These Retro-Style Vans Are Actually Japanese Kei Cars Underneath

These Retro-Style Vans Are Actually Japanese Kei Cars Underneath

04/30/2021

Japan has one of the most interesting car cultures in the entire world—from drifting to Bosozoku, it has all that and then some. And I want to emphasize and then some, because it seems like every time I turn a corner, some crazy new trend is rearing its head.

Most recently, I found out that shops are turning Kei cars into miniature copies of full-size vans and trucks from France, Russia, and the United States. One of those customs shops, “Cal Stage,” is headquartered in Osaka. The self-proclaimed “car specialty store” hand-builds various Kei cars into unique retro conversions that resemble some of the most well-known full-size vehicles of yesteryear to have existed.

The vans above might look like the real deal, but photos can be deceiving. Take a closer look and you’ll start to realize that each one is an at-scale clone of a retro classic built on a more modern Kei car platform.

For example, the shop built a Suzuki Carry DA63T mini truck to look like a Citroen H designed in the 1940s. And if that’s not enough to impress you, how about a Honda Acty which became a homage to the Chevrolet G-Series van from the ’80s? But we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention one most iconic conversion of all: the Volkswagen Type 2, of which Cal Stage has completed dozens both resembling early and late models.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. There are also custom kits to resemble a Chevrolet Bel Air, Dodge B-Series, Ford E-Series, Austin Mini, UAZ, 452, a school bus, and so many more.



The vans also range in utility, built to be anything from a simple people hauler to a camper. And in the event that you want to use your newly-minted classic as a means for attention, Cal Stage will even turn them into a tiny kitchen or layout suitable for setting up a tiny outdoor store.

Cal Stage isn’t the only company to build these types of conversions. Other companies like Blow Co and Modest both produce similar creations in order to keep the romanticized dream of vintage cars alive. But my absolute favorite part of Cal Stage’s entire operations is its documentation of the builds. While not extremely intricate, the shop does take photos of the different phases of production each van undergoes as it is built. You can check out Cal Stage’s gigantic list of more than 300 conversions on its website.

Customers interested in a retro-inspired Kei car simply pick a vehicle out of the shop’s inventory, selects a compatible build kit (which the shop lists on its inventory page), and awaits completion. Those who are too anxious to have a custom vehicle built can purchase a pre-built unit for between $9,800 and $31,000.

Happy shopping (and importing).

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