If you’re aware of Mitsuoka at all, you know the small Japanese automaker has created some uniquely polarizing vehicles over the years. From the non-Euclidean unease of the Honda NSX-based Orochi to the Buddy, a Toyota RAV4 rebodied to resemble a K5 Chevy Blazer, Mitsuoka has made it unquestionably clear that the limitations that restrain other carmakers don’t apply within its walls, and it answers to nobody. It’s for that reason that I’m sure the company couldn’t care less what you or I think of its latest offering, the M55 Concept, which is basically a Civic hatchback restyled to look like a ’70s Japanese sports car, or a ’70s American sports car that you can put in your pocket.

The reason for the M55’s existence happens to be right there in the name. Mitsuoka was founded 55 years ago, in 1968. It was a time of great cultural transformation, as the company says in its materials surrounding the M55, bringing color TV, air conditioning, and perhaps most relevant of all, relatively accessible GT cars. This is the period the M55 is crafted to honor. Regardless how you feel about the execution, the inspiration pretty clearly shines through.

Mitsuoka Motor

Mitsuoka Motor

The 11th-gen Civic hatch was arguably the best choice Mitsuoka could’ve made for starter car here, because it’s barely a hatchback as it is. It’s really a fastback, and of course, Japan’s greatest performance cars of the era, from the original Toyota Celica to the “Kenmeri” Nissan Skyline GT-R and 240Z, were all fastbacks.

The final product ends up looking like a Civic with the front end of a Dodge Challenger and a louvered rear window. A familiar greenhouse makes it obvious how the M55 originally left the factory, but the only cue it’s really missing are fender-mounted side mirrors. Personally, the whole thing’s a little disjointed to me, but then considering Mitsuoka’s taken on the unenviable task of making a ’70s sports car out of a modern compact, it would’ve been a miracle if it came out any better. As long as we’re talking needlessly expensive Civics in ungainly frocks, I’d still rock this over a new Integra.

Mitsuoka Motor

If Mitsuoka took the liberty of making mechanical tweaks here, those remain a mystery. That isn’t typically the company’s bag though, as the Buddy was indistinguishable from a typical RAV4 under its retro sheet metal. The only other change to note with respect to the M55 are the sedan’s seats, which are irrefutably perfect. You can’t go wrong with blue leather and grommets. Even if most of what your eyes see in the cabin is essentially 11th-gen Civic, your butt will know the difference.

You may be wondering if Mitsuoka intends to produce the M55, and on that front, the company’s actually left little room for ambiguity. According to Japanese outlet Car Watch, the answer is a resounding “no.” I suppose the M55 has been deemed too outlandish to sell by the minds who gave Japan a Toyota Yaris cosplaying a Jaguar Mark 2, or a Mazda Miata shaped like a C3 Corvette, with a one-off left-hand-drive conversion to match. Yes, even Mitsuoka has standards, even if they don’t make sense to us.

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