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Found in Translation: How Japan Keeps the Spirit of Vanning Alive

Vanning. Murals. Wide wheels. Plush interiors. It was the thing to do during the 1970s, and even today a small but passionate subculture keeps the custom van lifestyle alive in the U.S.

Mooneyes Van Blue Ram

It’s not just on American shores that you’ll find the spirit of vanning alive and well. These days it's worldwide.

Mooneyes Van Chevy Front

Vanning Doing Well at Mooneyes

In fact, during our recent visit to the Mooneyes Street Car Nationals in Tokyo, we found that our friends in Japan are very much doing vanning right.

Mooneyes Van Expanding Top

Whether its boxy Toyota Hiaces or sleek and slammed Honda Odysseys, Japan’s love of custom vans is quite well known, and along with their own homegrown styles, Japanese enthusiasts have also nailed the classic American style.

Mooneyes Van Yellow

At the Street Car Nationals we were blown away by Japan’s take on the classic American custom van style, not just on the imported Chevys, Fords and Dodges, but on their own domestic models as well.

Deez Crew

Let’s begin with some old school American machinery, done just as good as any custom vans in the states. Yokohama is home to a shop called Deez Crew that specializes in vintage American vans, and they brought a deep selection of machines to the Street Car Nationals this year.

Mooneyes Van Dodge Front

Whether its Bowtie, Blue Oval or Mother Mopar, Deez Crew does 'em right. Not only are their vans in immaculate condition, they've also nailed the '70s custom aesthetic with a major attention to detail.

Mooneyes Van White

From side pipes and body graphics to the correct rakes stance and period correct wheel and tire setups, the Deez Crew vans are as authentic (and downright cool) as you'll find anywhere on earth.

Mooneyes Van Deez Crew

Van Hauler Street Van

One of our favorites from the group was this 1977 Dodge Street Van, which is a pretty cool machine in stock form, but has been taken to another level here with trick body mods, custom paint and a whole lot of '70s attitude.

Mooneyes Van Hauler

It's not just the outside that's been given the full '70s party machine treatment, but the interior as well. Both up front...

Mooneyes Van Hauler Interior Front

...and out back. As soon as you see it you just want to hop in and chill out for a while.

Mooneyes Van Hauler Interior Rear

Orange Bird Econoline

Another one our favorites at the show was this Ford Econoline/E-Series known as "Orange Bird," which shows that you can take a later model van and inject it with plenty of vintage fun.

Mooneyes Van Yellow Econoline

As you can see, a ton of work has been done to get the throwback look. Not only did we love the radical '70s graphics and custom porthole style windows, we also like the liberal use of chrome.

Mooneyes Van Orange Bird

JDM Made American

Along with the authentic American custom vans, one of the best things about the Street Car Nationals is seeing all of the Japanese vans done with a vintage American twist.

Mooneyes Van Funny Lavender

Here, for example, we have a Toyota Hiace with a front end conversion and two-tone paint job reminiscent of a Dodge A100.

Mooneyes Van Toyota Hiace

If space is is an issue, you can also take a pint-sized kei van and give it an old-school American transformation like this scaled down Chevy from Dream Factory Blow.

Mooneyes Van Dream Factory Blow

'50s Odyssey

Then there's this, a custom van that's almost completely unidentifiable from its front profile. Any guesses?

Mooneyes Van Odyssey Front

It's a first generation Honda Odyssey minivan, but one that's been drastically altered and turned into a 1950s-style lead sled cruiser.

Mooneyes Van Odyssey Side

Naturally, the rear with its bulging tail lamps and smoothed over surfaces is just as crazy as the front.

Mooneyes Van Odyssey Rear

The interior has also been heavily redone with a strong '50s vibe. It's definitely an interesting concept, and the creativity here is off the charts.

Mooneyes Van Odyssey Interior

Whether American or Japanese, old or new, wild or mild, the level of the custom vans at the 2018 Mooneyes Street Car Nationals was at another level.

Mooneyes Van Orange

Inspired by America, perfected in Japan and cool by any standard. Stay tuned for more JDM van action in the coming weeks when we take a visit to the Tokyo shop that's ground zero for the now world famous Dajiban movement. 

Want to see everything else at the Mooneyes Streetcar Nationals? We have coverage of the whole event!

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