From Nakajima Aiplane Co. To Fuji Heavy Industries
The origins of the Fuji Rabbit date back from before World War II. In 1917, as airplanes were getting their first roles in combat during World War I, Chikuhei Nakajima established the Aircraft Research Laboratory in Japan. In 1931, the Laboratory was renamed "Nakajima Aircraft Co". and expanded from research to production of airplanes. At one point Nakajima Aircraft was Japan's leading manufacturer of airplanes and provided employment to over 250,000 people.
During World War II, Nakajima Aircraft produced a wide range of military aircraft of different types. Bombers, Attack-Bombers, Fighters, Carrier-Fighters, Reconnaissance, Night Fighters, Sea Planes and even Passenger aircraft. The Nakajima aircraft Co. even produced German Fokker aircraft and American Douglas DC2s under license before the war.
With the surrender of Japan in 1945, the peace treaties forbid Japan from producing any kind of armament and Nakajima Aircraft was dissolved and re-baptized as the "Fuji Sangyo Co.". From leftover tooling and parts from the war effort, the Fuji Sangyo concentrated on badly needed civil requirements for cheap transportation and went on to produce a series of motorscooters. The first Fuji Rabbit (model S-1), which was conceived after carefully studying the Powell scooter that the american airborne servicemen were using, was produced in June of 1946. This places the birth of the Fuji Rabbit a full six months before what was to become the worlds most popular scooter, the Vespa. You can recognize the front wheel of the S-1 as being the tail landing gear of an aiplane, a Nakajima bomber. The Fuji Rabbit became an overnight success as soon as it became available to the public.
In 1950, a corporate credit rearrangement law forced Fuji Sangyo to be divided into 12 different companies and in 1953 the still existing Fuji Heavy industries was created through investments from some of these companies which were latter merged with Fuji Heavy Industries. The company recognized today as FHI held an in-house contest in 1954 to create a new corporate emblem. The chosen logo, a stylized version of the Japanese phonetic charater for «FU», the initial syllable of the name Fuji, is still being used today and can be found on Rabbit scooters.
A Fuji Bus. The Fuji Cabin microcar
Fuji Rabbit fire fighting specialty equipment
Fuji Heavy Industries has produced as wide a range of vehicles as it produced rabbit motorscooters. Fuji made buses and microcars, but in the Rabbit scooter range, well over 25 different models were produced.
In America, the first Fuji Rabbit motorscooter was imported in 1957 by Rabbit Motor Sales of San Francisco, California. However, the largest authorized American distributor of Fuji Rabbit scooters was the American Rabbit Corporation of San Diego. On the American market, Fujis can be found from the S-72 onto the ultimate S-601 models. Fuji Rabbit scooters were also imported into Canada through multiple distributors, one of which was Malcolm Bricklin. Bricklin got his start in the scooter business selling Lambrettas for the Innocenti company. Eventually Innocenti went out of business and Mr. Bricklin started distributing the Rabbit motorscooter for Fuji. Just as that business was beginning to boom, Fuji stopped producing the Rabbit. Bricklin even went as far as to travel to Japan to try and convince them to change their minds. Instead they tried to persuade him to sell a new car they were launching. But if you know the Bricklin history, Mr. Bricklin already had a plan about cars and this option didnt fit in with his plans. On March 3rd 1958, FHI revealed to the public a lovely little passenger car, the 360. This was the first of many vehicles badged with the SUBARU name. FHI was moving on to bigger and better things.
The last Fuji scooters, vin # S211-22565 came off the production line on June 29th 1968 marking the end of an era for Japan as the Mitsubish Silver Pigeon also had been discontinued five years earlier. Apparently the factory tooling used to produce Rabbits was purchased by the government and sunk in Tokyo bay to be used as the foundation for the creation of a new island... or so the rumor goes.
|The brand Fuji Rabbit live still today through a division of FHI that produced firefighting equipment. The company called Fuji Robin has recently celebrated its 50th anniversary. One of Fuji Robin's specialty product is a line of Firefighting Water Pumps called... Rabbit (rabitsuto)
But back to scooters, Rabbits live on today through a group of dedicated enthusiasts around the world. Although most remaining Rabbits live in Japan, they can be found in many other countries.
So far, on FujiRabbit.com, we've had Rabbit sightings from Canada (Quebec & Alberta), the United States (Ohio, NewYork, Texas, Virginia, California, Florida), Australia (Adelaide, Queensland), Israel & Japan (Tokyo, Osaka).