Rick. That always seemed weird to me, or maybe not weird but sneaky to get past the law by registering a vehicle out of state. I guess it’s no worse than speeding or not using a turn signal.

      Like 1
  3. angliagt angliagt Member

    And the Vette in the background has Vermont plates.
    I’m surprised that California isn’t going after people like this.
    There could hundreds of Millions of dollars in fines for failing
    to register/owning a vehicle that isn’t legal in CA.
    Of course,they’d probably just find more ways to spend it.

    Like 5
    • BimmerDude Member

      The constables are “supposed” to do that: if you move to the Left Coast to California, take up residence and/or a job you “have to” register your car here within, I think, 30 days. If they stop you you can get a ticket, fine, etc. But I suspect that the officers would have to be pretty bored to make thatstop. My neighbor was given a car by her sister, had Idaho plates and she had no one interested in pursuing this issue until it was stolen from her. Other neighbor has a relatives’ car parked on the street for about 5 months now, out of state plates, not even tagged for over 3 days parking.

      Like 2
      • angliagt angliagt Member

        There’s a link on the CHP website called “CHEATERS”,
        where you can report a vehicle you’ve seen that hasn’t been registered in California.

        Like 0
  4. BigC

    Yeah, those 68 foot pounds of torque, would give anyone a thrill. If you’re into stamp collecting.

    Like 0
  5. bob

    I like the car but these pocket rockets are often abused by the owners so it would really need a good looking over before buying. Just by the description in Craigslist I can see he was pushing that little engine hard. I laugh at Howard A’s comments. Often sounds like my dear departed grandpa..”in my day we drove…those foreign cars are all junk…give me a Packard any day. That’s a car you could set your watch to…”

    Like 7
  6. Bj

    Wasn’t the 90’s Pontiac Lemans a Daihatsu?

    Like 2
  7. Nelson C

    Thanks for another excellent write up. I’ve long been aware of the charade and rocky but never one of these. It’s reminds me of the Geo Sprint turbo of the middle eighties.

    Like 5
  8. chrlsful

    nice 1 widda hatch. I’d get it but U heard me bout RHD
    B4. Easy nuff to convert myself but just not right for usa roads,
    urban, exurban, suburbia or even rural (drive ups R verboten
    unless passenger -0- for me, seein round curves, passing, etc).
    Thnx for the listing though~

    Like 1
  9. Ralph Member

    I have a 1990 Charade with 4 cyl and auto trans . Also came with A/C. Been an excellent car and good gas mileage. Saw one at pic n pull few years back and bought almost the entire car piece by piece to have for extra parts. .

    Like 2
  10. PRA4SNW PRA4SNW Member

    That C4 poking out from under the garage door seems to be smirking at this tiny thing!

    Like 1

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