Daihatsu Midget: Beyond Car, It’s a History

In the automotive realm, certain vehicles stand out for their design and innovative approach to transportation. One such vehicle that has etched its name in the history of automotive excellence is the Daihatsu Midget. 

What is Daihatsu Midget?

The Daihatsu Midget is a single-seat mini truck, classified as a kei truck or microvan designed and launched by the Japanese automaker Daihatsu. It is a small vehicle with an engine limited to 660cc inline three-cylinder engine and manual four-speed transmission.

Despite its diminutive size and unassuming name, the Midget played an oversized role in Japan’s postwar economic boom. This iconic three-wheel vehicle has left an indelible mark on the automotive history. They were showcasing a perfect blend of compact design, efficiency, and forward-thinking engineering.

The Origins and Evolutions

The inspiration for Midget’s creation emerged behind the post-war era in Japan. At the time, Japan was undergoing a process of rebuilding infrastructure and economic rejuvenation. In 1957, a subsidiary of Toyota Motor Corporation, namely Daihatsu introduced its first generation of the Midget.

The Daihatsu Midget carry out noble goals for the Japanese, namely to create a small, affordable, and efficient vehicle for the essential transportation needs in the rapidly changing society. Therefore, the Midget also grew rapidly.

Midget’s First Generation

The Midget’s first generation features Midget type DK, DS, and MP that were released around 1957-1972. These early Midgets were more like mid-size autorickshaws. Follow through to find out more about them!

1. DK Series

The DKA Midget was introduced in August 1957. This series features three wheels, a single-seat, doorless cab, and handlebar steering. Besides, it had a 249cc engine with a loading capacity of up to 300kg. 

2. DS Series

The DSA Midget replaced DKA in August 1959. It features a more comfortable interior and a more powerful engine, complete with a more modern appearance compared to the DKA.

3. MP Series

Not long after the DSA series, the MP2 Midget was introduced in October 1959 with major updates featuring a steering wheel, doors, and seating for two. 

The inaugural Daihatsu Midget, known as the Midget MP, made its debut with a distinctive three-wheel design. The single wheel in front, coupled with two rear wheels, enhances maneuverability and contributes to the vehicle’s stability.

At the time, the Midget became a symbol of post-war resilience. Moreover, its compact dimensions provide a practical solution for urban commuting and cargo. 

The Second Generation

Over the years, Daihatsu introduced its second generation of Midget, namely the K100 series. This model was produced from 1996 to 2001 and has undergone quite major changes in appearance, as you can find through the details below. 

1. Four-wheel kei Midget 

The key feature of this series is the four wheels to improve stability and handling.

2. Four-wheel drive and air conditioning 

There are also options for added comfort and versatility, making it suitable for various driving conditions and purposes

3. 660cc Engine 

The Midget II utilizes a 660cc engine, offering a balance between performance and fuel efficiency.

4. Car-like appearance 

The major changes such as the closed cab & doors, and the four wheels make it more suitable, comfortable, and practical for daily use. 

The Midget II was part of the Japanese rapidly growing kei truck market. Along with the first generation, this second generation offers a more modern and practical alternative to the Daihatsu kei vehicle.

The Third Generation

The second evolution of the Daihatsu Midget II made it the third generation of the overall Midget model. This evolution spanned from 2003 to 2006, with a vision to accept modern style and new technologies, the generation features three major aspects below. 

1. Redesigned Body

The Midget II featured a more aerodynamic and streamlined exterior. This further improves fuel efficiency and enhances visual appeal.

2. Interior

Updates focused on comfort and convenience, including better interior materials and additional storage compartments.

3. Engine Options

The Midget II features a 660cc inline three-cylinder engine, including the EF-SE and EF-VE.

This third-generation evolution marks the Daihatsu Midget II as a compact cargo vehicle with great performance, better comfort, and modern design.

The Fourth Generation

The most recent generation spanned from 2007 to 2012. This marks the final chapter in the vehicle’s history, as it was discontinued after 2012. The fourth generation also highlights key features, as follows. 

1. Bolder Appearance

Changes in appearance always occur in each generation, along with shifts in market tastes. This time, Midget II introduced a more modern and bold design.

2. Safety Features 

To enhance the vehicle’s safety credentials, this generation adds airbags and anti-lock brake features.

3. Car-like Features 

Although the Daihatsu Midget II is a kei truck, this generation features car-like features such as better air conditioning and power steering for practical and comfortable daily use. 

The Impact and Legacy

When talking about this vehicle, we cannot leave out about the cultural impact and legacy that accompanies it. Beyond the technical specifications, the Daihatsu Midget has left an enduring impact on Japanese culture. 

The Midget’s role in supporting small businesses and local commerce has endeared it to communities across Japan. For three decades spanning Japan’s post-war “Economic Miracle”, this humble vehicle set the bar for other automotive companies to innovate. 

With the core vision to produce small, affordable, and efficient vehicles, Daihatsu aspiring entrepreneurs stretched budgets to buy young used Midgets as the foundation of their delivery operations. Thus, businesses could purchase an entire fleet with minimal investment or operating costs.

Now, after it ended production, the Daihatsu Midget has largely faded from memory. However, the values that have grown based on Daihatsu’s principles of kei vehicles still resonate in the other vehicles, such as affordability, excellent fuel economy, maneuverable size, and user-friendly.

This mighty mini embodied the optimism and determination powering Japan’s post-war rise. Even though the automotive market is currently looking in another direction, the legacy of the Midget still exists today, for example, the Daihatsu Tanto. 

After proving the maturity of the principles with its existence in the period, the vehicle has transcended its utilitarian root as a mode of transportation. Furthermore, it becomes a symbol of resilience, innovation, and the ability to thrive in challenging circumstances. 

Have You Ever Heard About the Daihatsu Midget Beforehand?

The vehicle has different names in different regions, for example, Bajaj, Tri-Mobile, Bemo, or Tuk-tuk. If you have heard these names before, that’s probably one of the Midget MP series. Not only essential in Japan, but this vehicle also contributes to other countries’ commutes.

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