Van Meets Spaceship. Because Japan.
Because Japan

Japan is a country of contrasts. I’m sure you’ve heard about the futuristic bullet trains blasting by ancient temples, kimono-clad ladies buying drinks from state-of-the-art vending machines and all that. It’s really true. How about the food? It’s the same. Get to Tokyo and you’ll find some of the best chefs on the planet and more Michelin stars than any other city in the world. But at the same time, it’s also the place where you’ll find fast food places serving burgers with 10 patties and convenience stores selling soda-flavored potato chips.

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In other words, it’s a place where the traditional and refined meets the crazy and strange. That’s why I love the country. Car culture in Japan is the same – you’ll find meticulously restored classic cars sharing the roads with some of the craziest custom contraptions the world has ever seen. This story very much stems from that latter category.

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On one street corner in the city of Yokohama you’ll find a used car dealer and workshop called Keishin. While it may look your like your typical Japanese car shop from the outside, it’s certainly not the case.

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One of the first things that tells you this isn’t your average shop is a big sign in Japanese that says “Spectators and Photos OK”. What could be so special to warrant this?

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Then you walk inside and see it. A customized van that’s unlike any other on the face of the planet. You’ve no doubt heard about Japan’s crazy custom vans before, but this creation goes far beyond that.

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Meet Naoki Mori, a former professional boxer and someone who has been customizing vehicles ever since he bought a Suzuki Katana motorcycle at the age of 18. Today, in addition to working in logistics and car sales, Mori-san has taken the art of customizing to an entirely new level. And for this da Vinci of the Japanese custom car world, the Batman-themed Toyota Hiace is his Mona Lisa.

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To call the van a labor of love would be a massive understatement. It’s been a project that’s been constantly evolving over the last 15-plus years, and as you can see it’s gone through several different versions – each one more extreme than the previous.

The Bat Cave
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The garage itself has become less of an actual shop and more of resting spot for the insane van. Call it a Bat Cave if you will.

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The upstairs area includes a special room where Mori-san displays all the awards his custom vehicles have earned at events over the years.

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There are also photographs and memorabilia that chronicle the many media appearances of the van. As it turns out, Mori-san is a bit of a celebrity in Japan.

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There’s an autograph from George Tokoro, one of Japan’s best known teleivision personalities and a massive car collector himself. He and Mori have met several times when stories have been run throughout the various stages of the Batman van.

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In addition to its many TV and magazine appearances, the van was also featured in a music video for pop singer Yurika a couple years ago.

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There’s even this awesome plush doll of the van, which could easily be mistaken for a gundam toy of some sort.

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Coming down the stairs back into the garage, you can see just how insane the Hiace is.

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Actually, to even call this thing a Hiace is huge stretch. It’s been a long time since this thing bore any resemblance to the ‘normal’ Toyota Hiace vans that you see all over Japan. Looking at it today you can’t even tell where the original lines of the Toyota begin and end.

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With all of its fiberglass additions the van now measures close to 40-feet in length and tips the scales at somewhere around the 8,000 pound mark. That’s a whole lot of custom right there.

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Because of the immense weight, the van was converted to double rear axle setup a few years ago. Not only does this help handle the mass, it makes for an even more radical look.

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Needless to say, all of the body work on this van was custom made. It’s not like you can open up a catalog or hop on the internet and order up some custom rear fins that make the van stand 13-feet tall.

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The front end is completely one-off and is also motorized to rotate upwards.

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But it’s not all for looks. In fact, that tilt-front end is actually necessary to get the van fully inside the garage, and even then it’s still a very tight fit.

Never give up the custom!
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Elsewhere, the exterior uses a a collection of parts sourced from all sorts of different vehicles. Let’s see how many we can identify.

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The front end comes from a Toyota Vellfire, and the entire thing has been affixed to the Hiace’s normal flat nose.

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The custom fiberglass tail panel features taillights originally made for a Nissan Juke.

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While the center section comes from a Toyota Crown.

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Vin Diesel would be proud that the van also has a few externally-mounted nitrous tanks. They aren’t routed to the engine though. Instead they are used to shoot cool vapor streams from different parts of the van, like the breath of some robotic monster.

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You wouldn’t for a minute expect a van like this to have a stock interior, and in this case the inside might be even more crazier than the outside.

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The cockpit, for example, looks so complicated that it might require a commercial pilot’s license to operate.

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There are switches for everything: the air suspension, the tilting body parts, the lighting and a whole lot more.

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With all of the lights, speakers and everything else, I’m guessing this thing uses more electricity than my house does in the middle of summer.

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But who cares, because it’s like a rolling party in there.

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No, this isn’t a still from 2001: A Space Odyssey – this is the area that Toyota originally intended to haul passengers and cargo. It’s now a row of gigantic speakers, subs and amps going back to a fully functioning Batman pachinko machine. Because why not?

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How money much has Mori-san invested in this project? He doesn’t know the exact figure, but he says it’s at least a couple hundred grand US. All for something that’s so heavy it has trouble maintaining speed and has long lost any possibility of passing Japan’s strict shaken tests. Actually, I’d like to bring this thing to the inspection station just to see the look at the inspector’s face.

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Anyway, this van is completely over the top and completely nonfunctional – and I love it. Mori-san is all about pushing the boundaries of car customization, and I don’t think there’s anyone who can say that he’s failed in his mission. For him, seeing the reaction of everyone from elementary school kids to old folks has been more than worth the financial cost.

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So yes, I love going to a high-end Tokyo sushi restaurant or eating some legit Kobe beef as much as anyone. But I dig the strange-flavored sodas and the goofy snacks just as much. To me, it’s that balance of the conservative and the wild that makes Japan so special.

There you have it, one of the strangest vehicles ever to appear on Speedhunters. Long live crazy Japanese custom style.

Mike Garrett
Instagram: speedhunters_mike
mike@speedhunters.com

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55 comments

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1

"While it may look your like your typical Japanese car shop...", ... wait what?
the car looks well, special, definetely not my style, but someone has to have built something as crazy as this ride.

2

In before people say a heavy, non driveable van shouldn't be on 'Speed Hunters'.
Any idea when the last time he attempted to drive it was? Really curious how much effort it takes to even move it slightly.

4

When i see this... All i can think about is the obsession drawings of a dragon f.king a car! hahaha

5

This is like Pimp my ride with unlimited budget.

Author6

It's a monumental achievement haha.

Author7

I just laughed out loud at that one.

Author8

He used to drive it more often, but it can still move, just not at high speeds and not without removing a bunch of the peices.

9

Speedhunters or is it now culturehunters?

Author10

Where cars (or vans?) and culture mix, that's where you'll find us. :)

11
kphillips9936

I've seen some crazy vans over the net and still pondering(and shocked) at how these are street legal.

12

That is awesome; thanks for the pics and write-up! Speedhunters is the best!!!!!!!

13

Mike Garrett  

So not where speed and culture mix?

14

Mike Garrett  

Shouldn't it be...Where speed and culture mix?

15

sh running out of content..... sure thing buddy

Author16

That's how some prefer it, but many more like to see people doing cool and interesting things with cars even if they aren't built to turn in fast lap times.

17
TatsuoShidayo

Super rice :(

18

Why is this being posted here? The website is speedhunters.

19

someone show this to Xzibit and see what he says

20

Cool van! That thing must be loud.

I am curious though, how do they move this van to and from events?

21

Wow, terrible in the most hilarious way. I've seen this thing a few times now and in all that time never knew the owner meant it to be Batman themed. Nothing about it says Batman to me?! Way to make Batman sad,

22

This might be dumbest article I've seen on this website.  Don't call your website SpeedHunters if you're going to post stuff like this.

23

Think I passed by this shop, is it down the street from IKEA Yokohama?

24

That is overwhelming in the photos, I can't imagine what it is like standing next to it in real life. It is wrong in so many ways, but I can't wipe the smile of my face while looking at.

25

Could collapse some lungs with those subs.

27

Why?

28

Hotcakes "because, why not?"

29
TarmacTerrorist

Mike Garrett  "car culture at large" its certainly large!
the extremities of car culture are needed as by doing what extremes do best IE. breaking boundaries the builder finds new techniques and a better understanding of how far you can push (in this instance) bodywork are learnt, processed and refined. 

If I wanted a garage to fit body work (even if I wouldn't go as extreme as the hi ace) and saw this in the workshop id know that they know how to customise and would be happy to trust my car to them.
great post.

30

My jaw just dropped.
I am never a fan of over-the-top style like this, but credits to Mori-san for doing everything so well! He certainly earned my respect for his dedication.

31

Hotcakes  #BecauseWhyNot

32

Mike Garrett  I just thought about a cross wind hitting those fins. Scary thought!

33

glad you tracked this down Mike! nice one.

Here's a video-
http://youtu.be/6IxGWIG2h4Q

34

I do hope either you or Dino can make it to one of these vanning/dekotora events in the future
http://youtu.be/rpDK6BmktLY

35

Not my thing, but you can't fail to be impressed by the amount of work that must have gone into this.

36
Brentonmartian

Anyone that puts this much time and effort into a build of any type (irrelevant of dollar figures) really captures the whole #JOM thing in my opinion!

37

> actually necessary to get the van fully inside the garage


Suggest it is to drive over inclines, and shop access a mere benefit? Neko.

38
clevernamehere

@Bat fan  Except you know, batman doesn't exist and came from someones imagination. Exactly like this van.

39
Purplehatchback

SH creating further eye-popping, must-read, bugger-me content... Lighten up buddy

40

holy...i think my mind went BSOD when you asked the readers to identify which parts came from where.  this is just mind-blasting (with russel peters accent, LOL).

41

iProGam3r Hotcakes  Man, I wish I had several hundred grand to answer that question.

Author42

Brentonmartian Yeah I agree completely there.

Author43

nugundam93 Yeah, I know there's some other random custom parts I left out as well.

Author44

tbtstt Yep, that's pretty much the lesson here. :)

Author45

azmedaj That would be awesome. Probably gonna need a wider lens though!

Author46

azmedaj Thanks!

Author47

jay8393 Yeah it's not practical, it's totally strange - but you gotta smile when you see it.

Author48

Terencey Thanks!

Author49

TatsuoShidayo No argument with you there. Did you see that NOS setup?!

Author50

meal stub By removing a lot of the parts and driving it there slowly with temporary plates AFAIK.

Author51

surly1911 That's correct!

Author52

James1010 It's completely ridiculous!

53

Far out, I drive various Hiace on a daily basis for my job and I can only imagine trying to do it in one of these things. Would love to drive this thing into our warehouse full of freight and have a bunch of couriers flip out over it, would be amusing.

54
MinionMariuos

when BATMAN turns for rice.

55

So I saw the link a couple of days ago, and skipped over it, just becasue van culture isn't my thing, but I decided to look today, and if this isn't the icon of what is different about Japan to elsewhere in the world... I really don't know what is.

I just saw my first Rallyfighter the other day in person, and my girlfriend was wondering why would someone build something so odd... I explained it came from wanting to do something really fun (dune bugging), but in a vehicle that looks like it should have a missile complement on the spoiler, and Gatling guns on the front quarter panels (but tucked away, James Bond style). #Becauseitsfun!

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