Curbside Capsule: 2001 Daihatsu Hijet – Italian in a Flowery Kimono

It was impossible to miss this little morsel as it sat in the morning sun, its bright colours certainly making it stand out and providing a good test for my newly acquired compact camera. There are hints around the front lights and tailgate that this was originally dark blue but ‘Mollie’ has most of her skin protected from the sun with a custom vinyl wrap. Cleverly the flowers on the back are matched into those on the side at the edges, but otherwise, festoon the rear seemingly at random. Appropriate perhaps as Commercial Motor said these minivans were “characterised as florists’ vans, a view reinforced by Daihatsu’s sales brochure: florists, florists and more florists.” though Mollie seems to be a freelancer. Perhaps a case of ‘flower power’.

At first glance, it looked like another of those ’80s/’90s small Japanese vans that were once fairly commonplace over here in the UK (though never as common as ‘proper’ size ones) and Daihatsu is obviously a Japanese brand, isn’t it? This seventh generation of Hijet were current from 1986-1994 in Japan, albeit going on to live longer lives in Indonesia and South Korea. They were available as closed vans, minibus/passenger vans with windows, and pick-ups.

But that’s not what we have here. Instead, this version was built in Italy and sold there, and in most of Europe, as the Piaggio Porter from 1992 to 2020, the same Piaggio that had made the tricycle Ape (‘Bee’) the type of vehicle now popularly known as ‘tuk-tuks’. Underneath the familiar Japanese sheet metal, it wasn’t quite identical to the original as the front end was redesigned for better crash protection (the Suzuki Carry had also undergone a similar redesign when it became the Bedford Rascal in 1986) and was given a new cab interior. In the UK though, these Piaggios were still sold as Daihatsu until 2002, after which the Piaggio name was used. This one is the 1998 facelift model, was registered in January 2001, and has a Daihatsu-sourced HC-E/EJ 1300 fuel-injected petrol engine, which probably makes it quite lively.

Apologies for a few too many rays of sunshine on the last shot, but I hope this flowered confection might brighten your day.