4 July 2019

More than an old car #108: Daihatsu Hijet S85

Mention 'Japanese vans' and most of you would immediately think of the ubiquitous Toyota Hiace/Nissan Urvan that are innumerable here. Understandably, few would mention Daihatsu Hijets because they don't really seem to stand out from the crowd. However, once a while, something odd may pop up just like this 1991 Daihatsu Hijet S85 here!

The Hijet was first introduced in 1960 and released under kei car standards, appealing to many Japanese during the post-war years. Its name is a combination of 'high performance' and 'midget'. For the S80 series, it was introduced in 1986 where it featured a large rear glass window and an engine upgrade, among other features. At that time, Daihatsu entered into alliances with Piaggio of Italy and Kia in South Korea, where derivatives of the Hijet were produced. Although the Hijet made its way to the US (to be classified as an agricultural vehicle), it endured declining popularity and withdrew its presence in 1992.

While popular among young people, it lost out to its rivals due to its weak styling and inferior cargo space. It was powered by a 993 cc CB-41 i3 engine, allowing to reach a top speed of 100 km/h. As it fell under the kei car category, it was only 3295 mm long.

Production of the S80 series ended in 1994, which was then succeeded by the S100 series. Previously, they were available in both passenger and cargo van formats, and were brought in by Sin Tien Seng, our local Daihatsu dealer. No cargo vans exist due to the 20-year rule, and I believe this unit is the last passenger van standing. It has undergone a marked changeover when I saw it in 2017 till now. Apparently, it has changed ownership just a few months ago, and the current owner was creative in converting it to the famous "Mystery Machine" in the Scooby-Doo TV series. It adds a comical, adorable touch to a nondescript van otherwise. Furthermore, its current number plate is a reference to the mysterious disappearance of MH370, which is a bold choice to have considering the furor over the issue.

I managed to see it up close and it was hilarious to find a Scooby-Doo doll strapped to the front seat. Due to its quirky nature, it actually went viral, with many people pleasantly surprised at the pop-culture reference. It has certainly changed perceptions that old cars just look boring and unappealing. Do keep a lookout for our Mystery Machine and its 'meddling kids' in solving some mysteries!


  1. Wonderful write-up which included many info (Sales in the US) that i didnt know. Keep up this blog.

  2. There are a total of two known S85 still registered on the road.