Just when I think I’ve seen it all, those crafty Japanese kit-makers and customizers pull another fast one. Well, this is base on the Toyota Probox, so not too fast, but still, when I encountered this on a quiet back street a few weeks back, I stopped clean in my tracks. The brief “Does not compute” moment was followed by “Damn! That’s the nicest Probox I’ve ever seen” — words that I really, really never expect to utter.
This wonderful stuff comes courtesy of a company called Flex Auto, as part of their Renoca range of kits. They do a lot of variations on the Land Cruiser theme, which is very popular. I’ve even written one up, though I wasn’t aware at the time of either Flex or the Renoca 106, which is what they call this mod. There are several variations on this theme, including Di-Noc on the sides and quad headlamps.
The HiAce Coast Lines, which I understand was introduced in 2016, is also seen on occasion in my neck of the woods (as I did above last year). Flex is a large company, comprising 50 dealerships across Japan, specializing in second-hand SUVs (especially Land Cruisers and Jeeps) and commercial vehicles. The Renoca cars are all reconditioned and can be “pre-ordered” to a great level of detail via their website.
I’m not sure when they decided to work their magic on the ProBox, but it’s about time someone did! Those things are’t just common, they’re also excruciatingly boring. Here’s a couple of standard-issue ProBoxes. Here we have the original nose (2002-14) on the left and facelift version on the right; the latter still being churned out of Toyota’s factories in considerable numbers, and mostly in white.
These wagons have not exactly conquered the world, but attacked only selected markets, where they quickly become ubiquitous. That was certainly the case in Myanmar, where I can state from personal experience that Proboxes literally constitute half of the country’s four-wheeled road traffic.
So if there’s one car that I’ve learned to ignore, it’s the Probox, which I’ve had the misfortune of taking many a taxi ride in when I lived in Rangoon for four years (the back seat of these things is truly dreadful). Leave it to this Renoca EuroBox version to make me look at this cockroach of the road in a different light. And what a transformation it is! Kafkaesque, only in reverse.
I immediately got a strong whiff of Mark 2 VW Golf from this square snout. I had a quick glance at the rear end, but the Renoca kit only bothers with the front. They do also provide their own brand of black painted wheels and chromed hubcaps, so at least the classic look of the EuroBox isn’t undermined by the workmanlike steelies seen on the base car.
The interior can also be slightly customized somehow, chiefly with tartan seat fabrics, as far as I can tell. But you can’t turn a ProBox into a luxury shooting brake any more than you can polish a turd, so the good people at Flex Auto focused on the really important stuff, rather than trying to cram a lot of unnecessary knickknacks into the barren wasteland that is a Probox’s interior. Nothing looks worse than when you’re trying too hard.
I’m very much looking forward to seeing more of these (and consequently fewer Proboxes) in my immediate environment. It’s also an interesting fact that Flex / Renoca now feel they can sign their work instead of re-writing “TOYOTA” in the carmaker’s classic ‘80s font. Given them a few years, and they might become the next Mitsuoka. Only, you know, without the cringe factor.
Curbside Outtake: 2002-2021 Toyota Probox – Just the Basics, by Jim Brophy
Tokyo Outtake: Toyota Probox “Brobox” – Urban Warrior, by Jim Klein