Welcome to this week’s FC Throwback, where we take a look back at some of our favourite previous feature cars. This week it’s Olivia Sharpe’s Daihatsu Charade kei-car from 2017. Using ingenious home-grown modifications to match her tight budget, Olivia Sharpe’s outrageously fun Daihatsu acts as an important reminder that it’s not money that necessarily buys you happiness…
Remember when you were growing up and your parents tried to teach you the important life lesson that it would be much more satisfying to paint a mural than head down to Toys ‘R’ Us to pick up the latest games console? It’s a moral that probably went in one ear and straight out of the other at the time, but one we’ve all probably learnt to incorporate a little bit more as we get older (and slowly realise we’re not going to be millionaires, after all…)
One particularly effective example of this adage in action can be seen with young Olivia here and her first foray into the fantastic world of Japanese cars. With a tight budget and the expectation of racking up a lot of commuting miles, it would’ve been all too easy to blend in with the masses and settle for a beige Euro-box to carry out her driving duties. But playing on her creative strengths and using a little imagination has left her with one of the funkiest super-minis currently cruising British roads, and it was all performed for much less than you might think…
It started a couple of years back when Olivia began looking for a new motor. “It had to be cheap, economical and a good daily driver,” she explains. Not the three best requirements when looking for something fun, that’s for sure. Luckily she had some clever ideas up her sleeve, then, like the fact the car should be of Japanese origin – a sure-fire way to add some quirky character into the mix regardless of the price tag.
“We eventually found this Daihatsu Charade,” Olivia continues. “It was owned by a pretty famous drifter called ‘Mitto’ who used to run an RC drift circuit in Northampton. This meant it came with some really cool Japanese performance parts on it already installed, like the coilovers.” Try finding a story that interesting about your five-year-old VW Golf!
The humble little Charade (or ‘Mira’ as they were known in Japan at the time) came with some adjustable coilovers of unknown origin (which would come in handy later on…), along with all of the usual bizarre bits you normally find inside a JDM car from this era. This being the range-topper model, under the bonnet sits a one-litre, three-cylinder lump kicking out just over 60bhp (yes, that really is the top of the range model), but Olivia had learnt by this point that life isn’t all about horsepower and bling body parts.
Because what came next was a string of clever touches that would transform the Mira from the mundane into something that began creating waves at shows and when it was spotted on the street. And the best bit of it all? It never threatened to blow Olivia’s budget…
“I love the style of the Rota Alecia wheel, but even the smallest size on offer was far too big for the Mira!” Olivia recalls. Of course, wheels are arguably one of the most important ways to switch up the look of your ride, so were a big priority to allow the dainty Daihatsu to begin standing out from the crowd. With eight inches of width all-round, and with the help of boyfriend Tom, some universal bubble-style wheel arches were soon trimmed to house the pokey wheels, giving the kei-car even more stocky, dainty dimensions. The coilovers were then tweaked to ensure the Mira’s undercarriage was as close as possible to the deck.
The pink faces of the wheels inspired a bit of a theme for the rest of the car, allowing Olivia a bit of direction when it came to conjuring up some other clever touches to treat her motor to. You probably won’t miss the headlight tints as the car’s coming towards you, for example, and under the bonnet there’s even a glittery oil overflow tank (an old drink’s bottle transformed from home). But it’s the inside where the pink theme is most prominent, firstly with the lavish Slambox steering wheel, and, once you look upwards, the incredible glitter roof lining which was fashioned from scratch by our creative owner here.
“The roof lining occasionally sprinkles pink glitter onto you as you drive it,” Olivia’s boyfriend Tom (an FC regular in his own right), tells us his experiences of when he pinches the Charade for a drive. “So you arrive most places looking like a fairy with pink glitter in your hair and everywhere else! I get the funniest looks when driving it on the road – a small, pink-covered car driven by a big bearded man…”
We think Olivia’s proud boyfriend says it best when it comes to what’s been achieved with this little monster: “I think Olivia’s managed to use her creativity and resourcefulness to create a really cool car, rather than spending thousands without putting much thought into it…” And you know what? He’s damn right. Because the amount of love you put into a car has no relevance to its price tag, and that’s something we can probably reminding ourselves from time to time!
TECH SPEC: DAIHATSU CHARADE
Toyota Corolla front splitter; custom bubble wheel arches; pink headlight tint; JDM show plates; various stickers
989cc three-cylinder DOHC 12V ‘EJ’ engine; custom induction kit; cone air filter; glitter oil overflow tank
Five-speed manual transmission
JDM coilovers all-round (make unknown); 8×15-inch Rota Alecia deep dish alloy wheels; OEM brakes
Pink Slambox steering wheel with Nardi centre cap; Veilside gear knob; custom glitter roof lining
Words Sam Preston Photos Chris Frosin