90s JDM Retro Style: Subaru Vivio T-Top

And now for something completely different! This is a Subaru Vivio T-top – one of the more eclectic 90s Kei cars, but it’s also sporting retro kit.

Interest in small retro cars in Japan – where chrome was always desired by some buyers – simmered in the 80s – with new-build Minis, Autobianchi A112s, and 2CVs finding favor among the sleek moderns. The trend really took off, however, after Nissan’s “Pike” cars – the Be-1, Figaro, Pao, and S-Cargo.

The popularity of those cars led to a wide variety of aftermarket kits and retro-themed production cars. The archetypal 90s JDM retros came from Mitsuoka – a coachbuilder/manufacturer most famous for the Nissan March/Micra-based Viewt and other over-the-top retro cars.

Factory Retros

But the retro trend was popular enough for there to be production retro versions of all sorts of regular cars. The Vivio T-top Bistro and Sambar Dias Classic were Subaru’s first, but the manufacturer later extended the treatment to the other Vivios and eventually to the Impreza (the rarely seen Impreza Casa Blanca, circa 1999-2000).

The regular Vivio was considerably more subdued in appearance than this retro T-top, and replaced the Rex in early 1992.

The car got its name from it’s displacement – the Roman numerals VI VI O stand for “660” (the engines were actually 658cc, but 660cc was the Kei class displacement limit). Basic Vivios used a 48-hp NA version of the engine, with supercharged and 16V versions available.

The cars were featherweights even for Keis – less than 1,550 lbs., so they made good use of their power.

A Vivid Array

The basic Vivios were a three- and five-door hatch, just like the outgoing Rex, but in the atmosphere on the boom times of the late 80s, Subaru also included a “lifestyle” Convertible – the T-top.

The name was a little misleading. The model was called T-top but the roof was called “Multi-top. It had five possible configurations with the roof coming off in three panels and the rear window being removable as well. This made for a roomy, airy convertible in warm times and a fully-sealed coupe when it was cold.

Space was tight, so in the best retro roadster tradition, a spoiler-like luggage rack sits on the trunk lid.

The Vivio was replaced by the Pleo in 1999, and sadly, the T-top didn’t reappear.

Special thanks to Sodo-Moto. Want to know more about Vivios? There’s a Facebook Group for that.

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