The New Year Meeting has plenty of cars and wares, but one needs to get them to the show in style. We’ve covered the classics, now let’s look at some of the commercial vehicles — utes, vans and trucks — that are part of the NYM scenery.
We’ve seen many fine Hakosuka Skylines from the crew at Victory 50 over the years, but we had never seen what they use to haul them around. Turns out, it’s a Mitsubishi Canter flatbed with a dekotora vibe. The sealed beam headlights are definitely unique, but the whole package, especially when it’s carrying the Hako, is so Japanese that you have no choice but to love it.
This hauler wasn’t quite as stylish, but the Longchamp-clad Nissan Laurel made up for it in spades.
The Sunny Truck is an always popular platform for a working man’s shakotan sled. With just a slight drop on Hayashi Streets, a workhorse is transformed into a tidy custom cruiser.
A more modified version, this 1973 model probably started out in the traditional commercial truck white, but the owner has painted it a sinister dark metallic gray. A Sunny sedan grille with blacked out SSR MkI wheels complete the look.
Back in the Showa Era one of the most ubiquitous commercial vehicles was the Subaru Sambar. The 360cc, rear-engined kei van was as popular as the Subaru 360 passenger car that helped mobilize Japan in the post-war era. This one, finished in a beautiful khaki tan, seems to sport rebarreled 10-inch wheels that are a bit wider than stock, filling out the wheel wells for a meaner stance.
The way to bring the Sambar home was with an Isuzu Elf crane truck. The question is, was the Sambar hoisted into the bed?
One of the Autolook 360 open-wheeled racers we saw in Part 03 was carefully rolled onto the bed of another Isuzu Elf. Extension ramps were used so the low nose could clear. This is the standard way to bring your race car home.
An alternative way would be that of the owner of this Suzuki 360cc-based racer, who towed his car home — on a trailer barely longer than the car’s wheelbase and barely wider than the car’s track. Of course, since it is a Suzuki-based racer, the tow vehicle is a Suzuki Every kei van.
A rare 1979 Nissan Civilian minibus was also at the show. Smaller than the usual city buses, they were built to navigate the local regions of Japanese cities and their narrow streets. They got by without much power. This model had only a 2.0-liter OHV inline four engine.
Packed full of boxes from the swap meet was a remarkably well-kept 1985 Honda Street. A civilian version of the Honda Acty commercial van, this one had a number of charming options, including the factory gradient stripe decal and the oh-so-80s geometric-pattern wheel.
Someone managed to revive a Datsun 220 truck with the old 1.0-liter engine. The dents and patina indicate it has clearly been used as intended for a good portion of its life. Amazingly, it has a single-digit number plate to indicate continuous registration in Yamanashi Prefecture since new.
A pair of rival pickups — a Datsun 620 and a Toyota N20 HiLux — both served as motorcycle carriers, and both exhibited a considerable amounts of patina.
We were partial to the 620 for it’s load of two Honda Super Cubs, which seem to be mid-70s examples judging by the round signal lights.
Finally, one of the biggest hits of the show was a Mitsubishi Fuso F-Series dekotora. This was no ordinary dekotora, though. It was a replica of the First Star, the truck that starred in the Torraku Yarou series of films.
The series of 10 movies, made between 1975 and 1979, basically kicked off Japan’s dekotora craze. The First Star went through many iterations in the films, with various murals and colors depending on which sequel it was in (the screenshot above is of the one this particular replica paid tribute to). However, in all iterations the truck was decorated with a large crown above the cab with the kanji for First Star written across it. The various kanji on the cab reads courage, number one, and “No opinion needed,” the last of which was the subtitle to the original movie.
The story of rival truckers evading law enforcement while driving cross-country was probably as influential in Japan as 1977’s Smokey and the Bandit was in the US. Except, whereas the American movie made the Bandit’s Firebird Trans-Am famous while the Snowman’s truck was largely ignored, in Japan it was the truck itself that became an icon.
To be continued…
We’ll have more New Year Meeting coverage coming up. In the meantime, in case you missed it, here’s Part 01 — Sixties Specials, Part 02 — Sixties Sedans, and Part 03 — Seventies and Eighties cars. Also, check out coverage from the 2017 2016, 2015, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010 and 2009 New Year Meetings.