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JDM Mini Trucks

Started by mjeselskis, May 08, 2024, 10:00:42 PM

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Has anybody used one of the Japanese mini trucks in place of a UTV? I've been checking them out and they look pretty interesting. They can't be imported from Japan until they're 25 years old, but a lot of them have pretty low mileage. Some of them are available with differential locks, four wheel drive, and a dump bed all with an enclosed cab with heat and sometimes AC. People put lift kits on them and off-road tires. The price on them is a lot less than what a UTV would cost with similar options. Maine won't let them be registered for the road at this point, but I'm primarily looking for something around the house and in the woods. 
2006 WM LT28  1993 John Deere 5300
Husqvarna 562XP & 365 X-Torq


NZ has imported the Japanese used JDM mini trucks for 20 years or more. So there is a fair bit of experience with them.
The old Toyota RAV4s are a side by side substitute on flat drier farms (bigger off road tires than the mini trucks) A pile of parts in wreckers yards years ago (not sure about now)
The mini trucks are right for some places and people, but they are not for every place.
Impact has a youtube demonstrating the minitrucks.
Suzuki Carry vs Daihatsu Hijet try mini trucks NZ (illustrates the bottoming out at the ramp angles etc)

Other places use the 4x4 Kubota diesel side by sides and many other different vehicles.
Even the old Duzgo vehicles have been resurfaced recently.

One thrifty guy bought an old tracked small Japanese dumper to use around a flat wet farm and it worked well. Lower ground pressure than the farm tractors that could make ruts (there are/ have been several Japanese tracked dumper brands)
The machine needed a fair bit of fixing, the low purchase cost because no one wanted to put the work into fixing it.
Not as good as this one, this one for illustration purposes.


If you want a laugh, check out some Aussie Youtube car guys racing theirs.  ffcheesy

Only issue I can see is support. The spare parts exist, but can you find them locally, or do you need to scour the internet and import them yourself? 
Weekend warrior, Peterson JP test pilot, Dolmar 7900 and Stihl MS310 saws and  the usual collection of power tools :)


Mu boss bought an old Hardy? blue tractor. Needed some work.
He could get parts, but a head gasket cost $20, but shipping was $60.
Then he said the website site was iffy. Some days you could get on and some days you could not.
Model 6020-20hp Manual Thomas bandsaw,TC40A 4wd 40 hp New Holland tractor, 450 Norse Winch, Heatmor 400 OWB,YCC 1978-79

Don P

Drive one before you buy it, I'm not big but it sure made me feel like a big boy folded up on a tricycle inside.


They were in demand 20 years ago,don't see them much around here now. It all depends on parts supply locally. They are small inside.


From what I've read it depends where you'll be using it, whether a mini truck or a UTV would work best. A UTV is built as an off road trail machine, with suspension for trails, ground clearance, and a roll cage if it flips. The mini truck (called "Kei" trucks in Japan) are built to drive city streets. They are not set up to go off road (other than where a small 4wd SUV could go) without being modified.
Also you'd want to test drive one to see if you could get used to it. As said they have a small cab (not designed for the big & tall), and are right hand drive often with a manual transmission (shift with left hand). They do have a bigger bed for hauling firewood than a UTV, and have all the creature comforts (heat, windows, wipers) of a cab, which is a plus.
Under bark there's boards and beams, somewhere in between.
Cuttin' while its green, through a steady sawdust stream.
I'm chasing the sawdust dream.

Proud owner of a Wood-Mizer 2017 LT28G19


My brother used one for a few years, you can license for the road here, a bit harder to get insurance with some companys. 

It is small but the box will hold almost as much as a modern pickup and much better access and could drive around all week for $20. Eventually he had issues with the starter and it was getting rusty so he parked it, I believe the starter was $400 or 500. As mentioned sitting in one before you buy one is a good idea to see if you fit. Once you start getting close to 6' it gets pretty tight between your knees and the dash.


Thanks for the info, I'll watch the YouTube videos. I did sit in all of the brands yesterday to see how it felt. They were all fairly consistent between the Suzuki, Subaru, Honda, and Daihatsu. I'm 6' and it was tight but I don't think it was any worse than the RzR that I have. From what I've read, the Suzukis hold up the best and have most parts available at the local Napa stores. 
My land is all high and dry with good trails so I'm not worried about mud.

I have thought about an old RAV4 or Toyota truck but they are all rusted out and still asking crazy money. The other advantage to the kei trucks are that they will fit in my snowmobile trailer so I could use them for ice fishing when there is no snow or all winter if I put tracks on it.
2006 WM LT28  1993 John Deere 5300
Husqvarna 562XP & 365 X-Torq


The mini trucks have absolutely been my idea, also, instead of a UTV and it's due to the bed size. I happened to look at one just today (Subaru) but it was parked, inaccessible. I am concerned about room inside as I'm 6'2". If I could fit comfortably and if it could haul firewood out of the woods, I'm all over it. Finding a UTV with a large bed is tough, the only one I am aware of now is one made by Intimidator. (And, of course, very expensive!) But I don't like that the bed height is so high. Picking up a huge oak round and lifting it that high is not good. But heck, just about every UTV (side by side) is high now, much higher than my John Deere Gators. Ain't nothin' easy!

My other idea has been a very small 4wd pickup from yesteryear. Back in the 70s and beyond, they made some very small 4wd pickups.


I guess a feller could do a chop job on a Chevy Tracker/ Suzuki Vitara and make it into a cab/truck bed. Get 4 door so you can have a longer box. (I think they are the ones with a Hi/low transfer case)

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