The dream of re-creating a sporting image for Suzuki began in 1987 and within two years the "project car" was shown for the first time at the Tokyo Motor Show.
Suzuki intentionally designed the Cappuccino to meet the Kei-car (light car) specification, which afforded certain tax advantages in the Japanese domestic market. At the outset, the project aimed to meet the 1976 Kei regulations but was able to take advantage of the extra length and engine capacity allowed when the regulations were revised in 1990 (see below).
Initially, there was no intention to export the Cappuccino.
Production of the Cappuccino started in October 1991 at the Kosai Plant. The car had the designation SX306, and the model identification (incorporated in the VIN) EA11R.
The sales launch of the Cappuccino was November 1991 in Japan, with the advertising theme: "fulfilling one's dream of owning a stylish and very affordable 2 seater sportscar".
The first two years (1991-92) saw 15,113 cars produced and 13,318 (or 88% of production) sold in Japan.
In 1991 Suzuki GB opened discussions with Suzuki Motor Corporation about launching the car in the UK and meeting the needs of British National Type Approval (NTA).
It took 18 months of negotiation and technical co-operation between SMC and SGB to get the Suzuki Cappuccino type approved and homologated.
There were 23 adaptations to the Japanese Cappuccino to conform to British NTA, with the work done at the Kosai Plant and at the Suzuki Import Centre.
In October 1992 the Cappuccino had its first public viewing outside Japan, at the British International Motor Show.
At the show, the Cappuccino won two prestigious IBCAM Design awards: "best sportscar under £20,000" and "best car of the show".
In October 1993 the Cappuccino was officially launched in the UK with a price of £11,995.
Due to the car's initial success in Japan, and the tight import quota of Japanese products to the UK, the original allocation of 1,500 cars was cut to 1,182.
Such limited quantities dictated a streamlined colour choice: red and silver in the ratio 80:20. In Japan, the colour choice was wider as was the range of options. The Japanese market was treated to three limited editions of the EA11R, offering variations of colour and trim; the later two had power steering.
Between 1993-95 a total of 1,110 cars were registered in the UK. The balance was sold to other Suzuki distributors across Europe; Germany, France, Holland and Sweden.
In addition to the Japanese Domestic Market (JDM) and the UK models, there was one further official export market for the Cappuccino - namely Hong Kong (Suzuki market code E35).
From 1993 to 1995 we understand that some 55 Cappuccinos were sold in Hong Kong. All were Type 2 EA11Rs. The price in mid 1994 was 168,200 HK$ including first registration tax (about £14,000 at the prevailing exchange rate).
It is uncertain how many E35 Cappucinos were destined for Hong Kong use. Some may have filtered into China and elsewhere in Asia.
It is also understood that some new Cappuccinos were sold in New Zealand. In the absence of the New Zealand market code (E27) in the Suzuki literature, we must assume that these cars were imported JDM models.
The UK model was produced in just Red and Silver and was a special version of the EA11R
The Revised Cappuccino - EA21R
In 1995 tougher emission controls were set by the European Commission, which led to the unsold cars being registered by 30 September 1995; any unregistered after that date would have had to be re-homologated.
Discussions took place between SMC and Suzuki distributors in Europe to assess and "value" the necessary changes for the Cappuccino to meet these new emission levels.
The corporate decision was made not to proceed with a revised European version due to the vast expense involved and lack of economy of scale due to the limited production run.
The European Cappuccino - the product of the SMC/SGB joint venture - was no more ... and yet to become a true "classic" sportscar: limited in numbers, unlimited in appeal.
The later specification (EA21R), introduced in 1995, had new, lighter engine with chain-driven camshafts, slightly increased torque, lighter wheels and an optional 3-speed automatic transmission with power steering. Like the EA11R, the EA21R range included a high specification "BA" variant (in manual transmission form only), which came with an airbag for the driver, ABS on all four wheels, a limited-slip differential and (in some cases) power operated door mirrors.
Interest was still high in certain countries in Europe with personal imports of the EA11R and EA21R Cappuccino taking place in Germany and Holland as well as the UK and Ireland.
Production of the Cappuccino ceased in late 1997 as the Kosai factory was gearing up for another Suzuki vehicle, and sales came to an end in 1998. A total of 28,010 Cappuccino sports cars were produced.
The Japanese domestic market enjoyed a wider choice of colours - these and more
After the Cappuccino?
In September 1997, at the Frankfurt Motor Show, a new concept sportscar was sensationally revealed: the C2.
The C2 was shown again at the 1998 Tokyo Motor Show, this time as a "reference" rather than a "concept" vehicle.
One year later Suzuki unveiled another "reference" sportscar at the 1999 Tokyo Motor Show: the theme was "eye to the future" and one of the three new exciting "reference" cars displayed was the EV Sport roadster.
The EV Sport roadster was also shown at the 2000 NEC British International Motor Show.
At the 2001 Tokyo Motor Show Suzuki displayed the GSX-R/4 - a radical 2 seater "concept" sports rally roadster with a mid-mounted 173bhp 1.3 DOHC Hayabusa motorcycle engine.
A decade after the last Cappuccino was made, none of these prospective Cappo replacements has gone into production.
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