Growing up is, for most of us, inevitable. Toy boxes are donated to charity shops and replaced with an expectation of maturity and responsibility. It’s all pretty depressing, but let’s see how a little silliness can lift you up.
I still remember my favourite toys. In particular, I still remember the ‘reimagined’ Toyota Land Cruiser I built from Lego. It’s safe to say I never really think about the joys of childhood, but after meeting Tatsuya-san and Chiba-san, I think it’s probably about time I did.
As usual, this whole shoot happened by chance…
On a hot summer’s day last year, while driving on my way to another shoot, I noticed something unusually large parked inside Sun Light Garage in Ibaraki Prefecture. It turned out to be a ridiculously tall Land Cruiser, set up like a monster truck from the ’80s. Lucky the traffic was moving slowly that day or I would have driven straight past.
Mori-san, Sun Light Garage’s owner, is a skilled spray gun artist who airbrushes lowrider-style artworks onto bikes and cars. He regularly has cars on exhibit at the Yokohama Hot Rod Custom Show, and Dino has almost certainly snapped some of those in the past.
When I first met him, Mori-san was still putting the finishing touches on the Land Cruiser, but he was more than happy to hand over a business card and have me contact him once it was ready to shoot.
As it turns out, the Land Cruiser is not the only 4×4 to be lifted sky high and have some lowrider airbrushing and hand-painted designs applied to it. The other beast is a Mitsubishi Delica Space Gear, an all-wheel drive turbocharged camping weapon with plenty of space for all your, err… gear. Together they form Wadachi Racing.
Seeing a Suzuki Alto Lapin kei car sandwiched between these two monsters might just be the highlight of my year so far. If you can’t find joy here, then you are doing life wrong.
Japan truly is an intriguing society. On the one hand, people are generally super conservative, but on the other hand they seem to be able accept the weird and bizarre without prejudice. Case in point, these cars are 100% road legal, yet people freak out if you talk on the phone on the train. Between the UK and Japan, there are things that are pretty strange for me, which are perfectly normal for a Japanese person.
It’s difficult to compare cultural differences because each country is so different from each other that, from each one’s perspective, anything else is alien and a little strange. Still, seeing two monster trucks cruising down the street in any country is probably going to come as a bit of a shock. That’s something a westerner like me and a Japanese local can agree on.
Tatsuya-san has been the owner of his 70 Series Land Cruiser for the past 12 years. Inspired by American monster trucks, pickup trucks and general US southern state automotive culture from the ’80s and ’90s, he decided to build something equally ridiculous and obnoxious.
Personally, I love it. Ever since Michael J. Fox opened the garage door to his black 1985 Toyota SR5 4×4 Pickup in Back to the Future, I’ve had a thing for big trucks. Call it automotive imprinting, like a baby bird seeing its mother for the first time.
The jet-black paint job, along with various slogans like ‘Kick Ass Guy’ and ‘King of Hicktown’, along with the purple smoke flames and skulls have been beautifully executed at Sun Light Garage by Mori-san himself.
Tatsuya-san doesn’t know exactly how high the truck sits now, but I would hazard a guess and say from the ground to the body work is over a metre. Parked outside a Family Mart, the staff came out to see what all the commotion was about. Behind the masks, I could see the joy these silly machines brought them.
For starters, Tatsuya-san is running 42-inch Super Swamper tyres on tiny 15×12-inch Centerline wheels. That will already give a standard Landy a decent lift.
Needless to say, Tatsuya-san gets his daily exercise just getting in and out of his ‘Jet Black Chariot’. But in reality, he really only needs to limber up every once in a while because, for obvious reasons, this isn’t his daily driver.
We normally don’t get the chance to see the suspension components used in cars featured on Speedhunters, but this Land Cruiser is another story. The enormously-long-travel suspension and lift kit components are all custom and came from 4×4 Presents in Sendai City, Miyagi Prefecture.
I feel like this is one case where size does matter, so here are some numbers and facts: Body blocks give 4-inch of lift, leaf springs are reverse processed and include new housing knuckles that add an extra 8-inch of lift. To steer those enormous tyres requires a custom-reinforced steering rod, while the front differential housing has been modified to suit the dramatic angle of the prop shaft. The front and rear double shock absorbers have custom mounts, and there are front and back kicker shocks and traction rods, which – as far as I know – are all specialised climbing-over-big-stuff components.
If you translate the word wadachi into English, it kind of means ‘uneven road or wheel rut’. I’m pretty sure then that all those parts are completely unnecessary, which makes this whole thing all the more entertaining.
‘Pop the hood then, let’s see the engine.’ Never in all my time has this statement caused such a roar of laughter from a bunch of grown men. I could feel my cholesterol levels drop and wrinkles withdrawing from my face as I wiped the tears of laughter from my eyes.
OK, so you’ve probably guessed by now, there’s not much real off-road, four-wheel driving happening with Tatsuya-san’s creation. This is purely about having a bit of fun. It’s about enjoying life and not taking things too seriously. When I asked if the trucks do go off-roading, I was told that the guys mostly just take them camping, for BBQs by the river, and on the occasional dirt track circuit.
Chiba-san, the owner of the Delica, is especially partial to a bit of camping. I would’ve loved to have done some more lifestyle photography of him chilling at the beach with a banana smoothie and a freshly grilled hamburger in his hands.
‘Bayside Outlaw’ is such a perfect name for Chiba-san’s outrageous monster truck.
Just like the Jet Black Chariot, all the paint and airbrushing work was done by Mori-san at Sun Light Garage. And, all the suspension parts are from 4×4 Presents.
The Delica Super Gear, as if needs any more help to look absurd, wobbles around on the road like a bobble head at the helm of a ship lost at sea. It’s so wonderfully cartoonish that I could barely keep my camera straight from all the giggles.
Again, there are little slogans all over the car, like a rolling guide on how to be silly. Being a bit silly puts us in touch with our inner child, and that little person has no worries, has no problem making new friends, isn’t afraid to dream, and doesn’t give a toss about what others think.
To achieve around 13-inches of lift, the Delica has its chassis raised up off the subframes, keeping suspension geometry in check. With the entire driveline exposed, I noticed that the Space Gear’s AWD system is the same style used in the Lancer Evolution and Skyline GT-R.
Chiba-san is running 15×12-inch Weld wheels wrapped in 35-inch Super Swamper tyres. There’s a custom side-exit muffler from Radical Racing, and all the suspension components are painted in the same white pearl as the Delica’s exterior.
Under the hood – which is accessible without the need to stand on a guard rail – you’ll find the stock 2.8L turbo diesel engine, which, with an aftermarket cone filter attached, snorts down the road like a deranged bull who’s had a few two many tequilas.
I’ll be honest, I wanted to see both these creations climb over some kei cars. Who wouldn’t?
I’ll forever be thankful of that fateful traffic jam for stopping me in front of Sun Light Garage. Spending the afternoon with Tatsuya-san and Chiba-san really put a smile on my face. But the more I thought about them, the more I realised what their message is. Life is too short to sweat the small stuff. So build a monster truck, joke around with your mates and don’t ever get old.