Your Car Reviews: 1985 Daihatsu Charade

A review of my first car, a 1985 Daihatsu Charade!

Every once in a while, a car comes along that is so astoundingly mediocre, so incredibly below average, that it’s almost unbelievable that it could even be sold at a dealership with a straight face.

That car for me was my very first car. I give you the 1985 Daihatsu Charade.

Charade alright; defines charade as ‘a blatant pretense or deception, especially something so full of pretense as to be a travesty.’ Well this car was true to its name - a total deception and an absolute travesty of automotive engineering.

It was basically a ride-on lawn mower masquerading as a car. The reason I say this? With a 1.0 litre engine under the bonnet and a 2 speed automatic transmission, I’m sure there were ride-on mowers faster and more powerful than this thing. Taking off at the lights? No problem. 0-60km/h in 3 minutes flat.

Needless to say I was not dragging anybody off at the lights for the whole 2 and a bit years I had the privilege of driving it.

I acquired this vehicle in early 1996 and under a whole lot of sufferance… basically I could choose the car, but my choices were the 1985 Charade or the 1985 Charade. By this point it was already 11 years old. To get some perspective on how bad this car was, the car I drive today is also 11 years old, but by the grace of advances in design and technology it’s still an up-to-date and relevant motor vehicle that looks modern and fresh on the road.

My Charade most definitely was not. It was boxy, boring and so past its use-by date at only 11 years old that it was positively rotten. Remember this was just as the first wave of Hyundai Excels were hitting our shores, so the Charade as a decent little second-hand first car was on the fast track to oblivion.

My one had the original radio with a single speaker built into the top of the dashboard. Notice how I said radio and not stereo? With only the AM band to choose from, not even a tape deck, this was most definitely NOT a cutting edge sound system.

So goodbye $350 and half a day down at Strathfield Car Radio and hello FM radio plus CD player with a removable face AND two speakers plonked into the front door panels. When you are 19 years old, one crappy dashboard speaker and an AM radio just ain’t gonna cut it.

With no power steering, no power windows, no power mirrors and, well, no power, this thing was a total turd to drive around in. It was noisy, even with my fully sick half a sound system cranked up to 11. The steering was so heavy that by the end of it my upper body strength was awe-inspiring – like those guys at the gym who only work on their arms and torsos and forget about their skinny chicken legs.

It literally felt like driving a small truck around, and sounded like one too. And God help you if you even thought about driving around with any passengers. You weren’t going anywhere in any great hurry, and NO-ONE was getting there comfortably.

The pièce de résistance was the air-conditioner, or lack thereof. It was just a sheer joy to drive around in this thing after it’d been sitting on the rooftop car park of my workplace for 8 hours in 36˚C heat. Can anyone say ‘mobile sauna’?! I don’t care what anyone says, we live in one of the hottest countries on earth, so to not have an air-conditioner is just plain evil and downright un-Australian.

There weren’t many positives at all with my 1985 Charade. From the bright yellow paint job that attracted bees while I was sitting in traffic, to the serious lack of performance and comfort, this wasn’t the car of my dreams. But I can say that there was one positive in a sea of negatives - freedom. Finally, FINALLY I had freedom.

Being able to get myself to work without relying on anyone. Being able to go to my friend’s houses every week for Melrose Place night without having to co-ordinate with my parents on when I could take the car. Just driving around the burbs with my crew listening to everything from Blackstreet to Spice Girls and killing time at the Maccas drive thru.

Feeling all grown up, running a car and being all responsible and stuff, like a real adult. That feeling of freedom was worth every penny of that $5,500.

What ended up happening to it? Well, we broke up. I jumped on the Hyundai bandwagon and traded it in for a brand-spanking new Excel, complete with air-conditioning, power steering, power windows and actual power. I was a little sad leaving the Charade behind at the dealership, this forlorn little car-that-couldn’t sitting off to the side on the lot.

But amazingly I passed it on the road a few years later, and it was a heartwarming sight to see – a young couple with sweat dripping down their faces with all the windows down and the fully sick half a sound system blaring as they putt-putted down the Gore Hill freeway in Sydney. And I could see from that familiar look on their faces that they were enjoying that same freedom I did only a few years before.

So that was Behind the Wheel’s Rachel Franco’s review of her first car, obviously Rach won’t be eligible to win a prize for telling us about her first car, though you can. Just send your car review to [email protected] or use the Contact page.

About Rachel Franco 8 Articles
Rachel has a varied background in the corporate sector, graphic design and photography. Growing up with an interest in cars from an early age thanks to her car-dealer uncle, Rachel has a deep appreciation of not only how a car drives and its design aesthetic, but also how it makes you feel.

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