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.
It’s not just on American shores that you’ll find the spirit of vanning alive and well. These days it's worldwide.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
It's not just the outside that's been given the full '70s party machine treatment, but the interior as well. Both up front...
...and out back. As soon as you see it you just want to hop in and chill out for a while.
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.
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.
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.
Here, for example, we have a Toyota Hiace with a front end conversion and two-tone paint job reminiscent of a Dodge A100.
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.
Then there's this, a custom van that's almost completely unidentifiable from its front profile. Any guesses?
It's a first generation Honda Odyssey minivan, but one that's been drastically altered and turned into a 1950s-style lead sled cruiser.
Naturally, the rear with its bulging tail lamps and smoothed over surfaces is just as crazy as the front.
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.
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.
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.