The Tokyo Auto Salon is traditionally filled with over-the-top booths filled with over-the-top builds. But this year, it was humble Daihatsu that took the cake with a lineup of HiJet kei trucks that dated back to 1960. There were 10 generations on display in all while customized versions of the latest and eleventh gen, which just came out in December 2021, sat at the forefront.
You may have noticed that while the first nine are museum quality stock, the 10th generation example has been modified with a brush bar, safari rack, and light bars. That was a custom job by Japanese comedian Hiromi Kozono, who also happens to be a pretty well-known car enthusiast and amateur racer. The overlanding trend is huge in Japan as it is here, so the HiJet was modified to fit with that theme.
Hiromi and a Daihatsu representative pore over the cars in an official video from Daihatsu. The early ones are the clear winners in charm, with their suicide doors, distinctive headlight treatments, and chunky external hinges. After the generations walkthrough the hosts examine the modified offerings that are ostensibly the stars of Daihatsu’s display, including an Atrai (the passenger version of the HiJet) converted into a micro camper van.
Daihatsu also commissioned manga artist Muneyoshi Tanaka to draw a history of the HiJet. The evocative illustrations cover all eleven generations and depict the cars as they were used in every day life through the decades.
We can’t remember the last time a carmaker brought 60 years’ worth of one model to the Auto Salon. Then again, HiJets don’t really take up as much space as Crowns or Skylines, so there’s that. The HiJet also recently won the Good Design Lifetime Achievement Award, and the display was likely a bit of well-deserved pomp for that accomplishment. Normally, something like that would be better reserved for the Tokyo Motor Show, but since that event was canceled in October, the Auto Salon had to do.