A Kei Van Is One Of The Most Ridiculous Cars You Could Drive

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Image for article titled A Tiny Kei Van Is One Of The Most Ridiculous Vehicles You Could Drive

Photo: Mercedes Streeter

My second Japanese domestic market import is finally home! This 1989 Suzuki Every is easily one of the most ridiculous vehicles I’ve ever driven. It’s absolute chaos at any speed and you can’t help but smile.

Readers warned me that kei vans do not drive how you expect them to and even then I wasn’t prepared for how this thing drives. This might be the worst-handling vehicle I’ve ever driven, and I own a city bus!

Picking my Every up in Baltimore, Maryland, was an adventure all on its own. Just getting into the port is sort of confusing and it’s easy to get overwhelmed. My Volkswagen Touareg and its U-Haul trailer were absolutely puny to the semi tractors and machinery driving around.

Image for article titled A Tiny Kei Van Is One Of The Most Ridiculous Vehicles You Could Drive

Photo: Mercedes Streeter

But the payoff is great as you’ll get to see rows and rows of awesome cars.

Image for article titled A Tiny Kei Van Is One Of The Most Ridiculous Vehicles You Could Drive

Photo: Mercedes Streeter

In one lot you’ll see wrecked American cars waiting to be shipped off overseas. In another lot you’ll see endless rows of imports coming in.

Image for article titled A Tiny Kei Van Is One Of The Most Ridiculous Vehicles You Could Drive

Photo: Mercedes Streeter

My Suzuki was in a lot full of Japanese and European cars and trucks as far as the eye could see. I wish I could have explored this area because there were some cars that I had never seen before.

Image for article titled A Tiny Kei Van Is One Of The Most Ridiculous Vehicles You Could Drive

Photo: Mercedes Streeter

My first clue that you readers were right about the van’s handling was when I strapped the van down and started heading out of port. On every Maryland pothole the van bounced and jiggled, sometimes enough to make me think that it was going to fall off of the trailer.

Image for article titled A Tiny Kei Van Is One Of The Most Ridiculous Vehicles You Could Drive

Photo: Mercedes Streeter

But it didn’t fall off of the trailer and my stupidly cheap Touareg impressed me once again by hauling the van through Appalachia without major issue. The only problem I encountered on the way home was the Touareg’s passenger-side mirror popping out.

And the van? It’s in better condition than expected.

Image for article titled A Tiny Kei Van Is One Of The Most Ridiculous Vehicles You Could Drive

Photo: Mercedes Streeter

The van’s auction inspection had a very long list of faults. The inspector seemingly noted every scratch, every stain, every speck of rust and every imperfection. Nothing seemed like it couldn’t be resolved with a weekend of cleaning and sure enough, and that appears to be the case!

The van’s paint still shines mostly throughout and while it has a handful of places with rust, none of the rust is anything like what we get out here in the Midwest.

Image for article titled A Tiny Kei Van Is One Of The Most Ridiculous Vehicles You Could Drive

Photo: Mercedes Streeter

Image for article titled A Tiny Kei Van Is One Of The Most Ridiculous Vehicles You Could Drive

Photo: Mercedes Streeter

Much of it can be fixed with a grinder and paint. The rest may require filler or some minor welding. Not bad for a van that’s 32 years old.

Image for article titled A Tiny Kei Van Is One Of The Most Ridiculous Vehicles You Could Drive

Photo: Mercedes Streeter

I originally wanted to buy a Honda Acty van, but chose this Suzuki for a few reasons. Check out the glorious Super Multi Roof.

Image for article titled A Tiny Kei Van Is One Of The Most Ridiculous Vehicles You Could Drive

Photo: Mercedes Streeter

This glass roof gives the van a funky look outside but really makes the interior pop. The windows make the van feel so open and airy that you could forget that you’re in something only slightly larger than a Smart Fortwo.

Image for article titled A Tiny Kei Van Is One Of The Most Ridiculous Vehicles You Could Drive

Photo: Mercedes Streeter

Image for article titled A Tiny Kei Van Is One Of The Most Ridiculous Vehicles You Could Drive

Photo: Mercedes Streeter

The forward and center sections of the roof open up, too. So you could totally stargaze from the interior of this van. The previous owner tinted the forward windows using some kind of paint, but thankfully it’s coming off easily.

Image for article titled A Tiny Kei Van Is One Of The Most Ridiculous Vehicles You Could Drive

Photo: Mercedes Streeter

This van also has fuel injection and a turbocharger. I felt that fuel injection was a necessity here because I really don’t like the idea of wrenching on a carburetor in a confined space with basically zero parts availability.

Image for article titled A Tiny Kei Van Is One Of The Most Ridiculous Vehicles You Could Drive

Photo: Mercedes Streeter

Speaking of confined spaces, entry to what passes for an engine bay is accessed through popping some latches on the front seats like a suitcase.

Image for article titled A Tiny Kei Van Is One Of The Most Ridiculous Vehicles You Could Drive

Photo: Mercedes Streeter

Driving this van is an event at any speed. It has gears so short that you can start in second gear and you’ll shift almost as often as a trucker.

While the super short gearing is fun and actually allows the van to accelerate fast enough to keep up with American traffic, you lose out on the top end. The engine redlines just past 65 mph and it’s screaming even at 55 mph. This is not a vehicle for a highway commute.

Image for article titled A Tiny Kei Van Is One Of The Most Ridiculous Vehicles You Could Drive

Photo: Mercedes Streeter

I’m not sure you’d even want to go any faster than 65 mph in this van because handling is best described as chaotic. The van feels like it could roll in practically any turn at any speed.

Part of it comes down to the van’s soft leaf-sprung suspension. It doesn’t even try to limit body roll. The van’s narrow track amplifies its tippy feel. The adorably tiny tires are the other part of the problem. These little pizza cutters seem like they shouldn’t belong on a road vehicle, let alone a narrow van. The steer tires start skidding even if you turn too quick in a parking lot, let alone trying to take a curve.

Image for article titled A Tiny Kei Van Is One Of The Most Ridiculous Vehicles You Could Drive

Photo: Mercedes Streeter

I bet handling could be improved with a lower ride height and I’ll likely get wider tires, too. I’ll keep the ride height as it is; I’m embracing the chaos.

My favorite part of the driving experience is the turbo. You hear it spooling up directly under you and when you get into boost you feel a nice kick, accompanied with a green TURBO light appearing on the dash.

Image for article titled A Tiny Kei Van Is One Of The Most Ridiculous Vehicles You Could Drive

Photo: Mercedes Streeter

I can’t help but laugh every time I see that light come on. This thing with a blow off valve would probably have me crying, unable to drive the cute little thing.

Despite the van’s age, it actually has some pretty modern features. It has a power lock for the hatch and a motor to open and close the center portion of the roof. Four-wheel-drive is activated with a push of a button and the van’s axle lock is button-activated, too.

Image for article titled A Tiny Kei Van Is One Of The Most Ridiculous Vehicles You Could Drive

Photo: Mercedes Streeter

I paid about $3,000 total getting the van here. I’ll do a cost breakdown and a how-to in my next entry. If you’re thinking about picking up a cheap kei van, do it. They may only just barely go highway speed and have more body roll than a ship in rough seas, but you’ll smile for every mile.

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