Curbside Classic: The Japanese Retro Re-Trial (1st Witness) – Suzuki Every “French Bus”

Bailiff: All rise! Honourable Judge Paul Niedermeyer presiding.

Judge Niedermeyer: Ladies and gentlemen, the Automotive Tribunal has referred three new witnesses in the case of The People versus Japanese Retro cars, alternatively known as Japanese Retro Cars versus Good Taste and Common Decency. The prosecution has the floor. May it wipe it well with these atrocious vehicles, which have waived the right to an attorney. A right they did not have in the first place, as they are witnesses, I guess. Anyway, let the re-trial begin. Mr Tatra, if you please…

T87: Thank you, your Eugeneness. Without further ado, let’s call the first witness. Please state your production date, make and model for the record.

French Bus: Well, originally, it was 2005-15 Suzuki Every, but I go by French Bus these days.

T87: Duly noted. Please describe – in your own words – how this change of identity came about.

File photo: An unmolested Suzuki Every (on the right)

French Bus: I was made at the Suzuki factory, just like thousands of my cohort. We are kei vans. Rear wheel drive, front-mid engine, all alloy 3-cyl., 660cc and 49 hp (64 hp for turbocharged models). Some of us are 4WD, some have manual transmission and some were sold as Mazda Scrum and as Mitsubishi Minicab, but we are all 99% similar on the outside. At least, initially.

T87: Good. That’s all in order. But forgive me, I cannot see a Suzuki badge anywhere on your body. In fact, I’m seeing some very non-Japanese branding here.

French Bus: Yes, that is true. I had an operation. My entire front end was taken off and a new one put in its place. My rear panel too. It was… it was.. *sob*

T87: Please continue. Would you like a glass of unleaded?

French Bus: Thank you… sorry, I’ll try to compose myself… Anyway, there I was, shortly after my birth, at a local body shop that I didn’t know from Adam. My owner dropped me off there along with a mysterious collection of boxes in my loading area. The body shop guy opened them, and I saw corrugated panels, a strange-looking tall grille, old-style fenders, big chromed headlamps…

T87: One might even say “Frog-eyed”….

French Bus: Ha! Nobody’s ever said that one before.

File photo: Suzuki Carry with a similar affliction

T87: Sorry if that was a bit too on the nose. Speaking of which, am I correct in assuming that this kit included two chromed chevrons, such as one might find on classic Citroëns H vans, only much smaller and badly designed?

French Bus: Correct you are. The kit was manufactured by a company in Osaka that specializes in this kind of thing. They do all sorts of types – VW Transporter, Ford Econoline, Ford F100, Alfa AR6, UaZ… They even do kits based on cars, such as the ’57 Chevy Bel-Air or the Austin Mini, but still adapted to all types of kei vans.

T87: Good gracious, this is absolute madness.

French Bus: Yes indeed. So all these GRP bits were bolted on and my body was repainted a garish colour. I am now working on the streets… as a food truck… a “French” food truck, whatever that means in Japan…

T87: Foie gras dipped in soy sauce?

French Bus: The thing is, it’s too late for me now, I’m used to the life. The scalding hot coffee, the croissant crumbs, the cookie crumbles… The carefree Left-Bank raconteurs and bon-vivants yapping away about existentialism to bored women in stylish hats…

T87: Please now, French Bus. Let’s not pretend like you’re living in a ‘50s Parisian cliché.

French Bus: But that’s what I was made to look like. Even my rear end says so.

T87: Yes, but that is not what you are. Your DNA is as oriental as the rising sun and you’re not even FWD. And put out that Gauloise this instant, this is a CCourtroom, not a café!

French Bus: Merde… Er, sorry, I got carried away.

T87: This impersonation was forced upon you, I understand. This scourge of retro kit-makers has been going on for nigh on three decades now, and you are not the first to have fallen victim to these nefarious individuals. Can you see them anywhere in this CCourtroom?

French Bus: Er, well no. They’re in Osaka, I just told you.

T87: Oh, so you did, yes. What are they called?

French Bus: Calstage Co., Ltd. They do some customizations themselves in-house, but they also ship their kits all over the country. The kits can be adapted to several kei and non-kei vehicles, new or second-hand. None of the kit applies to my interior, which is as bone-stock as they come. At least I still have that intact.

T87: So there are many unfortunate disfigured vehicles like yourself out there?

French Bus: Thousands. You know how pervasive the kawaii craze is in Japanese culture, Tatra-san.

T87: Ka-why am I not surprised? This is all kinds of wrong. And we cannot lay blame at any OEM’s feet. For once, they are not guilty. Thank you, French Bus. You may step down.

T87: In summation for this first day, M’lud, I believe we must widen our investigation of the JDM retro craze beyond the established car manufacturers that this CCourt had so rightly smitten with the impartial hand of Justice behind the Automotive woodshed but two years ago, in our original trial. Not that OEMs should be let off the hook, mind you, your Lordship Sir, but the issue as seen on the streets and parking lots of Japan is one that warrants the CCourts full attention…

Judge PN: That’s all well and good, CCounsel, but I’ve had my fill of these endless proceedings and your bad puns. I’m off for a hike or ten. Tell the rest to Judge Klein.

T87: Er… OK, well, the CCourt is adjourned then, I suppose.

Judge PN: It sure is. And take that so-called French Bus with you on your way out.


Related posts:


CC Outtake: Suzuki Carry Mini-Me VW Bus, by PN

The (First) Japanese Retro Trial (Part 1Part 2Part 3), by T87