The Japan Automotive Hall of Fame has selected the Mitsubishi Model A as an Historic Car. This distinction is set aside only for those vehicles which historically helped make Japanese automobiles excellent and is not given out lightly.
As the first Japanese series-production passenger car created with mass production in mind, the Mitsubishi Model A helped to transform the emerging automotive industry in the island nation. Prototype work began in the summer of 1917 and was completed in November 1918. By 1921 Mitsubishi had made 22 production cars.
Those numbers might not sound impressive, but considering the means used to manufacture each Model A they mean even more. Mitsubishi workers had no specialized tools or materials to make the cars, so each wood body was created with hammers, chisels, and other common devices. All this was accomplished without prior automotive experience and with no design drawings, which is simply amazing. At the time, Mitsubishi had experience building other items, principally ships, so constructing a car was definitely beyond the company’s comfort zone.
Mitsubishi engineers were pioneers in Japan when it came to gasoline engines. Despite setbacks an a slow ramp-up to production, they eventually proved that the country could indeed manufacture cars, instead of just importing vehicles. Today that point seems obvious, but a hundred years ago few believed in Japanese vehicles.
While most foreigners aren’t aware, Mitsubishi is the oldest Japanese automaker. The country didn’t become a force in the global automotive market until after WWII and today is a force to be reckoned with. Japanese cars are also becoming increasingly collectible in North America.
Anyone visiting Japan can see a recreation of the Mitsubishi Model A in person, which is a real treat. The car is displayed for the public at the Mitsubishi Auto Gallery in Okazaki City, Aichi Prefecture.
JAHFA works to highlight the key contributions made by different people and companies in the emerging Japanese automotive industry. The non-profit organization highlights vehicles and other milestones as a way of passing this important history down to future generations.
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