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ISSUE 290Regular readers may be aware that I have been hunting for my first classic for some time now. Indecision, lack of time, insurance troubles and slight trepidation at spending more money at once than I ever have before have all held up proceedings. My shortlist that originally featured Mazda MX-5, BMW E30 3-Series or Porsche 924 expanded to include front-drive wonders like the Saab 900 Turbo and Volvo 480, but sadly none of these appeased the gods of insurance. Despite having held my licence for six years and never had a shunt, quotes for the above were nowhere near affordable. My classic therefore needed to have a much smaller engine before I could viably insure it while still having money left to run the car itself. With this in mind I’ve bought a very specific type of car – one that offers a combination of attributes not available anywhere else in the automotive world. While my choice of a Suzuki Cappuccino may be more of a modern-classic – something of a spiritual successor to the MG Midget – the smallest of the small Japanese cars are some of the most interesting, with a classic heritage of their own. In Japan, the tradition for small-engined, small-bodied cars is long and illustrious. ‘Kei-jidosha’ (quite literally ‘light automobile’ in Japanese) is a strictly-regulated bracket in the Japanese road tax system, whereby vehicles must adhere to rules that would seem odd to most Western drivers. The regulations were originally introduced after the Second World War to help rejuvenate the county’s motor industry and today, after a number of small increases over the past few decades, Kei cars must be not exceed 3.4m (11 feet) in length, 1.48m (five feet) in width and 2m (6.5 feet) in height. Engines are limited to 660cc and power is capped at 63bhp. Properly classic Kei cars you may be familiar with are the Suzuki Whizzkid, Honda N-Series and Subaru’s 360 – one of the very first of the breed. Despite being an ostensibly Japanese product intended for use in overcrowded cities with very small streets, some Kei cars were officially offered in the UK from the likes of Daihatsu (Cuore, Copen, Domino, Move), Suzuki (Whizzkid, Jimny, Cappuccino) and Honda (Z600, N350, N600) all selling these little oddities to a surprisingly voracious consumer base across the years. I’d be very interested to hear if any of our readers have owned or had experiences with Kei cars – both classic and modern-classic. In the meantime, enjoy the issue!

James Howe
Editorial assistant