One of the great things about the New Year Meeting is that in addition to all the brilliant classics and street machines, commercial vehicles are welcomed as well. There aren’t many places on the planet where you’ll see such a gathering of classic Japanese work trucks, vans and wagons.
One of the most stunning turn of events was that there was more than one Kenmeri Skyline wagon, a car with possibly the widest C-pillar ever made.
Remember the old Nissan commercial tagline “Dogs love trucks!”? Nissan workhorses were strongly represented, especially in the form of Sanitora lowered tastefully on mint SSRs and Longchamps XR-4s.
Whether small like a Datsun 620 or large like a Nissan Cabstar, many sported a heavy dose of patina. The Cabstar even carried a Showa Era kerosene stove, for all you Japanese nostalgic oven enthusiasts.
One particularly eye-catching Sanitora sported classic Mobil logos on its well-worn tailgate. Whether original or not, old shop truck logos just look cool.
Speaking of vintage shop vehicles, a very sharp 1972 Hakosuka Skyline wagon was decked out in the old Nissan service tricolor.
One of my favorites was a B110 Sunny wagon in mid-restomodification with a gleaming A12 engine on display. Maybe we will see it next year in completed form.
No collection of classic Japanese commercial vehicles would be complete without a 3-wheeler. A 1968 Mazda T1500 satisfied that requirement, and even carried an very old Kubota Ironworks generator in its bed.
The Mazda T-Series is gigantic, so on the other end of the spectrum were a pair of Toyota Publicas, one 700cc pickup and one 800cc wagon. Given their engine sizes, though, these minuscule machines were still too big to qualify as kei cars.
We’re going to include kei cars in this installment even though not all of them were commercial vehicles, simply because of their eminent practicality and special designation in the eyes of the Japanese government. Some, like the Mazda Carol, could also be quite beautiful.
Others, like the Daihatsu Fellow Max, were miracles of space utilization, packaged so well that you could fit a full-size (and by full-size we mean 10 inches) spare in the engine bay.
If you were to define the prototypical kei commercial vehicle, however, it would be the rear-engined Subaru Sambar. Modern versions can still be found zipping all over Japan.
The same basic layout but packaged in a hatchback was the Subaru R-2. This particular one experienced mechanical troubles and had to be pushed to a waiting flatbed.
One of the sportiest kei cars was the Mitsubishi Minica GSS, which sported four headlights, twin carbs, and sport mirrors — all high-end features for cars of its class!
The Honda LN360 was the commercial van version of the famed N360. It had a slightly longer roof for a bit more cargo volume, something this particular owner was utilizing to its full potential.
Often, kei vans developed for the commercial market were fitted with deluxe amenities to form passenger versions like the Honda Acty Street. Since kei cars don’t require the owner to have a registered parking space, something like this is perfect for living out of when the rent gets too damn high.
The Honda Today started out as a commercial delivery vehicle, but its sharp handling and peppy nature eventually yielded a passenger car version as well. This one was outfitted with rare accessories like an optional transparent roof spoiler.
Possibly my favorite Honda of the day, however, was this Honda Life Pickup and matching tow rig, complete with shaggy companion! Dogs really do love trucks. The attention to detail was fantastic with AC Courrèges wheels and “Tomato” tires.
There was a time when nearly every car had a stripped down commercial van version. The B11 Sentra-based Nissan AD Van was once a common sight on Japanese streets but are fairly rare thanks to the increased rates attrition from work vehicles. The KE10 Corolla Van, nearly half a century old now, is basically a unicorn.
We end this segment with the rarest of all, a 1954 Datsun DB6 Van. We’d wager even the most die-hard Datsun enthusiasts have never seen one of these in person. Powered by a 25-horsepower 860cc four-cylinder engine, it’s a very early ancestor to the Datsun 110 and 210, which are themselves the ancestors of the Datsun 510. If the 510 is a human, the DB6 is a like a chimpanzee. We don’t know how rare they are, but last time we checked Nissan didn’t have one in the Zama DNA Garage. This could very well be the only one left in the world.
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 – Swap Meet, Part 02 – Club Scene, Part 03 — Isuzu and Hino, Part 04 — Aichi Steel, and Part 05 — Nissan & Mitsubishi. Also, check out coverage from the 2016, 2015, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010 and 2009 New Year Meetings.