The Japanese automaker Daihatsu introduced a kei car, called the Daihatsu Fellow Max, in 1966. Initially, it was launched as the Daihatsu Fellow. The Max name was also appeared in some other models, such as Max Cuore (1977) and Daihatsu Max (2000).
The Daihatsu Fellow was originally launched on November 9, 1966. The export markets received it as Daihatsu 360. Initially, only DeLuxe and Super DeLuxe trims of Fellow were released, while the Standard trim level joined the lineup in early 1967. Other available versions offered were a wagon body called the Fellow Van, a mini-pickup truck and a panel van released in June 1967. The Fellow was offered as front-engined, rear-wheel drive and was powered by a 356 cc version with water-cooled, 2-cylinder, 2-stroke ZM engine also used in Hijet and mated to a 4-speed manual transmission. The Fellow was also regarded as the first Japanese vehicle to feature rectangular headlamps.
In 1967, Honda also launched its 31 hp N360 as a competitor to the Fellow (L37). Daihatsu in order to keep its market intact launched their Fellow SS in the Tokyo Motor Show in October 1967. However, the vehicle was offered for sale after a year.
In October 1967, Fellow received a minor facelift. It featured a revised dashboard as well as a steering wheel. In January 1969, yet another minor facelift was released featuring fixed driver’s side headrest and introduction of seatbelts following the new safety regulations. The vehicle again received some modifications and tweaks in July when the bumper was moved a little higher, the taillights were made little larger and the engine power was also improved to 26 hp. It was regarded as the luxurious ‘Custom’ version of the Fellow.
The rear-wheel drive Fellow was replaced the front-wheel drive Fellow Max in April 1970. Its chassis code was L38. It was initially offered as a 2-door sedan and a 3-door van version. In August 1971, a sporty hardtop coupe featuring a lower roofline and exaggerated front-end treatment was also released. Front disc brakes were offered standard on the SL and GXL trim levels. The only 4-door kei car version of Fellow Max was added in the lineup in October 1972. The Fellow Max was powered by a 360 cc 2-cylinder, 2-stroke ZM engine rated at 33 PS. The SS version with a twin-carb, 40 PS (SAE) version of ZM engine version was introduced in July 1970. The engine was rated at 112 PS with a maximum speed of 120 km/h.
Throughout its lifetime, the Fellow Max had have facelifts. The first facelift it received was in March 1971 featuring new grille, dashboard notifications etc. The second facelift was released in 1972 that featured a revised dashboard, circular headlamps and a revised bonnet. The third facelift was introduced in May 1973 followed by the fourth in October. Both facelift versions offered revised fenders, all-new bumpers and bonnet, and introduction of safety equipment. The bumpers were once again altered in February 1975. In 1976, the kei car regulations were revised as a result of which the Fellow Max received some more modifications. As soon as the new regulations enacted, the hardtop versions was dropped from the lineup.
550 cc era
With the revise kei car regulations, the Daihatsu decided to introduce a relatively larger engine to their Fellow Max, i.e. 547 cc with a revised chassis code of L40/L40V. The Fellow ‘prefix’ became less prominent with the passage of time and even the vehicle was described as Max 550. The Max 550 received a new 4-stroke, 2-cyliner AB10 engine in place of earlier 2-cycle ZM engine. The engine was designed and built in collaboration with Toyota Motor Company. This engine was also provided to the Suzuki for their 4-stroke Fronte 7-S model. Compared to the 360, this 4-stroke engine provided less power, i.e. 28 PS (21 kW) at 6000 rpm. On the other hand, it offered an improved torque of 3.9kg/m (38 Nm) at 3500 rpm.
The length and width of the vehicle were also increased, i.e. 3120 mm (122.8 inch) and 1305 mm (51.4 inch) respectively. The vehicle was set to achieve the maximum speed of 110 km/h (68 mph), slightly lower than the Daihatsu 360. In a meanwhile, Honda decided to cease its operations in kei car market leaving Daihatsu the only company producing front-wheel drive kei cars. The Van version shared its front end and front doors with the 2-doot Max, though having a square-rigged rear end with a split tailgate.
The vehicle was renamed as Max Cuore in July 1977 with a chassis code of L45. This change of name basically announced the wider and bolder body shell of the vehicle that went up to 1395 mm (54.9 inch) with an increased length of 3160 mm for the sedan version, while the wagon received a length of 3165 mm. The vehicle was once again renamed as Daihatsu Cuore in March 1979. The engine power was also increased to generate 31 PS (23 kW) at 6000 rpm and torque of 4.2 kg/m (41 Nm). The engine of the vehicle also received a new Daihatsu Economical Clean-up System (DECS) to comply with the 1978 harder emissions standards. As of 2007, the vehicle was referred to as the Daihatsu Cuore in the European markets. Daihatsu introduced another similar commercial series in the form of Daihatsu Mira in 1980. By this time, the Max moniker was completely dropped from the Cuore name.
The Japanese market received a range of versions of Max Cuore including: a Standard 2-door version, DeLuxe 2- or 4-door versions, Custom 4-door version, Hi-Custom 2- or 4-door versions and Hi-Custom EX 4-door version. The Hi-Custom EX was the high performance version introduced in 1979.
Daihatsu Max (2000)
A fresh variant of Daihatsu Fellow Max was launched in 2000 as Daihatsu Max. A 5-door wagon version of Max was launched in October 2001 which was technically identical to the Daihatsu Move, except for a 10 mm lower ground clearance. The Max was discontinued in 2006 and Sonica was introduced as its replacement vehicle.