One of our favorite coachbuilders finally has a product worth celebrating

Japanese coach builder Mitsuoka has launched a new project build called the Rock Star. The Corvette Stingray-bodied Rock Star is a Mazda MX-5 underneath a classic Americanized body. The nod towards one of the most iconic pieces of American car history is a fresh approach from a coach-building company best known for building what is arguably the world’s ugliest sports car. Compared to the positively ghastly Orochi sports car, the Rock Star is, well, a rock star that should have no problem establishing fans and groupies alike.

Exterior

2018 Mitsuoka Rockstar
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The Mazda MX-5 sits at the heart of the Mitsuoka Rock Star. You probably won’t notice it until you get to the interior, but the body is completely different. The doors and the windshield are from the MX-5, but other than that, you’re looking at a Chevrolet Corvette C2, or at least Mitsuoka’s interpretation of the Corvette C2. The panels are not exact replicas of the iconic Stingray, but they are enduringly correct.

That’s a by-product of Mitsuoka creating miniaturized versions of the ‘Vette’s overall design, right down to the chrome-happy front and rear ends, as well as the stylistically accurate hood, the bold front wings, and the sleek styling throughout the body.

The small round headlights are the only things that look out-of-place in the car. It’s a small detail, but the Rock Star would’ve been better off with sharper-looking lights. Even better, it could’ve adopted the automated headlights of the Corvette C2. That would’ve given this creation a different level of authenticity. It’s still not the Corvette C2, but it’d be pretty darn close to one.

The Rock Star is offered with a number of color choices, of which there are six options to choose from, including Los Angeles Blue, Chicago Red, New York Black, Cisco Orange, Washington White, and Arizona Yellow.

On the options front, the Japanese coachbuilder has notable options on the menu. You can get a colored soft-top and a choice between a Classic White or colored A-pillar and door mirror covers.

Interior

2016 Mazda MX-5 High Resolution Interior
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Maybe it’s a good thing that Mitsuoka didn’t scratch the itch of recreating the interior of the Corvette C2 on the Rock Star. It’d probably be a good idea from the standpoint of consistency, but it would come at the cost of getting rid of the MX-5’s modern tech features. In fact, that’s probably what Mitsuoka was thinking when it started this project.

The cabin retains the MX-5’s look, styling, and layout. It also has all the modern tech bits you’d expect to see from the Japanese roadster.

About the only change Mitsuoka made was to replace the Mazda logo with its own badge.

The coachbuilder also has a few options in this department, including an interior leather set made up of a leather-wrapped steering wheel and instrument panel. Leather trim on the door and shift boots are also included. Leather seats can also be added in place of the standard seats. These seats come with colored trim that includes colors like Sky Blue, Dark Red, Black, Orange, Off White, and Neon Yellow.

Granted, a lot of you probably wish that Mitsuoka went all the way here with the Corvette C2 influence. I’m not necessarily opposed to the garish leather, burnished chrome, and the classic Bakelite steering wheel. Those details would’ve looked cool on the Rock Star, though not necessarily consistent with the other interior details of the car. The good news is that if you are looking for a more Corvette-inspired cabin, there are plenty of ways to scratch that itch, none more obvious than the aftermarket world.

Drivetrain

2018 Mitsuoka Rockstar
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Sitting at the heart of this mini Corvette C2-looking roadster is Mazda’s 1.5-liter Skyactiv-G engine that produces 130 horsepower and 110 pound-feet of torque. The power numbers don’t necessarily reflect that of the Chevy Corvette Stingray, but you’re not exactly setting any top speed records with this engine anyway.

Mistake doesn’t say if the body panels contribute in any way in slowing down the Rock Star, but considering that the MX-5 is capable of sprinting from 0 to 60 mph in 8.3 seconds, it’s hard to imagine the Rock Star posting a slower number than that.

Either way, the Rock Star is particularly nippy, which, in some ways, is all you can ask for a car with the kind of power and performance capabilities that the MX-5 has.

A six-speed manual transmission comes standard on the S and S Special Package trims of the Rock Star. That’s my preferred gearbox for a car that looks like the Corvette C2. Anything that isn’t manual isn’t for me. If you don’t share in that sentiment, you can opt for the range-topping version — yes, the Rock Star is offered in three trims — that’s equipped with a six-speed automatic transmission. That might be easier to drive, but where’s the fun in that?

Pricing

The entry-level Mitsuoka Rock Star starts at 4,688,220 yen. That converts to around $41,830 based on current exchange rates. The mid-trim S Special Package starts at 4,983,800 yen or just a shade under $44,500. Opt for the top-of-the-line S Special Package with the six-speed automatic transmission, and you’re looking at a bill that starts at 5,183,600 yen, or a little over $46,200.

The prices are pretty steep, if you think about it. With the amount Mitsuoka’s asking for the base Rock Star S, you’ll only need a little bit more than $10,000 to buy a base 2018 Chevrolet Corvette C7.

Final Thoughts

2018 Mitsuoka Rockstar
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I love this car. It’s technically a build off of a car that I consider one of my favorites — Mazda MX-5 — but it’s a build that doesn’t taint the spirit of the MX-5; it just gives it a new identity in the form of one of the most iconic American cars in history. Sure, I have my quibbles here and there, but the Mitsuoka Rock Star is the antithesis of the God-awful Orichi sports car that has become lampooned as the most hideous-looking car in the history of this business. The Rock Star isn’t pretentious in the way other coach-built cars are.

The kit is well-designed to the point that it looks like a faithful nod to the OG Corvette.

We’ve come to learn not to expect a lot from Mitsuoka, in large part because the Japanese coachbuilder has fed into that status with a lot of zany creations in the past. But not this time. The Rock Star is a creation worthy of its billing, even if it’s priced a little too steep for us.

  • Leave it
    • A little on the expensive side
    • Niche car for a niche clientele
    • Others might frown on the Corvette C2 inspiration

Further reading

2016 Mazda MX-5 High Resolution Exterior
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Read our full review on the 2016 Mazda MX-5.

1963 - 1968 Chevrolet Corvette C2 High Resolution Exterior
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Read our full review on the 1963-1968 Chevrolet Corvette.

2014 Mitsuoka Orochi Final Edition High Resolution Exterior
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Read our full review on the 2014 Mitsuoka Orochi Final Edition.

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