In October 1962, Mitsubishi introduced a Kei car for the Japanese domestic market in the shape of Mitsubishi Minica. The car was assembled at Shin Mitsubishi Heavy-Industries, one of the three regional companies of the Mitsubishi Heavy Industries. In 1964, all the three companies merged to form a single company. The Minica is regarded as the oldest passenger car that not only predates the company but still in production.
First Generation (1961-1969)
Mitsubishi 360 was regarded as the predecessor of the Minica. The 360 was a series of light trucks that was first introduced by Mitsubishi in April 1961. It was based on the Japanese Kei car tax regulations. The 360 was available with an air-cooled 359 cc, 17 hp (13 kW) engine mated to a 4-speed transmission. The passenger vehicle version, named Minica was launched in 1962. After the launch of Minica, the Mitsubishi 360 van and pickup went on together with the Minica in production as well as sales. Both the 360 and Minica were in direct competition with the then Subaru 360, Daihatsu Fellow Max and the Suzuki Fronte.
Initially offered as panel van or light van, the pickup version was later introduced with rather strange style. The 360 featured suicide doors and a swage line. Both 360 and Minica received a facelift with some minor changes and a new ME24 engine in 1964.
The Mitsubishi Minicab cab-over pickup truck was introduced in August 1996 and came with similar air cooled two-stroke 359 cc engine used in Minica. For convenience, three cargo gates were offered. Both Minica and 360 received an updated ME24D engine in May 1967. The Super Deluxe version of 360 was added in the lineup in September 1968. Mitsubishi halted the production of 360 in 1969.
Second Generation (1969-1973)
In July 1969, the second generation Minica 70 was launched with some new features including front and rear coil springs, a five-link rigid rear axle and a 3-door sedan body with a styling called ‘Wing-Flow Line’. The vehicle was offered with two 359 cc 2G10 water-cooled 2-stroke powerplants, i.e. the Red 28 hp (21 kW) engine offered in Super Deluxe or Sporty Deluxe and the Gold engine released in December 1969 equipped with twin SU carburetors generating 38 hp (28 kW) offered as standard on SS and GSS sport models. However, the basic Standard and Deluxe models came with Yellow 26 hp (19 kW) ME24E air-cooled engine. In 1981, the company launched Minica Econo.
Third Generation (1972-1984)
In October 1972, the third generation Minica was unleashed by Mitsubishi as the Minica F4 (A103A). It came with 359 cc OHC engine. It also featured a liftable clam-shell rear window as found on the coupe. The new 4-stroke Vulcan 2G21 MCA (Mitsubishi Clean Air) engine was added in the lineup in October 1973, though it was not as smooth as its 2-stroke predecessor. The base versions came with six single-carb engine with 32 hp (24 kW), while the GS and GSL versions received twin-carb engine with 36 hp (26 kW). Minica Ami was released in June 1977.
Fourth Generation (1984-1989)
In February 1984, Mitsubishi launched the fourth generation Minica as front-engine, front-wheel drive car. It was available with 3- and 5-door configurations with comparatively larger size and a torsion beam/coil spring rear suspension. It received a new G23B engine with timing belt instead of old noisy timing chain.
A four-wheel drive model was launched in September 1985 featuring a live rear axle. It was the first vehicle that was exported under the name Mitsubishi Towny powered by a 2-cylinder 783 cc engine mated to a 4-speed manual transmission. In the later years, the company launched a 3-door panel van alongside a 3-cylinder 796 cc engine and a 5-speed gearbox for export market.
Fifth Generation (1989-1993)
The fifth generation Minica was launched in January 1989 with almost similar specifications found in previous models. A new variant called the Mitsubishi Lettuce was introduced alongside the 3- and 5-door versions. The Lettuce had a single door on the right, two doors on the left and a liftgate. The Dangan ZZ model received a first mass-produced 5-valve cylinder engine later offered with naturally aspirated version as well. In 1990, the company launched a 3-door MPV with an optional 4-wheel drive, named the Minica Toppo.
Sixth Generation (1993-1998)
Sixth generation of Minica saw the introduction of 3- and 5-door Minica alongside Minica Toppo with longer wheelbase in September 1993. The previously offered 5-valve 3-cylinder engine were replaced by the 659 cc 4-cylinder engine variants including a naturally aspirated with single overhead cam and a turbocharged 5-valve with double overhead cam. Minica and Toppo received retro-styled front ends in January 1997 and sold under the name ‘Town Bee’ and in Taiwan as ‘Towny’.
The seventh generation Minica was a hint larger than its previous models and was first revealed in October 1998. It was offered as a 3- and 5-door sedans featuring torsion beam rear suspension. Four-wheel drive was an available option. Later, Mitsubishi Toppo BJ was introduced as a 5-door MPV based on the similar platform, though engine used was a 4-cylinder double overhead cam, 5-valve turbocharged engine. The retro-styled Town Bee and the Mitsubishi Toppo BJ Wide were appeared in January 1999 followed by limited edition ‘Mitsubishi Pistachios’ in December 1999. October 2001 saw the launch of 5-door wagon version of the Minica as Mitsubishi eK Wagon.