STARTER CLASSIC: Daihatsu Charade Turbo (1983-’85)


A turbo city car ahead of its time

Founded in 1907 by Hatsudoki Seizo as an engine manufacturer, Daihatsu is Japan’s oldest automobile company. Vehicle production started in 1960 in the Osaka area, and the company specialized in diesel mini-trucks before moving into the automotive industry; the first, a 1.0-liter four-cylinder sedan called Compagno Berlina.

The first Charades even took part in the Monte Carlo Rally and the East African Safari in 1981 and 1982, respectively. In 1983, the British Alfa Romeo factory undertook a project which introduced the name Daihatsu to the South African passenger car market.


Despite its small frame, the Charade’s tidy packaging gave it a roomy interior with seating for five adults. The trunk contained 170 liters of storage space with folding rear seats freeing up 740 liters of cargo space. The instrumentation is spartan; The Turbo replaces a boost pressure gauge with a green light that just tells you there’s overeating, which is wonderfully picturesque.

If it’s an old-fashioned turbo-gasoline with full-fledged instrumentation that pushes your hair back, take a look at the Uno Turbo instead.

CLASSIC STARTER Daihatsu Charade Turbo (1983-'85) (2)


The base three-cylinder engine produced modest powers of 36 kW and 71 Nm of torque and weighed only 92 kg, but the turbo drove the wick on the in-line three-cylinder at 68 kW and Model: Daihatsu Charade Turbo 105 Nm La turbo mass- The powered car weighed only 720 kg, giving it a competitive power-to-weight ratio.

With a beefed up cylinder head, turbocharger, stronger pistons, stronger crankshaft, oil cooler and larger radiator, it was good for a zero to 100 km / h sprint of 10.52 seconds. The transmission was shortened but the final transmission was lengthened to reach its maximum speed of 159 km / h at 5,000 rpm in top gear.

CLASSIC STARTER Daihatsu Charade Turbo (1983-'85) (2)

The compression ratio went from 9.5 to 8.0 to 1. Unlike modern turbocharged engines, the Charade is content with a double choke carburetor and circuit breaker ignition. One of the advantages of the miniaturized engine packaging is that the lightweight IHI turbo has minimal lag. The conservative Japanese did not over-boost the engine, however, and maximum boost pressure was limited to less than half a bar. No doubt some robot runners would have increased this.


MacPherson struts at the front and a beam axle with coil springs and Panhard rod at the rear were fitted with anti-roll bars at both ends. The steering was unassisted rack and pinion, as were the brake discs / drums.


The turbo will be the most fun by far, as long as the condition is acceptable. Proper maintenance would make this a rewarding classic, still capable of turning heads in salons and racetracks. The turbo overhaul has become cheaper over time but some parts will have to be imported. Standard models were CX and CXL, the latter adding metallic paint, alloy rims and sport seats.

Incidentally, for the other turbos of the day, you should consider the Nissan Exa Turbo and the Mitsubishi Tredia Turbo.

CLASSIC STARTER Daihatsu Charade Turbo (1983-'85) (2)


Very few have survived but, thanks to the lack of serious rust away from the coast, you may be able to locate one, over time. The prices will not be expensive because it is a compact niche product.


If one flies over the two-cylinder Fiat 500 from the 1950s and the DKW with its two-stroke three-cylinder engine, also the SAAB 93B, there were no other cars with less than four pistons. These days, with downsizing in the face of rising fuel prices, the triple has seen a resurgence in popularity. Fiat even goes back to its roots with a turbo twin. As a result, the Daihatsu was sort of a trailblazer in the 1980s and the Turbo was very unusual for that era.

Outside of South Africa, manufacturing and assembly plants have been established in Zimbabwe and Kenya. To encourage more employment opportunities, the local contact was set at 66%.

At the time of local testing of the first two prototypes – each covering 95,000 km – Roger McCleery was Marketing Director for Alfa Romeo.

0 to 100 km / h: 10.52 seconds
Top speed: 159 km / h
Fuel index: 5.70 L / 100 km (at 100 km / h)
Price: R9 995
January 1985

Article written by Pierre Palm

Pete first read CAR at the age of 12 and immediately began modifying his parents’ cars. He studied mechanical engineering because of a fascination with engines and worked on spray painted cars in his spare time. He worked for SA Railways and Denel before switching to the automotive industry by joining CAR.

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