Coast to Coast in Five Days (in a Suzuki Cappuccino): Part 1
Cappuccino Peek
Along with the Cappuccino, Honda created the mid-engine, naturally aspirated Beat, and Mazda created the AZ-1, also mid-engined, but using the same turbocharged F6A engine Suzuki used in the Cappuccino. All three have cult followings. We went with the Cappuccino because we preferred its looks and performance over the Beat (which we also test drove), and because it was much cheaper than an AZ-1. It is also slightly more practical than the Mazda or Honda, though practical with these cars is very much a relative term. And on top of that, the Cappuccino has the best roof in the automotive world. The roof panel comes off in three sections giving you the choice of a T-Top or Targa configuration. Or you can also lower the rear window and roll hoop and have a full convertible.

After a multi-week discussion through phone and emails, we struck a deal on the Champagne and black Covefe and we waited for Toprank to ship the car to us.  We expected it would take around 3 weeks (part of the deal was to replace the alternator, which was dead, and the timing belt, which was of unknown age): we were preparing for the Gambler 500 and the Indy 500 anyway, so we weren’t in a rush.  So we waited a few weeks. We waited a few more weeks.  After a month we had no car. A few missed calls went back and forth, and then finally Toprank explained why the car still hadn’t left Long Beach:  It’s too skinny.  It turns out that the Cappuccino’s track width is so narrow, and the wheel offset so far inboard, that the tires don’t really fit onto the ramps of most American trailers or transports.  Standard trailers have ramps that are 42″ apart, and the Cappuccino’s track width is 47″.  Unfortunately, the tires are only 6.5″ wide and with the +45mm wheel offset, you only end up with around 1.5″ of tire actually contacting the trailer ramp, nowhere near enough to safely haul the car 2,300 miles.  That meant we either had to pay for an enclosed trailer (which was going to cost upwards of two grand!), or we had to fly out to LA, pick the car up, and drive it home ourselves.

I'm On a Plane
Judging by the title of this story, it should be pretty obvious which option we chose.

The stars aligned for us: we had a work trip to Detroit right before a week-long factory shutdown.  This meant we had an entire week to get our car home AND we could fly out of Detroit for cheaper airfare!  So that’s what we did! Oh wait, there’s another wrinkle to this story: see my mother’s birthday was the same week and on pain of death, I needed to be home to spend it with her.  Which meant we would drive the Cappuccino from California to Kentucky, then immediately drive to Delaware the very next day.

Roadtrip From Hell
This was our planned route. We would start in the LA/Long Beach area of California, then head East through Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky, West Virginia, Maryland, and finally Delaware. 3000 miles from coast to coast. Not only was this the most direct way of getting home, but it allowed us to tour Route 66. I can’t think of a better way of introducing a tiny Japanese sports car to America on Independence Day weekend than by taking it on our most iconic road.

On paper this sounds pretty straightforward, right?  Driving a car 3000 miles should be no problem. Well, first off, this particular Cappuccino hasn’t been road legal since 2013 (a fact we found in the importation documents).  It had also been sitting on Toprank’s lot for over a year, hardly moving as it waited for a buyer to come along. Then there are the problems of driving a Kei car in the US: I’ve driven a right-hand drive car a few times, but never more than a few miles at a time.  Plus, this thing is TINY and we have to weave in and out of big rigs, Explorers, and bro trucks for five days? Plus there’s no cruise control, no air conditioning, super hard Japanese coilovers, and a thin racing bucket for a seat, making for a cramped, uncomfortable drive.  The lack of A/C is actually a big deal since we’re driving through the desert in the summer. Yes, we’re driving a convertible, but my pasty nerd ass and California sun do not mix. Even with lots of sunscreen and water, our roof-down excursions were going to have to be minimal (also remembering that with the roof stored, the trunk is completely full).  And to make it that much harder, I did this trip 100% on my own. No camera crew. No co-pilot. Just one nerd and his weird little car.

TopRank Garage
Once we landed in LA, our first stop was of course to Toprank to pick up the car. Owner Sean Morris was kind enough to show us around and talk us through some of the awesome cars they have for sale. Toprank is one of the few importers who actually lays eyes on the cars they buy before they ever lay down a single yen. They also do all of the paperwork for you, ensuring your US registration is as painless as possible. They can prep a car to be CARB legal if needed and will help you with your individual state’s requirements.

4 comments

  1. Looks like a fun trip. I did a similar run from Denver to northern DE in my ’92 Cappuccino last year. A/C compressor may have been an overtemp safety; mine worked great up until rush hour traffic in St. Louis and an ambient temp of 105*+. We lost it for maybe 2 hours, but worked great the rest of the evening and the next day once temps got back down into the 80s-90s. Hopefully yours is a similar non-issue. Safe travels!

    If you are planning to replace the OEM wheels please let me know, I have been looking for a set.

    1. If you’re ever down in Kentucky, let me know! Always nice to meet another Capp owner. I was unaware of the overtemp function, but the A/C does have problems. I’ve tried it a few times and it isn’t blowing any cold air period. It is an old system, so I suspect all the freon has leaked out somewhere.

      As for the wheels, replacing the wheels and tires with something a bit wider is in my early plans. I want to install some performance tires and the OEM wheels are too skinny. The tires on it now are practically brand new so they’d be perfect for someone looking for an OE swap. I’ll get in touch with you about setting up a wheel trade or sale.

  2. Glad to see a cappuccino can make a trip back to KY! I just bought one in japan and I’m currently waiting for it to be shipped out to me. mine is coming to newport news virginia and I plan on driving it home from the port to ashland ky. I plan on autocrossing it at least once in lexington this year, maybe I will see you there!

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