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We have bad news. Those of you who rock your imported Nissan Skylines and Mitsubishi Lancer Evolutions have got it all wrong. If you really want to make friends and influence people, the JDM car is a 1990 Daihatsu Hijet fire engine.
Todd Lappin already has a skyline, but if Instagram accounts are a measure of success, it’s his tiny red kei-class emergency vehicle that gets all the attention. Strangers want to take photos with it, children want to play with it and it stands out at every motor show. He imported it to San Francisco from a small Japanese ski resort last year.
“The best analogy is walking down the street with a puppy,” Lappin told the San Francisco Chronicle, “in such a way that everyone becomes their nicest, cutest, best-behaved self. It doesn’t matter – men, women, young, Old.” They stop and laugh with confused expressions on their faces. “
The truck is called Kiri, after its original home in Kirigamine in Nagano Prefecture. According to Lappin, the whole city only has a few hundred inhabitants. The fire department there was all volunteer, and the truck has only accumulated about 4,000 miles on it since new.
After its shutdown, Lappin bought it at auction for “next to nothing”. Vehicles can be imported nationwide if they are 25 years old. This is a holdover from the time Mercedes-Benz asked the US government to restrict European imports of its cheaper models.
Because the truck was built to Kei specifications, it has a 660cc engine with 63 horsepower. However, it was never intended for highway cruises, just for the hustle and bustle of the city. Lappin told the SF Chronicle that the Hijet topped the freeway at 60 mph, but “it sprints up the hills of San Francisco like you wouldn’t believe it.”
The truck arrived with no fire fighting equipment, but Lappin reassembled what it needed to become a working fire fighting tool again. The truck does not have its own water tank. Instead, the built-in pump allows the hose to be submerged in any water source, using an old-school wicker filter to remove any debris.
The story goes on
When asked if the truck could put out a fire, Lappin mentions that he will be living in Somona part-time. Located about an hour north of the city, there have been many forest fires in recent years. “The answer to that is absolutely yes,” Lappin told the SF Chronicle, “and that’s a scenario we’re planning.”
The truck has its own Instagram account, @teenytinyfiretruck, which documents Kiri’s adventures from a first-person perspective. Lappin drives the truck through the whole city and photographs him in front of the landmarks of San Francisco and various fire stations. Sometimes music or a fake “Godzilla sighting” warning can be heard from the built-in megaphone. People from all walks of life pose with the Daihatsu, grin and cast peace signs.
Kiri has become a celebrity in the city. Lappin is usually the one who approaches fire stations to take pictures with their trucks. However, the roles have recently been reversed. “A group of SFFD firefighters driving a ladder truck when they are out of the way to visit Kiri when they spotted him parked outside a coffee shop,” Lappin told Autoblog. “They drove around the block and stopped with the lights on and jumped out. They were just as excited as children to see it.”
A Skyline GT-R might have more horsepower, but you’ll just hit other petrol heads with it. A kei fire truck is a little slower but produces a lot more smiles per mile.
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