Kei Mini Trucks from Japan

Why a page on Mini Trucks?

We might ask ourselves why our Government has made it so difficult to get theses highly efficient and practical vehicles? do we all need leather seats, plush carpets, and lots of power? These little trucks will fit my needs for about 95 percent of the driving I do. Sure, they don't meet the bumper standards, but we are allowed to ride a moped, Harley, and three wheelers with even less bumper protection, now which is likely more dangerous? Maybe the answer is to allow these 45-50 MPG lightweight vehicles on the road under the same rules as Mopeds? No freeway privileges, etc. I suspect that each political party will blame the other for not having economical vehicles available here? GM currently manufactures a VAN in China that gets a REAL 43 miles per gallon, Suzuki currently markets a CAR in Europe that gets 62 miles per gallon, and I hear it's a blast to drive with good performance. Of course neither of these smart and green ideas are legal here. Go ahead, continue to believe it's big oil keeping these vehicles out. Soon it may be cheaper to pay the tickets for driving an illegal vehicle, than paying for the fuel to operate the legal one:-) It's likely that this class of vehicle would yield a far higher return on investment than any current hybrid over the period of ownership. Do the math, it's all about the price you paid, the miles you drove, the cost per mile, and what you sell it for when you are done with it.   

I think these trucks are mighty impressive on the Farm or off road, if that's what we are limited to, but they do need a little prep for that type of activity. Adding a skid pan under the transfer case, making sure no one has removed the heat shield around the  the CAT, checking cables an other things that could be wire tied up and out of the way or rerouted. Adding heavy duty bumpers, etc.

There is now a Mini Truck Forum, and you can Google same and find it easily. At the time of this writing, there is not a lot of detailed help there, but mention of places to get it. 'Greg', one of the more talented people who frequents there shows a few pictures of his Daihatsu, cutting off the worthless sheet metal in the rear and starting over, His 'C' Channel Bumper and easy to fit trailer lights look real nice on his truck! I will not get creative making a square tube bumper etc, as this 'C' channel Greg used looks perfect me thinks..        


Above: A stock Japanese Mini Truck, (1991 Mitsubishi)  about the same size as a 'side by side' ATV.

These are legally imported for off road use, but when you get to your local DMV office (unless you're lucky) they'll give you the run around about putting an ATV tag on them, and they'll certainly not help you license one, for the moment, it'll be far easier for them to say no to any request you might have.


I love these little trucks, with mods, they make wonderful Farm trucks, and they are very capable off road. What they lack, the average DIYer can add if he has a welder, composite cut off saw, and a few other tools. 

The Suzuki ,Mitsubishis, and the Daihatsu are the more popular because they can be lifted and fitted with larger tires at little expense and it is far easier to accomplish. . I looked at all three of these trucks, and it was very difficult to make up my mind what I'd select for a personal vehicle. I finally picked a 1994 Daihatsu.

1994 Daihatsu Hijet with plastic front removed


Yelp, these vehicles are made light and affordable, and that means no bumpers front or rear, if you are looking to convert one of these to the type of farm rig I want, there's a little work to be done.

One popular thing to do it to fit a 2 inch receiver into the bumper of an off road or Farm Rig, this allows you to plug in (mount) an electric winch, or mount a number of implements like a snow plow or scraper attachment. There are 1000 ways to do this, and some are bound to be better than others.

One of my concerns was all the sheet metal, and locating the best hard points to carry the loads seen at the 2 inch receiver front and back.

One of the stronger areas in the front end is this area between the lower A arms. Here you can see I have welded in a plate dead center, the two holes are threaded, and they will support a transfer bar that will 'transfer' the loading from the front bumper 2 inch receiver to this area. All that sheet metal up front will simply crumple or deform if we try using any of it for bumper support.

Here's the transfer bar, the two holes to the right bolt to the plate between the A arms, the other end has two holes and they mount to the two inch receiver that is welded dead center in the middle of our field engineered Farm and Off Road bumper. All this thin sheet metal up front, and your feet just behind that sheet metal font end.  If you use this vehicle for crawling, you might not care much about front end crushing in a collision. Any kind of metal bumper is going to spread the impact across the sheet metal in the front, and it will likely take a harder hit to 'wad up' the foot well with your feet in it.. Now this transfer bar effectively moves some of the impact from the front end further back into the structure of the vehicle, My decision to use the transfer bar, and tie it to the welded in two inch receiver built into the bumper will likely keep the front sheet metal from deforming so completely in a hard hit, but since it's not crushing, it's not absorbing energy, and this may be a good reason to wear your seat belt in a rig modified for farm or off road use, if you do tangle with something , your body will likely be absorbing even more of  it's share of the energy, there is no crush zone far out ahead of you. The above bar could have been made from a square tube, I decided to design it this way in the hopes it will deform during a hard hit and dissipate some of that energy, a guess on my part, and only crash testing a few would tell how how strong to make this link.


There are two places left and right to place tow ropes or hooks, these are modified to become the outside bumper attachment points. The one above is on the drivers side (RHD).

Here's a picture of the Bumper, it's made of square tube, the center horizontal piece picks up the two outside hard mounts, the center is the two inch receiver tube, and of course it is tied to the load bearing point between the A arms. The upper tube lays just below the head lights, the lower tube attempts to protect some of the softer parts of the front end. More triangulation can be added depending on your requirements, one needs to ask himself, do I need a dozer blade up here, or just a little more protection than the totally worthless stock plastic grill cover provided?

The above bumper was formed by cutting thru the back and side of the square tube with a chop saw and bending it back to create a contour that follows the front of the vehicle. Just use the wire feed to weld up the three sides again when you have it where you want it..



Building the OFF ROAD or FARM rear bumper

for the Daihatsu 110


  What's wrong with this? It's the stock valance, thin sheet metal.. Might as well cut it off right? If we attempted to put our bumper and receiver under this wimpy thing, it would be ankle high, who wants that?

  So get your die grinder out and zip it off..


I took a lot of time thinking about what I wanted to accomplish we can mount the new bumper close in, further back, higher lower, I guess we need to figure out what it is we'll be doing. I thought I'd match the height of the receiver of my 3/4ton Pickup, I want a simple and strong bumper, and I want to use LED lights because of the small alternator and vibration off road.. LEDs won't fail with vibration like light bulbs when your bouncing down a rutted dirt road. 

How will we attach a new bumper, what will the bumper be made out of? I was thinking square tube like the front, but the easy and age old DIYer bumper is a piece of 'C' Channel, and 'Greg' has proven it look great back there!


Frame Rail Extensions for new bumper

 After some thought, I came up with an idea I liked for mounting the bumper, this piece is designed to weld along the outside of the frame rail, left is towards the cab, right most end fits between the 'C' Channel, we need to make two of these.


Here's where the frame side bumper mounts fits, those holes? they allow us to weld the plate to the end of the cross over tube that has been ground flush with the outside of the frame rail.

Here's some detail on the attachment of the bumper mount frame rail side. There's a piece welded in to tie the mount to the frame rail.


New Bumper Mounts

Next parts we make are the mounts that get welded inside the 'C' channel on the bumper

Mounts Added to the 'C' Channel bumper

This picture doesn't show it, but there's lots of care to place the bumper square and centered, I did this with shims between the the sheet metal lip and the top of the bumper and some measuring to center it, and to figure how flush or extended I wanted the bumper. This piece being welded to the bumper fits on the outside of the frame rail extension, and when all is aligned as we like, we drill two mounting holes per side..       

  New bumper Mounts welded in

You'll note the extensions follow the odd angle of the outside of the stock rail, this will work to our advantage. When we place the bumper, we start low and just drag it upwards and then inwards for a near self aligning install, as you are following a taper,  this make it quick and easy to pull the bumper and refit it.

Here you can see the bolts that join the bumper to the bumper mount.

  Construction Hints

 Don't lay out any of the holes in your bumper until you get it mounted and look for clearance problems in the areas you decide to drill a hole in the bumper. My hole was cut using  a 4.5 inch bimetal hole saw bought at the hard ware store. I used my drill press, the slowest RPM, and lots of cutting oil, this requires clamping the work down, and using a level to get the face of your work dead flat. I used a ladder to hold up the far end of the new bumper while cutting the four holes.  A machinist with a good mill can do it lots quicker, or you could use CAD to lay out all your cuts for the laser if you have one close to you.

Not shown yet is the 2 inch Receiver I welded in, I bought a six inch receiver from GI Joes, consider that the open back of the tube is close to the gas tank, will we cap the back end to keep someone from attempting to mount something long that needs to be hammered into the gas tank to fit?? I think so...

George B.