…almost. What would your most casual guess posit as the most likely basis on this trucklet? A Subaru Sambar? A Suzuki Carry? If you guessed either of those, you’d be wrong. It’s an Asia Towner underneath all those tarps and panelling. The company, founded in 1965 as a low-cost manufacturer of cars built for export under license, and acquired by Kia in 1976, built them beginning 1992. The vehicle is therefore not a clone of a Mazda, nor of a Suzuki (Mazda’s usual kei-class partner), but of the 1987 Daihatsi HiJet. These Kei-class vans, which could be equipped with a supercharger to beef up to standard 550cc three-cylinder, were initially assembled in Korea with a 659cc engine, but found their way to Italy under the Innocenti and Piaggio nameplates, where they were built with 1.2 liter four cylinders and diesels. The Towner was rebadged as a Kia following Hyundai’s takeover, and the car lived on until 2002, when it was discontinued. While Asia Motors may have been the ultimate in nondescript brand names, in the case of this ex-kei pick-up, it was perfectly apt. The picture of this example was taken by jmg3rd in Phnom Penh–markets like these kept HQ in Korea happy while Kia’s US presence was absent or minimally profitable.
– September 24, 2014