4WD Time Capsule: 1989 Toyota HiAce Fire Truck

Although I do love my HiAce project, it’s tough to not stare longingly at some of the later versions that are popping up for sale with increased regularity. Thanks to the relaxed importation laws, vehicles meeting the 25 year exemption requirements are frequenly seen for sale, including trucks like the 8,000 mile 1989 Toyota HiAce here on eBay, which was formerly a Japanese fire fighting vehicle and is loaded with go-anywhere equipment. 

Right-hand drive, so get your bearings straight before hopping on board. Over the years, I’ve met a few people in the business of importing Japanese vehicles. All of them have the same story: Japan is so restrictive about older vehicles staying on the roads that many are retired early in order to avoid higher levels of taxation, and the export market is happy to snatch them up. For municipal vehicles, it practically guarantees they’ll come with low mileage like this one.

Similar to fire department vehicles in the U.S., this HiAce came from the factory with all the goodies: manual transmission, 2.4L diesel, low-range gearbox, manual locking hubs, and the extended cab with seating for six passengers. Utilitarian, sure, but that drivetrain will outlive most vehicles and the seating arrangement makes family camping trips a breeze. My uncle actually sent me this listing and pointed out how easily that open bed would accept a camper!

Back here, there was formerly firefighting equipment – hoses, ladders, the like. With all of that removed, a rear jump seat is exposed along with endless possibilities for all that open space. The good news is with the wave of individuals getting into the importation business, you don’t have to go it alone when it comes to getting a vehicle like this with the proper registration and title documents. The seller says this HiAce is ready to go, and if the price is right, it’s located in Washington State.


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    Much camper restomod camper potential…I dig this puppy.
    Good thing they got it outta Japan before Godzilla trampled it.


    • On and On On and On Member

      Link was great DLY.

    • Beatnik Bedouin

      Ah, but he might be heading stateside…

      Seriously, it would be a fun and unusual toy(ota) for someone in the land of my birth.

      We get a lot of Hiace vans and trucks imported into NZ, second-hand.

      Like 1
  2. angliagt angliagt Member

    There’s a dealership about 30 miles South of here
    (Christianburg,Virginia) that has a lot of these kind of trucks.
    It’s like a free car show,but almost everything’s for sale.
    I wasted at least an hour,the last time time I was there.
    They also have 125 Nissan Figaros!


  3. Derek F

    Such a great utilitarian vehicle- I’d love to have it to practice my right-hand-drive, left-hand transmission shifting skills, among other things…..

    • Pat A

      Not that hard to learn to shift left handed-I learned pretty quickly on vacation in Ireland. What was trickier was remembering to look to the right first when stepping off of a curb-nearly got clipped a couple of times.

    • Fink-A-Trailer

      If you can scratch your . .
      er nose with your left hand, you can shift gears with your left hand. My favourite car is my RHD Cobra.

  4. Rob

    Just think of the complete anti-theft of this thing. Not only a three pedals rig but the shifter is on the left. I know how to drive these and found the transition quite easy. Drove them all over the place in Afghanistan.

  5. Fogline

    Love it but can’t imagine it was hauling anything very heavy in the back, given the GVW. If it was a 1 ton I would have a TON of things to do with this and would pick it up in a second.

  6. Pat A

    I wonder if you could swap parts from a U.S. Toyota van to make this a left hand drive.

  7. I mon

    I am the purchaser of this very vehicle! surprised to find this link after the fact.
    the truck is being shipped across the country to me in southeast Massachusetts.
    can’t wait to get the kids in it. what camper might fit? anybody know?

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