Keep on Truckin'
Wednesday, 23 March 2011 00:00
It has been over 20 years since the last MightyBoy rolled off Suzuki's production line, and the world has ever since been deprived of a unique sub-compact ute. One Japanese tuning house is aiming to change that.
In the early 2000's, Suzuki Japan released the Alto Lapin, another model in their commuter line up to slot in beside the WagonR, Kei and Alto. Similar in styling to the larger Nissan Cube, the Lapin derived its name from the French word for 'rabbit', and featured a badge to reflect this, along with chic retro styling. The Lapin proved to be very successful, and several years later Suzuki would arrive at Tokyo Auto Salon with a number of concept vehicles using the Lapin as a base. Included amongst these were two vehicles that took influence from Californian beach/surf culture of the 1950's - one was a quirky 'woody' version of the Lapin, and the other was a bright red utility version - the Lapin Concept Pickup.
Sadly neither of the concept vehicles made it into production, which is a shame really.
The good news is that because the Japanese car modifying scene is full of industrious and creative type people, one particular Japanese tuning house was so inspired by the style that they chose to take on the challenge of converting regular Lapins into something resembling Suzuki's concept. The result is a mind-blowingly accurate version of a Chevrolet C10 pickup - at about 1:4 scale!
The tuning house in question is, in keeping with the Japanese automotive tradition of silly names, known as 'Dream Factory Blow'. They have two 'styles' of conversion kit available - one replicates a 1970 model Chevrolet C10 pickup, and the other is the later 1974 model. Both are equally authentic, and oozing with retro coolness. The model featured in this article is the 1974 kit, known as 'High Rider pickup 660'. Interestingly its creator has cited the lack of a 'cool' ute such as the MightyBoy as one of the reasons for the development of the pickup.
So, what exactly is involved in the conversion?
Blow start with a basic Lapin and strip it of all exterior panels except the front doors. After that they get busy with the gas axe and carve off the entire rear of the body, leaving enough structural rigidity to attach the pickup tray, which is replete with storage compartments and a custom tailgate. The rear of the exposed cabin is closed in with a fill sheet comprising a rear window and sealed up watertight. With the tough part out of the way they move to the front of the vehicle and bolt up the fibreglass nose panel, before jazzing up the interior. Finally they give the whole thing a loving coat of 60's inspired paint and send it out the door.
This description probably makes the entire conversion seem slightly trivial, however it is essentially remanufacturing the body of the donor vehicle. The fact that they've been able to turn the task into something resembling a production line is remarkable.
What does it cost?
As you would expect with such a comprehensive body conversion, it ain't cheap! For the conversion featured in this article you wouldn't get much change out of $23,000AUD - and that doesn't include the vehicle cost! You can drop a few options to bring the price down, but even the basic conversion clocks in at around $18k Australian. Big biscuits in anyone's language, but can you put a price on this level of style? I don't think so.
In addition to the High Rider 660 Pickup, Dream Factory Blow also make a wide range of modification kits for the Lapin, Every (Carry) van and other makes of vehicle. Here are a few examples:
If you're interested in learning more, check out the Dream Factory Blow website: (I hope you can read Japanese!)