Daihatsu Wildcat TAFT F20: How I found & restored this unique vehicle

The Wildcat was a victim of not one, but two floods and was untouched for 9 years. Just a piece of scrap metal, nothing more.

Sunu Babu recently shared  this with other enthusiasts.

After working in the IT industry for 11 years, I was waiting for a unique 4-wheeler which I could restore, when I found a Daihatsu Wildcat TAFT F20. The vintage beauty was abandoned in the corner of a workshop at Aluva market. I wanted to wake this sleeping beauty and bring her back to life.

The Wildcat was a victim of not one, but two floods and was untouched for 9 years. It was completely rusted, without a carburetor, distributor, cylinder head, radiator, dashboard, seats and windshield glass - just a piece of scrap metal. It was owned by Jijo Joseph, a vintage car collector based at Aluva and was initially imported from Dubai. It is a very rare and unique vehicle, probably the only one in India.

I started with restoring the 12R engine and hence, dismantled everything. Ordered parts and engine rebuilding kit from Japan and Indonesia and started assembling everything from the scratch. The 1.6-litre petrol engine fired up on the first attempt itself.

The auto body mechanics struggled with the scrap car since they hadn’t had another vehicle like it before to work on. But, I appreciate their patience to build the body and the outcome. I love the design of pick-ups, so made the Wildcat cabin closed making the car a two-seater. When it was ready for painting, the first thing which came to my mind was the yellow-white combination of the Toyota FJ40. The glossy yellow stands out in a crowd with pearl white on the roof and steel rims. Some of the Wildcat’s unique features are:

  • The original indicators and rear lights have been imported from Columbia.
  • The original steel rims of 6J width have been customized to 9J to accommodate wider MT tyres.
  • The dashboard has been built out of teak wood and new meters have been installed.
  • The steering wheel has been pulled out from an old Willys and the steering rod customized for it to fit.
  • There was no wiring kit available for the Wildcat. So, the expert electricians designed the wiring from the scratch.
  • The bedliner has been built out of mahogany wood and steel strips have been installed between each wooden panel.
  • Seats have been custom tailor-made.

It took 2 years to build this beast, but it was worth spending time on. Giving life back to something which was abandoned made me very happy!

Technical specifications of the Daihatsu Wildcat TAFT F20:

  • The term "TAFT" stands for "'Tough and Almighty Four-wheel Touring Vehicle"
  • The 1.6 L (1,587 cc) 12R was produced from 1969 through 1988. It was also built in the Philippines as the 12R-M by Toyota's local affiliate Delta Motors Corporation.

Technical specs of the engine:

  • Four cylinder, 4-stroke, OHV
  • Bore × stroke: 80.5 mm × 78 mm (3.17 in × 3.07 in)
  • Compression ratio: 8.5:1
  • Maximum power: 90 PS (66 kW / 89 BHP) @ 5,400 rpm SAE

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