QotW: What’s the coolest JNC work vehicle?

It’s Labor Day, an occasion to honor the hard working men and women that make the world go round. We also recently celebrated the 60th anniversary of one of Japan’s most popular work vehicles, the Isuzu Elf. It’s the perfect time to ask:

What’s the coolest JNC work vehicle?

The most entertaining comment by next Monday will receive a prize. Scroll down to see the winner of last week’s QotW, “What Japanese luxury car would you get, and why?

We received splendid answers last week befitting of the magnificence of the cars in question. GSX-R35 made an excellent case for the A31 Nissan Cefiro,  Emuman wrote a powerful ode for the JC Mazda Cosmo, mel argued a strong defense Mitsubishi Diamante, and Dimitry built an impressive claim for the Toyota Century. The winning answer isn’t necessarily the best car per se, but the best answer, and this week it goes to Peter g Safonov:

There are lots of reasons that anyone should get an LS400: legendary reliability, the history of being the first Lexus and the world-beating features that came with that–seriously, watch any Doug DeMuro video for an early 90s Merc and see how behind they were! But I just want one because I grew up in one. When I was 6 or 7, my dad got a used 1990 LS400, in a very of-its-era two tone grey-blue color with corresponding interior. And so, every road trip I went on for the rest of my childhood was spent in the back of that car. Just like I remember the track listing of every cassette that lived in that car (mostly grocery store 60s and 80s compilations), I remember every detail of that backseat. I spent a lot of time playing with the never-used ashtrays and carefully adjusting the climate-control vents. My dad later replaced it with a 1999 model, which he replaced with a 2001 Mercedes SL500 (which always had something wrong with it!), after which he returned to a 2009 LS460L, whose rear seat features I would have killed for as a kid. But I’d love to go back to that original 1990 LS400 and give a road trip in the drivers seat a try.

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10 Responses to QotW: What’s the coolest JNC work vehicle?

  1. Lindsay Druett said:

    For me, it’s the Subaru Forester. Last one lasted over 12 years, recently replaced it with the 2019 Forester.

    In New Zealand, however, the Toyota Hiace/Hilux out numbers everything else.

  2. Scotty G said:

    I define “cool” much differently than most people do, but for me, a first-generation Subaru 360 Sambar pickup or van would be my top choice.
    https://i1.wp.com/viaretro.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/subaru-sambar-201626406_14.jpg
    https://i2.wp.com/viaretro.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/subaru-sambar-201626406_24.jpg

    At 6′-5″ tall, I can’t even remotely fit into one let alone drive one, but I still want one.

  3. Ant said:

    Having grown up with Gran Turismo, it has to be the Daihatsu Midget. I’ll go for the original three-wheeled model given the Midget II is just a little too new to officially be a JNC, but I think we can safely roll them in together.

    The adorably goofy styling and ring-ding-ding two-stroke engine play a part, but like any good work vehicle, it’s also a tool absolutely fit for a purpose. Sure, it won’t haul as much as some, and it certainly ain’t fast, but like all kei-jidosha it’s perfectly designed to fit a certain set of rules for very specific Japanese needs. Coolness comes with its classic status, but it’s absolutely a work vehicle too.

  4. pete240z said:

    Although glamorizing war is not cool but the hardest working vehicle has to be the Toyota Tacoma that is used around the world for military transportation and set up for fire power. Once again the hardest working vehicle in the world.

  5. Styles said:

    There is only one correct answer to this question, and it’s one that I had the privilege of using back in the late 90’s. When I was but a junior parts person at South Auckland Nissan we had fine example of one of the best cars ever produced. The mighty S-Cargo!!!!!

    Sign written in the old red, white and blue Nissan colours, with HUGE (for the time) 15′ alloys it looked a treat, and got attention wherever it went. This little snail carried transmissions, panel parts, engines, anything we needed to get from place to place locally. The space in the rear for such a small vehicle was vast.

    Any it didn’t just haul good well, it was actually a lot of fun to drive, with a quirky upright seating position, it was great fun to tip in to corners. Even if the standard E15S and auto didn’t get it off the line too quickly…… you just couldn’t be unhappy driving such a unique and cure car.

    For a 6’2″ guy the dash board was a little close, and I had my knees against it most of the time, but as we just used it for short hops it wasn’t too much of a concern. You could park it in very small spaces, which was a god-send when delivering or picking up for busy workshops, panelbeaters, and wrecking yards.

    So, here’s to the S-Cargo, definitely the coolest little work “van” ever!

  6. Manu said:

    Imagine this, you are starting a new business in a farm in a snowy zone, you enjoy motorsport and want to race on spring, but, you only can afford one vehicle due business, and even want a good milleage and usable (no big) bed capacity, hard choice uh?

    How about a mid engine kei truck, cab over engine (over your seat) with a snow crawler caterpillar on rear!
    500cc DOHC four stroke, four cylinder from a reliable motorcycle, cheap to maintain, wide options for engine modifications, low gravity center and low weight; after winter, you can change snow spec for conventional tires, and the biggest cargo capacity in its class.

    That´s offer from Honda with the T500 in 1964. So for me that´s weapon of choice.

  7. Negishi no Keibajo said:

    For me, it’s the Mazda T1500. It bridged Post-War Japan, the Tokyo Olympics & the new modern Japan of the balance of the 60’s. It carried the kerosene, lumber & recycled newspapers in the neighborhood as I grew up. I still have an affinity for that musty, greyish blue paint color.

  8. Banpei said:

    There are so many great utilitarian cars in Japan that the list would be endless! But as I have to limit my choice to one or will have to be the Suzuki Alto Hustle Works!

    In the early 90s the Japanese bubble economy was at full speed and Suzuki joined the small production numbers market with the Alto Hustle: the front of an Alto mated to the rear end of a delivery van. In other words: a Kei class car with a small bulge in the back.

    The Alto Hustle only sold for two years between November 1991 and October 1993, but for some obscure reason Suzuki thought they could boost sales with a halo car. So gone was the CL11 front end and it got swapped for the much more livelier CR22 that was also better known as the Suzuki Alto Works featuring the 64hp turbo charged engine as found in the RS/R.

    Now why on earth would you put an effort in creating a delivery van with racing aspirations? This can only have been created at the height of the bubble and nothing from Suzuki’s side has surpassed this. So in I words: this must be the coolest utilitarian vehicle ever made in Japan!

  9. nlpnt said:

    Faster! I always had a soft spot for the late ’70s Chevy LUV, particularly in the light blue color. Might as well make it a ’78 with the Mikado bucket-seat interior in one-year-only blue while we’re dreaming.

  10. Dimitry said:

    Simple:
    Honda Acty, Subaru Sambar, any-other-JNC-kei-truck-ever-made.
    These vehicles were built to be utility vehicles first and foremost. They we built under ideology that smaller businesses need to transfer their good at an affordable cost and in full comfort.
    No wonder that the 15+ years old models are so incredibly popular with farmers in Canada.
    Small size and low bed make for an amazing farm or industrial truck, something that Western manufacturers never truly mastered, even having to rely on Japanese manufacturers like Isuzu for help.
    You want a great JNC work vehicle – get a kei truck.

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