Operation Daihatsu Deck Van Gets Lifted And The Build Begins

While a free-flowing exhaust and an air induction system tend to be the first mods made to the average street car, many off-road drivers tend to lean toward a lift, along with some stronger wheels and tougher tires. And as you shall soon see, even a lowly Daihatsu Deck Van deserves a little bit of a lift and some better grip. 

Aesthetics vs. Functionality

Some off-roaders take this route purely for aesthetic purposes. Others prefer performance perks over appearances as they eye an upcoming hunting trip or a weeklong off-road romp with some overlanding gear on board. Then, there are those of us who throw this holy trinity of aftermarket off-road additions on our vehicles purely out of necessity. Take my 2013 Daihatsu Hijet Cargo Deck Van for instance, which I own and drive in Japan. I know all too well the earsplitting screech that is the sound of a tree root scraping my oil pan. Or the clunk of a rocky outcropping coming into contact with my rear differential. These grimace-inducing experiences are the reason why the addition of larger wheels and tires, along with a mild lift, was not just something I wanted on my Daihatsu Deck Van. They were what I needed.

Research And Investment Paid Off

So with zero interest in bottoming out while bumping around off-road, I set to sourcing a winning combo that could cut the kimchi when in the wild. And it could still pass the bi-annual Japanese shaken/JCI vehicle inspection when the time came. While this resulted in way more research than previously predicted, my investment paid off the moment I took my pipsqueak pickup for a spin. So, let’s get to wrenchin’, shall we?

Daihatsu Deck Van Lifted

Securing A Shop

Before I could test out my new bolt-on upgrades, I had to secure a shop where I could get everything professionally installed. In Japan, I must have some form of documentation proving that these aftermarket upgrades were installed by a certified mechanic. I turned to my trusty local auto shop, Kamiyama Motors. While by no means an aftermarket off-road shop, the foreman/owner remains well-versed in 4×4 modifications, shaken requirements, and turning wrenches on Daihatsu vehicles. After a quick explanation of what I was looking to do, the foreman agreed to serve as our chief partner for all things install-related and allow me to document the process.

Selecting The Right Combo Of Bolt-Ons

With the shop selected, it was on to select the right combo of bolt-ons. I already knew that I wanted to go with a 14-inch wheel, as the 12-inch stock steelies were entirely too tiny. There were multiple accounts of vehicles passing inspection with a 14-inch aftermarket kei-class truck wheel paired with the right rubber. This is a 660cc three-cylinder-powered vehicle we’re dealing with, so anything too large or too heavy will crush my mpg ratings and further undermine my already puny power figures. Additionally, there is fitment to consider.

Fitment Considerations

The Daihatsu Deck Van has plastic-lined wheel wells and a pointless front lower air dam. In comparison, the average Daihatsu Hijet pickup has larger steel rear wheel wells, along with a slightly more spacious front wheel well and a more compact bumper package. Practicality, wheel articulation, and clearing the core support and any fender liners should always be deciding factors when selecting a wheel/tire/lift combo. Thus, opting for a “less-is-more” approach seemed like a solid plan.

Daihatsu Deck Van Lift Kit

Springs And Tires And Wheels, Oh My!

Daihatsu Deck Van Lifted

Weds Wheels

What I ended up selecting for my steelie replacements was a set of WedsSport- Mud Vance 06 14-inch kei truck wheels in matte black. I have had nothing but stellar experiences working with Weds products in the past. I have admired the retro lines of the Mud Vance 06 since I first saw it in a magazine promo. With a reputation for unwavering quality control and “Made in Japan” reliability backing it all up, I knew that this 10-spoke design would provide me with precisely what I needed both on- and off-road.

Solid Reviews And Will Pass Inspection

The wheel has trapezoidal irregularities that give it a three-dimensional feel, and the outer lip of the wheel matches up flush with the tire. As expected, I found reviews for this wheel to be solid across the board from all manner of 4×4 vehicles (applications range from a 12-inch up to 18-inches). Furthermore, the 14×4.5-inch wheel would clear inspection. With that in mind, I reached out to my contact at WedsSport for a quick consultation before pulling the trigger.

Daihatsu Deck Van Lifted

Yokohama Tire

But jumping from a 12×4-inch set of steelies was only going to get me so far. I reached out to our friends over at Yokohama Tire for some insight into what flavor of compound I should slather my fresh alloys in. My intuition was spot-on with this one as well. The Geolandar X-AT compound I requested info on ended up being the company’s top choice for my current needs. A 165/65R14 configuration was soon settled upon as my first set. 

Daihatsu Deck Van Lifted

Dual Sidewall And Multi-Ply Construction

There’s a lot to like about these compounds. Especially if you are looking for an M+S (mud & snow) tire that is fairly quiet on the road. Another big selling point of this tire is its dual sidewall and multi-ply construction. Elliptical contact patches may help with longevity and on-road manners. And the HD-2 puncture resistance of this tire, coupled with its broad center and shoulder tread blocks, allows greater 4×4 grip when things get silty or slick.

Daihatsu Deck Van Lifted

Dual-Layer Polyester Construction

These tires also have a dual-layer polyester construction with double the steel, followed by a thick coating of nylon. This gives the Geolander X-AT superior puncture resistance and sidewall strength. This makes it a clear choice for those running 14-inch kei truck wheels. Additionally, anyone rocking larger wheels and tires gets the added benefit of having triple the polyester. Bear that in mind if you are in the market for some all-season, all-terrain tires.

Daihatsu Deck Van Lift Springs

Forest Auto Factory

And then there was the topic of making my wheel and tire combo fit. They most definitely would not clear the front fenders if I continued to bounce around atop those tiny stock springs. The Deck Van rides on a van chassis, and not a typical kei truck frame with leaf springs out back. I needed a set of coil springs that could cover all four corners. This took some digging, but what I eventually discovered was about as ideal of a product as I could have imagined.

Daihatsu Deck Van Lifted

Lift Springs For The Win

What I ended up settling on (literally), was a set of lift springs from Forest Auto Factory (FAF) out of Chiba Prefecture here in Japan. I first encountered this company at Tokyo Auto Salon 2022, when it took home the grand prix prize for best kei car for its immaculately handcrafted wooden dune buggy. So imagine my elation when I came across images of my generation of Daihatsu Deck Van lifted on springs on the FAF website. I became even more elated when they emailed me back a week later, saying that they too would be interested in being a part of my little build.

Daihatsu Deck Van Lifted

Precisely As Planned

As for product details, the webpage for the FAF Daihatsu Deck Van lift springs clearly states that these springs provide 35mm (about 1.4 inches) of lift. Japanese vehicle inspection requirements only allow kei vehicles to have 50mm (about 2 inches) of additional lift over the stock configuration. Consequently, I immediately became concerned about my wheel and tire decision. These tight restrictions left me with just about 1.5 centimeters of space for my larger wheels and beefier tires. But after a quick measurement, what do you know? My new wheel and tire combo was precisely 1.5 centimeters taller than my stock setup. Don’t you just love it when things work out precisely as planned?

Daihatsu Deck Van Lifted


I’m by no means a fan of wheelin’ in the wild on a dinky spare tire. So, I included a fifth wheel on my order form, along with an extra tire for strapping to the roof of my rig. I have also long despised the act of dealing with rusty under-mounted spare tires. Not to mention the clearance and puncture concerns they create in off-road situations. An overhead, basket-mounted spare seemed like a far more sensible solution. But first I needed to find a way to safely secure the thing. Enter the bright minds over at BOLT Lock, and its cable lock solution. It’s sturdy and lengthy enough to secure my spare to the roof. The brand’s Breakthrough One Lock Technology (BOLT) eliminates the need to carry a bunch of keys. It gives you the ability to secure a ton of gear with just your vehicle’s ignition key.

One-Stop Security Solution

If you can insert a cable lock into its mated barrel and turn a key, then BOLT Lock is sure to be your one-stop security solution. Being that I have long been considered a cable lock aficionado, upgrading to this sort of setup was rather exciting.

Here are some of the specs on the BOLT Lock Cable Locks I was sent for securing my spare to the roof, all of which are precisely what we here at Power Automedia look for in a security product of this caliber.

  • Coiled cable measurements are 6 feet long with a 1/4-inch diameter (black vinyl coated )
  • “Auto Return Spring” locks automatically when a key is removed
  • Double ball bearing locking mechanisms
  • Plate tumbler sidebar to prevent picking and bumping
  • Stainless steel lock shutter to keep the elements out
  • Weatherproof silicone shelled barrel with shutter guard
  • Vehicle ignition key compatible
  • Limited lifetime warranty

Daihatsu Deck Van Lifted

The World’s Smallest Lift Install Commences!

Come install day, things went fairly smooth… up until it was time to remove the stock spare from beneath the rear. We’ll get to that headache here in a tick.

In contrast, the rear lift springs were a cinch, and both sides were installed in under fifteen minutes. This is due to the truck’s super simple trailing arm suspension and there being plenty of real estate to work with. Despite having over 150,000 kilometers on the odometer, this Deck Van has been meticulously maintained, and the condition of the stock rear suspension is a testament to this fact.

Daihatsu Deck Van Lifted

Removing The Driver-Side Top Hat By Touch

As for the front, MacPherson-style install, that took a little more finagling. Being that this is a cab-over design, and a truly tiny cab-over vehicle at that, wrenching real estate anywhere beyond the the front seats is limited at best. But the man in charge of Kamiyama Motors is well-versed in dealing with these sorts of situations. He immediately set to reaching up under the steering wheel to remove the top hat by touch alone. The passenger side proved far easier, as the removal of the glovebox granted ample amounts of access and visibility.

Springs swapped, and the stock suspension inspected, everything was reinstalled so that the wheel and tire combo could go on. While the extended lug nuts that we had lying around the shop proved to be a tad too long for aesthetics and shaken inspection, everything else snugged up perfectly.

Daihatsu Deck Van Lifted

Benefits Of Removing The Undermount Spare Tire

Now as for that stock undermounted spare tire. Let’s just say that we were moments away from hacking its retainer bolt off when the breaker bar suddenly hooked up and the rust-riddled wheel retainer rod dropped. Unnecessarily oversized, and surprisingly heavy, removing the stock spare cleared up a ton of under-bed real estate. It also considerably reduced rear overhang weight.

Daihatsu Deck Van Lifted

Pad Spacer And Bumper Shaving

We also encountered a slight issue up front on the driver side once the chassis was back on all fours. The Deck Van’s flimsy front bumper appears to have warped slightly over the years. The result: it was a few millimeters closer to the right tire than the left tire. A quick silicone pad spacer was followed by about 5mm of bumper shaving. This provided plenty of clearance, regardless of which direction the wheel was pointed.

Daihatsu Deck Van Lifted

Lifted And Ready

Speaking of wheels, that full-size spare snugged up perfectly to the rear of the roof basket. With the cable lock from BOLT Lock threaded and fixed, the world’s smallest lift upgrade was complete. Our total lift measurements once spring settling was complete? Just a fuzz under 5 centimeters (2 inches). This is precisely where we needed to be to clear any moderate rocky outcroppings or tree stumps on the mountain. Oh, and clear inspection come the next time that was required.

Daihatsu Deck Van Lifted

What’s Next For Operation Daihatsu Deck Van?

With our off-road basics installed, the next big question became two-fold.

First of all, how does this spring/wheel/tire combo perform on-road, as well as off-road in the mud, snow, sand, and shale-covered passes of the mighty Super Rindo Mountain Forest Road, which as previously mentioned is Japan’s longest public 4×4 trail?

Secondly, there is the question of what we feel is most necessary for the build going forward. As a function-over-form sort of guy, and Operation Daihatsu Hijet Deck Van being an inexpensive farm truck with zero F’s left to its title, the path seems clear.

It’s time for some steel bumpers, a winch and recovery gear, and custom struts for greater control. Additionally, increased rear cargo storage capacity and mounting solutions. Finally, some locking differentials for both the front and rear carriers. While we’re at it we might as well upgrade our lighting and attach some emergency bug-out gear. And of course, modify the body of the vehicle as best we can so that it doesn’t look like a Pokémon pet on wheels. Stay tuned to Off Road Xtreme as the build progresses. 

Daihatsu Deck Van Lifted

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About the author

Micah Wright

Raised on LEGOs by grandfathers who insisted on fixing everything themselves, Micah has been a petrolhead in training since age four. His favorite past times include craft beer, strong cigars, fast cars, and culinary creativity in all of its forms.
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