Mitsuoka Orochi: An Unusual Classic

Mitsuoka Motor is a small Japanese automaker noted for building unique cars with unconventional styling, usually imitating the look of American and European retro cars. Mitsuoka was recognized in 1994 as the 10th Japanese automaker to be registered in Japan since Honda in 1963.

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The company works more like a custom design coachbuilder, customizing Japanese production cars, most of which are Nissan, Honda, or Toyota, and replacing various aspects of the bodywork. However, between 2006 and 2014, Mitsuoka also built a sports car called Orochi.

Mitsuoka Orochi

The Orochi was originally unveiled at the 2001 Tokyo Motor Show as a concept car based on the Honda NSX platform. A few years later, Mitsuoka unveiled a new convertible version at the 2005 Tokyo Motor Show, calling it the Orochi Nude Top. Then in October 2006, the production version of Mitsuoka Orochi was formally launched. The name Orochi is derived from Yamata no Orochi, a legendary eight-headed eight-tailed Japanese dragon.

mitsuoka orochi

The styling was a bit unusual with a low-slung profile punctuated by sharp lines and aggressive contours. The unconventional styling elements, including the distinctive front fascia with its elongated headlights and gaping grille, imbue the Orochi with an unmistakable presence. Even the rear spoiler has an appearance akin to a fishtail fin, giving Mitsuoka Orochi the overall appearance of a big fish on the road.

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The interior of the Orochi is entirely covered in leather trim. The dashboard gets circular air vents and a multimedia system. In addition, the vehicle has airbags, A/C, power windows & mirrors, low-beam side HID, an immobilizer, and a Panasonic satellite navigation system. Under the hood, there was a 3.3L Toyota 3MZ-FE V6 engine with 225hp and 325Nm paired to a 5-speed automatic transmission.

MitsuokaOrochi 09

Both English and American reviewers have given the Mitsuoka Orochi terrible reviews. The Orochi, frequently referred to as the “World’s Ugliest Car” by Jalopnik, has received harsh criticism for both its exterior styling and design. But not every reviewer was as critical. Some have referred to the Orochi as “bold” and “polarizing”.

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I first saw the Orochi in an episode of Top Gear reviewed by James May. who didn’t give it too much of a hard time, but he did praise its daring styling. The performance, however, was not comparable to what one would get from similar vehicles. There is a video from that Tog Gear episode on YouTube, but it’s an incomplete one.

Mitsuoka Orochi on Top Gear

Production of Orochi was limited to 400 units over four years (till 2010), but after that Mitsuoka kept introducing several variants produced in limited numbers before the car was finally discontinued in 2014. These include Orochi Kabuto, Orochi Zero, Orochi Gold Premium, Seven Eleven Evangelion Limited Edition, and Orochi Devilman. To celebrate its production run, a Final Edition was unveiled of which only 5 units were produced.

Mitsuoka Orochi

One of the Orochi’s most intriguing aspects is its rarity and exclusivity. Produced in limited numbers, it ensures unparalleled exclusivity for its owners. This scarcity only adds to its mystique, elevating it to the status of a coveted collector’s item among automotive connoisseurs.

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