Charade_Life New Reader
1/6/18 3:13 a.m.

Cylinder One: The Big Bang

I am one of, from my current count, three people in the USA that call themselves Daihatsu Charade enthusiasts. I have always had an affinity towards small, unloved, underpowered cars. My numerous viewings of The Love Bug and Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo during my childhood was most likely was the catalyst to this odd fascination. These films also introduced a life-long interest in auto racing, mostly of the kind that turns both left and right. Christmas of 1999 I received Gran Turismo 2 as a gift that would unknowingly impact my life in a wonderful way. In looking through the plethora of car in which to start my Gran Turismo 2 journey, I found Daihatsu.

Being knowledgeable of all sorts of weird cars, I recalled that Daihatsu once sold cars in the United States. I remembered the small hatchback that looked like the backend was cut off in a similar fashion that the designers at AMC did to the Gremlin. I also remembered that it, like the Suzuki Swift/Geo Metro came with a three cylinder motor. The seed was planted. I told myself, when the time is right, I will buy a Charade and I will race it in some form. 

Cylinder Two: Stars Align

The problem I had was that I knew Charade ownership would not come easy. I found out just how many Charades were brought to the USA -about 45,000 from 1988-1992. Keep in mind that Toyota sold nearly 200,000 Corolla's in 1991 alone. People that bought Charades did so because they bought into the marketing of Daihatsu who sold the Charade as a "premium" compact car touting its impeccable build quality and reliably. These people must have been really trusting of Daihatsu who had came to our shores in 1987. I can pretty confidently say that Charades were bought not as weekend warriors that were setting the bar in SCCA events, they were bought as commuters, and as the miles racked up on these Charades, time passed, and Daihatsu decided that the looming airbag requirement as well as slow sales were enough to call time and discontinue business in the USA. As cars age and large repairs become a concern to keep an old car on the road, many owners of Charades felt that it did not make any financial, let alone sense in the name of safety to keep them on the road. 

Thankfully an owner had held onto his Charade long enough for our paths to cross. In the summer of 2015 I was five years into a job in the parts department at the local CarMax. Probably the only perk of working for that company was the ability to buy cars that people trade in that were going to be auctioned off to various wholesale dealers. For five years I had reviewed the list of traded in vehicles on a daily basis. Nearly every person that worked at that store new my obsession with finding one of these cars. Monday June 15th, 2015 patience did me a favor and $680.00 later, I owned a 1991 Daihatsu Charade.  

Cylinder Three: The Unknown Universe

The plan has always been autocross. I have had my fair share of autocross able vehicles that were no stranger to the seas of orange pylons. Those cars were staples of the discipline, MINI Cooper, Mazda2, Ford Fiesta ST. That was the biggest problem I had with them, you can always find one of these cars at an autocross.  When the Daihatsu entered the picture, a slow build up began. 

Upon my acquisition of the Charade I did all sorts of maintenance that I could to make the car as reliable as it possibly could be. Having knowing what I was getting into, my patience was tested as I waited for various parts to arrive from far away places. It took nearly a year and a half, but as it sits, the Charade drives extremely well for a 26 year old car with 220,000 miles on it.  Now it is time to start prepping it for its first autocross. There is very little support for these vehicles in the aftermarket. In other countries, mostly southern Asia and Australia these cars are loved and large quantities of people modify them. Here at home there will be a lot of trial and error. It's easy to modify a car by throwing parts at it to make it perform to ones liking, I do not have parts that I readily buy and go hit the course. I am going into where I have read many of you have gone before, into the unknown, having to take a chance to see if this fits or that works. 

I have been reading Grassroots Motorsports for years, since at least 2002 when I was lusting over the then new MINI. If I have learned anything its that its readers are a supportive, helpful bunch. I've visited these forums on a nearly daily basis since 2011 and have not posted, until now. I want to share this journey I am going to take with my most uncanny of cars.  Thank you all for reading this, I know it was long, but I'm glad I told this story to all of you like-minded people who I feel get my obsession. 

I can't get a picture to post so for the time being you can see my Instagram: sega.powered.charade or check out my profile. 

Pete Gossett
Pete Gossett MegaDork
1/6/18 6:06 a.m.

This sounds awesome - welcome!

sethmeister4 SuperDork
1/6/18 6:31 a.m.

Cool, I'm looking forward to this!  I know nothing about these cars, but I love obscure, un-loved cars.  I'm also a fellow Carmax associate. cheeky And in looking at your profile I noticed that you were born on the exact same day as my brother.  Weird.  Can't wait to see pics!

Pushrod New Reader
1/6/18 8:05 a.m.

What's the curb weight on one of these? Gotta be between 1600-1700 lbs. Great autocross potential on that factor

John Welsh
John Welsh Mod Squad
1/6/18 10:05 a.m.

Always an interesting name choice... 





noun: charade; plural noun: charades

  1. an absurd pretense intended to create a pleasant or respectable appearance.

    "talk of unity was nothing more than a charade"

    synonyms:farce, pantomime, travesty, mockery, parody, pretense, act, masquerade
John Welsh
John Welsh Mod Squad
1/6/18 10:11 a.m.

However, I greatly respect the path less traveled! 

bentwrench Dork
1/6/18 10:52 a.m.

wheelsmithy Dork
1/6/18 1:22 p.m.


Watching intently


Pete Gossett
Pete Gossett MegaDork
1/6/18 2:08 p.m.

In reply to bentwrench :

I always liked that rear wheel arch...or I guess lack of one.

MazdaFace Reader
1/6/18 2:13 p.m.

fender flares would make that thing look suuper aggressive.  Like a fastiva

Agent98 New Reader
1/6/18 2:42 p.m.

These stories are why I log in to GRM.

Herbie did full wheelstands indicating a few hundred HP.

I always wondered why some Japanese autos never clicked in the US market and others seem to print money. That thing looks like an 80's Corolla or Mitsubishi Colt.

Looking forward to the updates!

Charade_Life New Reader
1/6/18 2:54 p.m.

In reply to Pete Gossett :

Ah yes, that is one of my favorite parts of the car. It is also one of the most difficult things to work around when it comes to wheel and tire size that is appropriate for what I want to achieve. 

Charade_Life New Reader
1/6/18 2:56 p.m.

In reply to John Welsh :

Yeah I figured that Daihatsu caught a lot of flack for keeping the “Charade” name when they brought the cars over. So it’s fitting that I use it. 

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