HomeCar CultureCommentary25-year wait might be worth it for this taste of Cappuccino

25-year wait might be worth it for this taste of Cappuccino


1991 Suzuki Cappuccino is on the docket at Fort Lauderdale | Auctions America photos
1991 Suzuki Cappuccino is on the docket at Fort Lauderdale | Auctions America photos

When I was one of the editors of AutoWeek magazine, we used to do a semi-regular feature called NFUSS, short for Not For U.S. Sale. These were cars we’d have loved to drive, and for our readers to drive as well, if only they had they been available in the United States automotive market instead of being restricted to their Asian or European homelands.

One of the cars we were eager to feature was the Suzuki Cappuccino, launched in 1991 after being teased two years earlier at the Tokyo Motor Show.

Cappuccino is a very small but spunky two-seater
Cappuccino is a very small but spunky two-seater

The Cappuccino was designed for Japan’s Kei class specifications; these were very small, low-powered cars that provided their owners with a nice tax break compared with larger, more-powerful vehicles. The little Suzuki weighed less than 1,600 pounds and its three-cylinder, 657-cc engine provided only 67 horsepower, thanks in part to being turbocharged and intercooled.

Reports from Japan were that the Cappuccino not only was cute, its engine revved into the stratosphere and the little cars provided big-time fun when taken to a race track. It also featured a versatile, removable, three-piece hardtop that could be configured to make the car a closed coupe, a T-top, a targa or a full convertible.

Alas, they were NFUSS. At least not then. But U.S. federal regulations now make it legal to import such vehicles after their 25th anniversaries, thus an AutoWeek feature in 2015 that included the Cappuccino among “the coolest 25-year-old cars you can import to the United States in 2016.”

“Why is it cool?” AutoWeek asked itself, then answering its own question with: 
“It’s a coupe! It’s a targa! It’s a convertible! It’s the Suzuki Cappuccino!

“Ever wonder why we (well, why some of us at least) drool over kei cars? Consider this front-mid-engine, rear-wheel-drive sportster with a multi-function roof; it makes incredibly efficient, incredibly fun use of its minimal footprint and 657-cc powertrain. Hardly an econobox, it boasted double-wishbone suspension, a 50/50 weight distribution and performance good enough to earn it a nod…”

Roof-panel array comes with the car
Roof-panel array comes with the car

Which brings us to the docket for Auctions America’s upcoming sale, March 31-April 2 at Fort Lauderdale, Florida, where one of those recently imported (in November 2016) 1991 Suzuki Cappuccino Turbos will cross the block.

Auctions America expects the car to sell for $12,000 to $15,000. The auction company reports that it has a five-speed manual transmission, the three-piece hardtop with folding rear glass, has been thoroughly detailed since arriving here, has a functioning air conditioner and heating system, four-wheel disc brakes, large-diameter sport exhaust and rides on new Kumho tires mounted on factory seven-spoke wheels.

“These lightweights were known for their ideal 50/50 weight distribution and high-revving motors, which kept them relevant on the track when in the hands of a skilled driver,” Auctions America reports.

“The bodywork appears to be nearly flawless, with only a few small blemishes.”

The auction house also reports that the firewall and shock towers show no evidence of corrosion, and there are only the sort of interior wear you’d expect from a car of this age.

Although the car shows less than 67,000 kilometers on its odometer, Auctions America notes that the timing belt was replaced at some point by the previous owner so the actual original mileage cannot be verified.

One other note: “The car currently has a Kenwood stereo, but having originated in Japan it doesn’t pick up frequencies in the United States.”

Included are the spare tire, tool kit and jack, and all the roof panels fit into a storage bag that fits into the car’s trunk.

“This Suzuki Cappuccino is an excellent opportunity to own a unique Japanese roadster,” Auctions America notes. “One would be hard-pressed to find one in better condition in the United States.”

To which I’ll add this: What a great car to take to ClassicCars.com’s next Future Classics Car Show!

Larry Edsall
Larry Edsall
A former daily newspaper sports editor, Larry Edsall spent a dozen years as an editor at AutoWeek magazine before making the transition to writing for the web and becoming the author of more than 15 automotive books. In addition to being founding editor at ClassicCars.com, Larry has written for The New York Times and The Detroit News and was an adjunct honors professor at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.

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