Ultraman, a Japanese superhero “tokusatsu” series produced by Tsuburaya Production has gained many fans for more than half-century. The series is famous for its live-action using special effects and unique machines such as cars, aircraft, and more.
Ultraman and its cars
The “Ultra Series” is a milestone in the history of tokusatsu. The series began with “Ultra Q” in 1966, but no superheroes appeared in the series. In the same year, the original Ultraman, a follow-up to Ultra Q, started airing with featuring its most famous superhero, Ultraman.
Ultraman is a hero who comes to Earth from the Land of Light in M78 Nebula, in pursuit of the space monster Bemular, and fights to protect the Earth from monsters and aliens using his special techniques.
There is a unique episode that the spread of color televisions was helped by Ultraman, which became popular among children right after the airing started.
In the Ultra series that followed, various original vehicles used by the in-story organization appeared in line with the spread of motorization in Japan, making children not only long for heroes but also long for cars.
Although the TDF PO-1 (2) Pointer, based on a ‘50s Imperial Crown, is one of the famous vehicles in the series, other unique cars appear. Let’s look at some other cars from the Showa Ultraman series.
Mazda Cosmo Sport as “MAT Vehicle” in “Return of Ultraman”
Mazda’s rotary sports appeared in Return of Ultraman (1971) as a special vehicle called “MAT Vehicle”, famous for its red markings on a white body.
A MAT Vehicle is a special-purpose vehicle mainly used for patrol activities by the Monster Attack Team (MAT). Its rear wing-styled “stabilizers” were one of the characteristics the car had.
The base Cosmo Sport is a two-seater coupe first introduced in 1967 and was the first Japanese car that equipped a rotary engine.
With its futuristic look and the fact that the car had the world’s first mass-produced rotary engine, the car became a hot topic around the world.
The high-revving rotary engine equipped is a 1-litre 2-rotor engine that produced 110 hp at 7000 rpm and was famous for its smooth acceleration at that time.
Mazda also introduced other rotary cars that followed the Cosmo Sport like the Familia, Capella, and Savanna, making high-performance rotary engines more familiar to consumers.
By the way, the Japanese name of MAT Vehicle, “matto bihaikuru”, is said to be a mispronunciation of the word “vehicle”.
Toyota Corona Mark II as “TAC Panther” in “Ultraman A”
In 1972, Tsuburaya Productions introduced “Ultraman A”, the fifth show in its series.
In the previous “Return of Ultraman”, Ultraman Jack leaves Earth to stop Alien Bat’s invasion against M78.
After that, Ultraman A arrives from M78 after the Terrestrial Defense Force was wiped out by Yapool, an ancient creature from another dimension who controls “Terrible-Monsters”, biological weapons stronger than monsters.
Like the previous show, the Toyota Corona Mark II GSS appears as “TAC Panther”, a patrol vehicle used by the Terrible-monster Attacking Crew (TAC). Its body is painted in black with silver-rimmed orange lines, resembling the helmet color of TAC personnel.
The Corona Mark II was first launched in 1968 as a bigger brother to the Corona in response to growing demands for private cars in Japan, and to expand the company’s share of the compact high-end car market.
And its sports coupe model, the GSS, was equipped with a 145 hp 2-liter inline-4 DOHC engine. The car was popular among young people with its luxurious styling and good performance.
Vamos Honda as “Rabbit Panda” in “Ultraman Taro”
In 1973, Ultraman Taro replaced Ultraman A, who had revealed himself in front of children, defeating the Jumbo King, and left the Earth.
The superhero Ultraman Taro was born when a dead personnel from ZAT, Zariba of All Territory, was guided by Mother of Ultra and merged with Ultraman Taro.
A special patrol vehicle called “Rabbit Panda”, equipped with a radar, laser cannon, bazooka cannon, appears in this show.
Vamos Honda, which became the base vehicle for this special car, is a kei-truck that Honda launched in 1970. The model was based on another kei-truck, TN360, and had a styling like an offroad vehicle with its open body and no doors on its side.
Coming with a 30 hp straight-twin air-cooled engine, the car had enough performance as a leisure vehicle. But no 4WD model was introduced, making the car not having high off-road performance contrary to its rugged look.
It was mostly used as delivery vehicles for small stores but ended its production after three years due to low sales. The Vamos name was later revived in 1999 as the Honda Vamos.