Hopestar and the Birth of the Samurai

There's not much written about the Hope Motor Company, but they did produce a car that became one of the most popular and durable off-roaders in history. Shown above is the Hopestar ON360, a mini Jeep powered by a Mitsubishi 360cc two-stroke. After producing around 15, Hope lost hope, and was sold to Suzuki, who took the ON360 and morphed it into the Jimney.

Hope started out producing 3-wheeled kei trucks in the mid 1950's. Mazda and Daihatsu had similar vehicles in their fleets, but the Hopes performed well and sold into the thousands.

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These little insectoid trucks were perfect for Japanese city streets and came with the kei tax break. Buoyed by the success of their three-wheelers, Hope started producing some of the most charming little 4-wheeled trucks known to man. Seriously, I want to cuddle this guy:

I mean, come on.

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Unfortunately, Japan was crowded with little vehicles at this time. Honda, Daihatsu, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Subaru, Cony all had similar kei trucks with their ubiquitous 356cc motors and little Hope got lost. The ON360 Jeep was their last shot, but they didn't have the resources to build enough of them. They ordered 100 engines from Mitsubishi, but only produced the 15 examples. It was a great idea, though, as the world would soon find out. It's a shame they had the Jimney moniker instead of the much more inspiring Hopestar.

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