We don't usually supply campers, but as a family working and living in Japan with a passion for the outdoors & a combined desire for relative luxury when on holiday - a couple of years ago we traded our family people carrier for a similar Hiace Cruising Cabin 4-berth mobile home by Toyota Technocraft (TRD). We had never realised how practical & comfortable it really could be until we tried it, but as a result every weekend we have a chance to get away, now we do! Which is about 15 weekends a year and a couple of longer holidays touring (Japan) - in just the first year.
A typical trip can include about 3,500km and 10 days of driving as we were able to stay in some amazingly scenic places, often for free!
Unfortunately our's didn't start off nearly as perfectly preserved as this one but at the time we bought it - it was by far the best we had come across. We've since restored it to even better standards incl. wide arches with deep dish Watanebe zero offset rims & a lightweight Motorcycle rack on the back!), it's too late to change, or we'd have kept this example for ourselves instead of offering it from our stock - without doubt. In fact, we imported it to the UK and used it ourselves this summer, for a 4 day trip to the lake district as a young family of 4. A holiday like this at peak season with hotels, etc. would have cost a lot more - with the camper, every night was free, often with great views too! We've included a couple of pics of our own too!
With a keen interest in these Hiace Cruising Cabin vehicles, we kept an eye on the market for another for over a year - and when this amazing condition example came along, we just knew it had to be bought! So this is a unique opportunity for just ONE like-minded person, as someone who similarly enjoys outdoor sports, hiking, etc.
Naturally, for an example as nice & rare as this, competition was very strong from the Japanese domestic market (Japan is 65% mountains and several islands, so the camping possibilities are endless & these RV vehicles are therefore very sought after), but we notice the price we can offer it at is about half of what a similar condition petrol VW Westfalia sells for, which isn't nearly as well appointed!
As this vehicle was built by Toyota Technocraft (TRD), it's not just another conversion but a purpose made from new camper which was originally specially ordered from a Toyota dealer. As they have to put normal Toyota quality into their more expensive vehicles, design was of course completed by the development company for special vehicles for Toyota. Designed in the 90's, at the peak of the Japanese bubble years, when money was no object it's evident a lot of design elements and selection of the best components available only to global scale manufacturers were incorporated into the design. Things like the storm proof roof mechanism (Very strong - you don't want one of these getting damaged in a storm as it may make the vehicle immobile!), swiveling & reclining rear central bench, special windows that all slide open (On a Hiace Van base - built to carry weight for 100,000's of thousands of miles over bumpy African roads carrying full loads of people!) are all aspects that are usually not featured in conversion kits built by companies with much less in the way of resources than Toyota!
Rather than listing all the features, as we know the vehicle well we hope the reader won't mind reading a sort of guided tour instead:
When the vehicle is to be used for living / camping, the first thing to do after application of the handbrake is to lift the elevating roof and lock it into place. It's assisted, so this can be done by one person. Toyota has included a ladder to get up there.
With the roof raised, there's ample headroom and an insect proof vent is easily opened to allow hot / cooking air to escape.
This vehicle is classified as a legal 8 seater. When converting for living, the middle bench can easily be shifted forward, then swiveled 180 degrees and locked into place. Seats are all also reclinable, for varying backrest positions.
A table stored at the back is then also locked into position. This leaves the kitchen area open for use and if necessary the table can also be used for food preparation too.
The 2 hob gas stove is fed by two small camping gas canisters (We haven't yet used up the ones our camper came with - so it lasts a long time and gas is available from most good camping suppliers / home centres) with an intermediate safety tap and there is a hinged & foldable aluminium flame / splash protector which fits in a compartment of it's own in the forward corner of the kitchen cabinet. Clean water is fed by an electric (adjustable flow & spout) faucet which drains into a separate 20L tank under the sink. The fridge is also on the centalised 12V system and is capable of keeping ice frozen in summer, or keeping beers ice cold. Also there is switchable lighting for every possibility (To save battery power we have converted most of our lighting to LED - very easy & inexpensive to do on one of these).
There is a switch panel with an easily accessible (commonly available - Spade) fuse compartment next to a battery charger switch.
To charge the aux battery the car needs to be connected to mains, or the aux batteries are also always charged whenever the engine is running.
These auxiliary batteries are independent of 2 other engine starter batteries (located under the front passenger bench). Cleverly, this means it's impossible to get stranded from running batteries down whilst using the vehicle as a home & no matter where you are - it's always possible to get Aux power & charging with the engine on idle.
Heating and air-conditioning controls are also controllable from the rear. Even in very hot weather conditions, the rear can be completely cool, or vice versa if using the vehicle for camping in winter.
There is storage under the sink (Up to 4 knives can be stored on the door - the Japanese like knives for preparing food!) and also inside two tailor made bags, which Velcro into position in storage cabinets.
This means it's possible to have bags packed the night before, then just place them in their storage spaces! We usually leave the vehicle on mains electricity when we remember, so the batteries are being charged fully.
There's ample space in the back for carrying other gear too. In our's we carry a perfectly sized clear plastic box that allows the bed to be in full horizontal position, whilst allowing us to carry: A full kitchen & dining set to feed 8 people incl. pan, kettle, etc, a foldable table with a foldable BBQ that has it's own compartment in the middle of the table - for cooking and eating together, 6 folding (nylon) camping chairs in individual bags, supply of charcoal, hanging LED lights for outside and a few pillows in plastic bags. We also have a hammock tent for use by up to two people - which takes up little space & is very comfortable. There's even space for a few umbrellas and small bags.
With the seat back reclined we can carry enough luggage to live comfortably for a week with 4 people. Usually we use the front seats for storing bags and other things, but then we aren't known for travelling light...!
In our case, we'll probably fit a luggage rack to the roof above the driving cabin, possibly with additional driving lights on a separate switch, useful when scouting out a place to camp in the wilderness at night...
A luggage rack would allow more luggage to be carried when necessary (We've also managed to fit a proper roof rack to the top of our's over the cab only - for when we need to carry equipment in boxes).
After cleaning up a meal, the table top can be stored away in it's compartment in the back and the bed made downstairs - easily within about 3 minutes. With the bed in use (We have a TV & DVD player via a small inverter mounted in/on the storage cabinet - for easy viewing) the kitchen and standing area are still fully usable (perfect for breakfasts in bed in the morning!). All of the living area has privacy glass & there are curtains for every window too (Blinds in the kitchen area for safety & ease of cleaning). Each window is openable except the rear of course, unless you open the tailgate.
When it's time to move on, turning it all back into a vehicle is easy too. The ease with which this vehicle can be lived in and the comfort it gives is not far off perfection.
Usually whilst my wife is preparing some fresh food, I tend to be outside either playing with the kids, or putting out the awning (Which takes less than 2 minutes!) and preparing the table, chairs, BBQ, etc. Without much effort at all, this vehicle turns into a comfortable home after a long drive!
In Japan we have natural hot springs and public bathrooms are usually spotless, so this camper wasn't designed to include a toilet. In the wilderness we usually just find a private space, or use facilities in a camping site. A shower may be desirable to the new owner in Europe (Or Canada). There are inexpensive kits available from camping suppliers to hang a black tank on top of the (elevating) roof and use the height to create pressure. Make a shower curtain if desired using the back door as a ceiling - thus a shower would be possible, we expect.
Please note: The slideshow includes a tour of the interior in the same order as above - with comments about the equipment itself which will hopefully illustrate the features abounding.
Driving: During our 4 days with it in the UK we noticed we were often overtaking slower campers making slow progress on the motorway, whilst we sat on the outside lane, probably getting twice the economy they would from their petrol engines, or larger Diesel engines! The UK equivalents are also usually manual, whereas this has a smooth automatic transmission with overdrive, capable of getting up steep slopes without losing much speed thanks to the torque of the Toyota 2.8 Diesel 4 cylinder engine.
This particular vehicle has been perfectly maintained. The photographs of condition should speak for themselves after 24 years of ownership by it's single previous owner. The timing belt was replaced at 93,139km, complete with all accompanying requirements for the major service and it's always been meticulously serviced. The transmission is automatic and built for use on a heavy vehicle. The 2.8 4 cyl. Diesel engine is not endowed with a lot of power, but we've found our vehicle will climb the steepest slopes & twists for an hour if needed, no problem - or cruise at 120km/h (75 mph) for hours on motorways without being excessively noisy for occupants in the back. For long trips drivers can take it in turns to sleep whilst the other drives, either night or day.
On a long run (I'm not known for driving for economy - I'd rather get there sooner!) we can get about 550km from the 60 litre tank. This particular example drives & operates all perfectly with no faults to report and there's no reason it cannot give another 20 years of outdoor pleasure & travelling luxury if it remains well looked after.
Other equipment not already mentioned also includes: 3 Speed Automatic Transmission with overdrive (4th) specially geared for low rpm when cruising, 2.8 4cyl. Diesel engine, 60 litre fuel tank, 3 seats at the front / two with the centre seat folded forward to provide a small elbow rest / cup holder, seating for 5 (With seatbelts) at the rear, factory fitted privacy glass, power steering, driving lights incorporated in the headlights, Powerful air conditioning with remote master switch (located above the driver's head) for the rear air conditioning system, 2 heating controls (front & rear) with master switch in the dashboard (Air con & heating is very efficient - Japan has very hot / humid summers & cold crisp winters), spare wheel & tools mounted under the rear floor, aux power socket (110v currently - but easy to change to EU 240V using a suitable charger unit from good DIY camper van parts suppliers) with electrical earth probe, high-level brake lamp & large 4 brake light system at the rear, truck style mirrors incl. additional convex front & rear mirrors to make parking easy, steps with lighting, etc.
Note that the 12v electrical system and gas cooker are factory fitted and designed by Toyota so there are full safety features. For example, even if the gas tap is opened (under the sink) turning the knobs on the stove won't release gas unless the knob is being pushed in(for starting) or lit. Hopefully with the detailed description above & captioned pictures the reader will gain a full understanding of the many features this vehicle comes with and why it's very special & unique.
Further customising: With our's we have continued to develop better solutions. Being (motor)bike nuts - and often finding ourselves camping where there are beautiful roads - we have found a towing kit that works in combination with a purpose built bike carrier (For which we're in the process of building a very tricked out 250 2-stroke 2 cyl GP race replica) but carrying a small bike may be wider than the vehicle itself. Being specialists in finding unusual parts in Japan, we have located seat some specific wide arch kits which will allow use of Watanabe deep dish wheels of 15 inch diameter, 8J width and offset of zero (Awaiting complete respray in original colours - before fitting these but it'll be a very cool camping vehicle when completed...). There are kits to make the sliding door swing out more when opened (To clear the 5cm wider rear arch) and also lowering kits. We will also be fitting a small rear spoiler and get rid of the reversing mirror (The head unit includes DIN connectors for a reversing camera) We'll stop short of lowering it though... as it's a vehicle used for carrying a family long distance and soon, a bike too! For improved driver comfort we've fitted a Recaro driver's seat & a steering boss so a leather steering wheel (Slightly smaller than original) could then be added.
There are LED taillight kits - we've updated the tail lights on our's too, but didn't plumb for tail LEDs. At the front we're fitting an HID conversion with inexpensive new headlights as this will vastly improve night time visibility. In our's the radio & original speakers were horrible, so we fitted a Parrot Asteroid Smart which has Bluetooth and voice activated music selection and phone controls. It's awaiting installation of a high-spec concealed 14 speaker sound system with two amplifiers. Not for punching loud heavy bass music, but for clarity & quality of sound at any volume level, which will provide an infinitely richer travelling experience than the old cassette / radio in the dash! Should the new owner of this vehicle want details of the sound system we have spent much time working out with different components from all over the world, or wish to order things not available in Europe such as a (front) roof carrier, custom stainless exhaust, alloy wheels, arches, lights, or other accessories for a Hiace. we are happy to help. Just ask!
Please note: This is a Japanese market vehicle and the charging system is for 110-120v 50Hz mains voltage. To use mains voltage in Europe, a 220-240v battery charger / transformer will need to be retro-fitted and if desired, an adaptor used to run mains electricals from the fitted (Japanese / US style) wall receptacles. We would expect the new owner to source the transformer and fit / arrange professional fitting in UK as there are suitable chargers available from most good DIY mobile home equipment suppliers.
Body & underside condition: Most examples of any Hiace camper (There were very few TRD Cruising Cabins ever made, yet alone surviving today) we see are horribly worn, dented, rusty, etc. The converted ones either have permanently tall (fiberglass) roofs that make them resemble an ice-cream van and none have the level of luxury yet alone body condition of this example. The faults about to be described are all small and not worth repairing, but are mentioned to give a complete report:
There are a couple of shallow dents on the off-side quarter panel - these have been repaired by a dent specialist and only minor damage is left as shown in pictures. As there is a lot of interior equipment & factory wiring in the way these would be difficult to reach to push these out from behind, so this is the best that can be done under the circumstances. No paint has cracked, or any such damage so the panel won't rust or become worse over time. In most cases it's not even visible!
The paintwork's condition and quality should speak for itself. It's clear to us this car has lived under roofed storage when not in use. Also it's clear it wasn't used for winter sports (As our'shas been) - which means the chassis & body aren't rusty (We'd recommend undersealing or better still - annual waxoyling to preserve in this condition going forward if using regularly in the UK!). Japan's roads are generally very clean and snow doesn't fall in the larger cities of Honshu, where this vehicle has always been. Interior is essentially near perfect. There is a dent on the door of the cabinet to the left of the sliding door and a couple of light marks on the carpet, but essentially this vehicle is in a condition best described as time-warped! Condition is as shown in the pictures - Stunning, essentially!
Contact us to secure this unique mobile home by Toyota Technocraft (TRD). Please note that we will never again be able to find another example as special & well preserved as this, so if you're seriously interested, don't waste time. No offers please! Once it's sold, we'll be sad to see this one go.
We hope it'll find a new home with an owner who enjoys his as much as we do our's & looks after it well.
Ready to go now, this vehicle is currently in storage in Leicestershire, near Hinckley. UK OTR Price: £10,745. Includes valeting & new MOT, with 12 months comprehensive warranty. For sales inquiries where the car would be shipped direct to another country, ask!
Newera - Consistently recommended by tuners, magazines and online communities as the best source for unique & special vehicles in Japan to export anywhere worldwide.