Due to appear in Japanese auctions in a couple of days is one rather epic bus. This 1989 Mitsubishi Fuso Rosa bus was converted into an RV complete with solar panels, four-wheel-drive, cushy private jet-style powered seats, shag rugs, a chandelier, and apparently, a karaoke machine. It’s just the right amount of over-the-top and it’s my favorite camper yet this year.
This lovely rig was sent in by Tyler Barg of Tiki Bunny Imports. I had the pleasure of meeting Barg at my Milwaukee area Autopian meetup back in February. He brought a wonderful Honda Life and we talked stories about the fun and sadness of car importation.
Driving his adorable kei car revived my thirst for cars imported from Japan! Currently, I’m looking for something like a Toyota Century, a Honda Life, or an MGF.
This 1989 Mitsubishi Fuso Rosa is rolling across the JU Fukuoka auction block on April 21 in Japan. The seller set a starting bid of $6,380. Factor in the cost of shipping of at least a few grand and I’m afraid this fun bus is outside of my budget. But, we’ll still gawk at the thing.
The Rosa is a bus with a long history with Mitsubishi Fuso. In fact, the manufacturer got its start 91 years ago by building a bus!
Japan’s First Small Bus
Mitsubishi Fuso was created in 1932 when Mitsubishi Heavy Industries built the first B46 bus. The bus measured about 23 feet long and contained seating for 38 people. Under the hood sat a 7.0-liter gasoline six that produced 100 horsepower. Fuso’s launch customer was the Japan Ministry of Railroads. The Fuso name wasn’t the choice of Mitsubishi but of the Ministry. An employee contest was held to choose the name for the B46. Fuso was the winning name, and it does have some real meaning:
The word “Fuso” derives from an ancient Chinese term for a sacred tree said to grow at the spot in the East where the sun rises, and has been used to refer to Japan, itself. The actual Fuso tree is a hibiscus, known in Japanese as “bussoge,” and is an evergreen that grows to about 3 meters and sprouts beautiful red and pale pink flowers.
The Rosa is an evolution of Fuso’s bus. It launched in 1960 and Mitsubishi Fuso claims the Rosa is Japan’s first small bus. The first-generation buses were built on the chassis of Mitsubishi’s Jupiter J10 truck. Mitsubishi Fuso doesn’t explain what Rosa is supposed to mean, but here’s what those first buses looked like:
This bus comes from the third generation of the Rosa. Launched in 1986, the third generation Rosa buses differentiated themselves from its predecessors with a reportedly totally new body. These Rosas can be had in 20 foot long and about 23 foot long lengths. Previous generations offered different engine choices for different driving ranges. This time, the Rosa came equipped with just one engine.
This Mini Bus Camper
The description included in the auction isn’t super detailed, but it states that the bus has two solar panels on its roof, rally lights, and dual air horns. Remember, these are only about 23 feet long, or about the length of a large camper van. Yet, it looks huge!
Looking around the exterior, I spot a set of large aftermarket mirrors, an awning, and a ladder to the roof. It’s unclear what else is up there aside from the solar panels, but there appears to be some storage and a roof rack. The listing does say that the bus has two compressors, though it’s not stated what they’re for. One of them likely powers the air horn.
Inside is where the magic is. Starting with the cockpit, there’s a lot going on here. I spot an aftermarket stereo, speakers on the dashboard, what appears to be a CB radio and a screen for the rear camera. Also notable is the shifter. Yep, this bus has a manual transmission! Power comes from a 3.6-liter 4D36 diesel located behind the front axle. It’s making 110 horsepower and 188 lb-ft torque. That’s moving a body weighing in at about 10,626 pounds and the engine drives all four wheels.
Sadly, just one photo is provided of the camping space. In it, I spot three leather recliners that look like they belong in a house or maybe a private jet. These seem to have shag/fleece coverings on top. More of that fleece-like material is on the floor and in the bed in the back. The listing says that this bus can carry six people total and four of the seats are power seats. Additional features come by way of a navigation system, televisions, air-conditioning, LED lighting, and a refrigerator.
And it could be a translation error, but the listing also seems to say that there’s a chandelier somewhere in there! It’s not said if there’s a bathroom or kitchen of any kind in there.
Inspection notes do indicate that this bus is not in perfect condition. It has scratches, repair marks, and cracks in the bodywork. The interior is noted to have more scratches, blemishes, and even a hole or two. Perhaps the most concerning parts from the inspection indicate an inoperative coolant temperature sensor and belt squeal. The good news comes from its 3.5 condition grade (what I’d say is daily driver grade) and it has just 117,608 miles.
Even without information about a kitchen or bathroom, I’d buy this bus in a heartbeat. Sure, it would be a slow roll just about everywhere, but I adore the camper’s character. I also imagine that driving a right hand drive bus in America would be pretty weird.
If you have a better budget than I do, you can snatch up this 1989 Mitsubishi Fuso Rosa from the JU Fukuoka auction block on April 21 in Japan. Click here to view the listing. To get in on the bidding action, I’d recommend contacting auction agents like Japan Car Direct or an importer like the Import Guys. I’ve used both companies with great success in the past. Shout-out to Tyler from Tiki Bunny Imports for the tip!
(Images from JU Fukuoka unless otherwise noted.)
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Are there many of this size bus being used as campers in the USA? They’re somewhat common in australia.Most buy them for their perfect compromise of size and fuel economy
That looks so much nicer than the Mitsubishi Fuso Rosa I was ferried to school in back in the 90’s. Does it come with a grumpy Mrs. W too?
I wonder how it smells is there a number for that?
Potential as an Uber Brothel/Party Bus?
I think I’ve talked myself out of it already.
I think of it more as a bus for a small idol group judging by the motif!
Cool, the mirrors and trim make it look Dekotora Lite
No link to the auction? Or am I missing it.
Japanese auctions are sort of weird. I can give links, but sometimes you have to be registered to view auctions, or else you won’t be able to see anything. Some auctions also forbid external linking (looking at you, USS).
What, they couldn’t find more mirrors to hang on this thing? Very, very cool bus, Mercedes. And, no, I don’t think you’re going to find a kitchen or bathroom in there. Unfortunately.
Now this thing is my jam. I am concerned about the fan on the stove as in no AC. I prefer at least a toilet if not a full bath and kitchen. But in the era of $30,000 telephone both trailers this is a steal at twice the starting price which i dont see bids staying close too.
You know Autopian writers it would be nice to see a follow up on featured vehicles especially early auction vehicles with what they actually sold for.
Actually I believe the Hibiscus is a flowering plant from the Mallow genus. It comes in orange, yellow, red, pink, and multicolored. It grows in the warmer humid areas and is a very lovely plant. It can appear as a tree if desired by over trimming the branches.
The chandelier likely isn’t a mistranslation. Japan had a booming vanning scene in the 80s and 90s and while it largely died out by now, chandeliers were and still are a thing in that scene.
I wish there was a way to post pictures in the comments, I collect old Japanese car magazines and just got two from the late 70s and early 80s that has a lot of photos of custom vans and RVs from the time. There’s gold in those old magazines.
Do you have any scans of your collection? I’m looking for info on some Stance Magic banana-style wheels, likely from the mid 90s. I can’t really find anything about the company or the wheels online.
This thing is so to-the-wall bonkers and I absolutely adore it. Why all the bird decals? Who knows! Who is there shag on everything!? Who cares! It’s rad as hell! Monster thanks for the shout out, Mercedes! I love this stuff so much!
So is this a four or six wheel drive? Because it’s a duallie.
Just imagine the wind noise at top speed! OMFG
Yeah. It’s probably almost as loud as driving a convertible.
Wait? Are we getting mad about wind noise now?
I don’t see a kitchen or lavatory. Basically looks like a Boogie Van with a big roof rack.
Or am I missing something?
Judging from the decorations, they must have Pep Boys in Japan. Who knew?
Must have also had a sale on beige center consoles, because I spot 3.