Last night, I found myself walking through the oil-drenched halls of Opposite-Lock. Between excellent stories of ship history, carspotting, and more, there was a call to the Autopian. Clicking in, I found something that I still haven’t stopped laughing about. This 1997 Mitsubishi Fuso Rosa bus is perhaps the best, dumbest vehicle that you can import from Japan right now. And the best part is that you get the whole darn thing for about $13,000. Someone buy this thing before we make it into our official tour bus.
Last year, I imported two cars from Japan, a Honda Beat and a Suzuki Every van. While sourcing parts has been a royal pain, driving my imported toys has been a ball. And the process of importing a car was sort of fun, too. This year, I’ve resisted the urge to import another car, but this bus is challenging all of us in the Autopian virtual office. As much as I love the RTS and our daydreaming designer, a dog bus would fit us so much better.
It’s for sale at Car From Japan, a portal that links buyers to exporters in Japan. I’ve never used this site before, I have friends who have had good success with the site.
The Mitsubishi Fuso name dates back to 1932, when Mitsubishi Heavy Industries launched the B46 bus. Measuring in at about 23-feet-long, the B46 had seating for 38 people and carried them using a 7.0-liter gasoline six making 100 horsepower. The first customer for the new bus was the Japan Ministry of Railroads, which held an employee contest to choose the name for the new vehicle. Fuso was the winning name, and Mitsubishi explains what it means:
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 Fuso name wouldn’t just stick with buses, as through time, the brand would grow to build everything from cargo vans to large commercial trucks. Here in America, you might know Mitsubishi Fuso best for its Canter line of cabover trucks.
Produced starting in 1960, the Rosa is what Mitsubishi Fuso claims is Japan’s first small bus. These first buses were built on the chassis of Mitsubishi’s Jupiter J10 truck. Mitsubishi Fuso doesn’t explain what the name means, but it does provide us with a picture of what the first Rosa buses looked like. Check it out:
The best detail about the Rosa seems to come from Japanese Car Trade, another used car portal. According to the site, the Rosa launched as the B10, but became the B20 in 1961 when it was lengthened. Production continued until 1973, when Mitsubishi Heavy Industries launched the second-generation. These buses were similar to the first-generation, but featured a revised body and different short and long range versions. The second-generation marched on from 1973 to 1986.
The bus that we’re looking at today is a third-generation.
Launched in 1986, these buses reportedly feature a totally redesigned body. These third-gens are available in two different lengths, about 20 feet (6.2 meters) and about 23 feet (6.95 meters). But unlike the previous generation, there’s only one engine choice this time.
Here’s what these buses look like when they don’t look like a dog. It’s a utilitarian, yet clean design. I would totally drive something like daily like a really big van. Oh yeah, some of them were even four-wheel-drive:
Located behind the front axle is a 3.6-liter 4D36 diesel. It’s making 110 horsepower and 188 lb-ft torque. That’s moving a body weighing in at about 10,626 pounds. I’d expect this to be super slow, but at least you get to row your own from a five-speed manual. Speaking about that body, did I say that it looks like a dog?
Mitsubishi Fuso says that these buses are incredibly popular, so much that the Rosa is its best-selling bus line. By 2015, Mitsubishi Fuso sold 200,000 of them. Some of these buses get turned into school buses. Some are plain, while others get pretty wild like this one. This one was built out as a kindergarten bus and was themed to look like a dog. For another example of what these get turned into when they become kid carriers, there’s a 2001 Rosa for sale on Goo-net Exchange that looks like a toy.
If you like that bus more, you’re going to have to wait until 2026 to get it. But this one, you can import this one right now. It seats 44 people in what look like some seriously cute seats.
Up front, you command the bus from a nice looking bucket, and the dashboard looks like it belongs in an SUV. Features include power steering, air-conditioning, and an AM/FM radio. Not even my RTS bus has a radio in it!
You also get a few buttons to control the rig’s perimeter lighting. But I am a bit surprised that the instrument cluster has so few gauges in it. You get a speedometer that tops out at 87 mph, a fuel gauge, and a temp gauge. You don’t get to know your engine speed and you don’t get to know your oil pressure, either.
That said, I can’t complain, because my RTS has even fewer gauges. I get to know my speed, battery charge, and air pressure. I have to trust an idiot light to tell me if I’m running hot or running out of fuel. One thing that I do love in this interior is the HVAC system screen. Few people are going to care about this, but Mitsubishi Fuso made sure that it looked like a little bus on the screen.
No condition report comes with the bus, but it does look pretty decent underneath. This would be one of the most rust-free vehicles in the Autopian fleet! The odometer indicates the equivalent of 180,982 miles, too, which means that the engine is probably just barely broken in.
The best part about all of this is the price. It was initially listed for $6,048, but the price is now $3,861. The rough estimate to ship it to the Port of Baltimore raises the price to $10,787. From there, you’ll end up paying terminal fees, a Customs broker, and an Escort service if you’re picking the bus up.
You’ll also have to pay an import duty, which might be 25 percent if Customs classifies it as a truck. To be safe, budget an additional $2,000. But hey, that’s still just $12,787 for a whole bus that looks like a dog!
Forget a school bus, convert this into a weird motorhome. Or maybe this should be the mobile operations base for the Autopian. I even have a place to store this beauty. Should you decide to pull the trigger before we do, you can buy it from Car From Japan. Hat tip to Arch Duke Maxyenko and Opposite-Lock!