You may be familiar with the concept of a restomod, taking an old car and bringing it up to date with later-model tech and engineering, but have you considered retromodding instead?
The idea isn’t entirely new, of course. Japan is home to Subaru Sambars with Kombi-style faces, Nissan Cubes with Chevy C10 identity issues, and Suzuki Everys that think they’re American school busses, not to mention the many ways to restyle a Jimny.
One Japanese firm – Flex Renoca – has taken the idea and applied it to a collection of Toyota 4x4 and commercial vehicles.
Owning an ageing vehicle in Japan can be an expensive pursuit, with a road tax regime geared towards keeping newer, safer and cleaner cars on the road. While classics do exist, many owners turn to retro-homage models for a classic look without the ownership hassles.
That’s where the Renoca vehicles come in. Although not based on any current-generation Toyotas, the retro-inspired panel kits (with some fun and evocative names) are all designed to mate to more recent donor cars.
Owners can take their pick from a 60 Series LandCruiser conversion for the 80 Series and 100 Series LandCruiser, a third-gen HiAce conversion for the fifth-gen HiAce, or one that’s probably less familiar to Aussies, a first-generation 70 Series Prado face designed to fit the second-gen 90 Series Prado.
Starting with the 80 Series Cruiser as a base, you have two choices of 60 Series design direction, Wonder and Phoenix.
The Phoenix treatment brings a range of two-tone paint options ranging from pastels to the oh-so 80s era burgundies and browns.
The front end styling mimics earlier 60 Series versions with a four-slat grille and single round headlight on each side. A choice of grey or chrome grille trim is also available.
Other customisable features include a selection of wheel designs, mirror caps, lift kits and roof carrier equipment.
On the inside the Phoenix carries over a mostly-standard interior, including Toyota’s all-grey plastic, but re-trimmed seats are available in a range of leather, fabrics, and two-tone treatments.
The regular Toyota steering wheel can be subbed out for a wood-rimmed Nardi unit, while the whole interior basks in softened light thanks to yellow window tint.
The Wonder takes the same 80 to 60 conversion kit, plus the four-slat grille and round headlights with chrome trim, but takes a slightly more upmarket path.
Chrome dresses the roof drip rails, beltline and door handles, while the body bump strips score a wood-panel treatment.
Paint colours are a darker set of single-tone finishes, but a contrasting vinyl roof can be optioned – to slightly questionable effect.
Inside, the Wonder shares the same seat trim options with tweeds, stripes, single and two-tone colour combos.
If the idea of using an 80 Series Cruiser is a little too dated for you (sold in Australia from 1990 to 1998, but overseas until 2008) perhaps the newer 100 Series (with a 1998 to 2007 sales run) would be more your style.
For that, you’ll want Renoca’s simply titled 106.
Channeling a base model aesthetic, the 106 comes in a range of single tone colours, with a strong leaning towards the greens, beiges, and battleship greys that defined the 60 Series.
A simple steel bumper comes standard but the face can be optioned with either the early series grille, or an updated three-slat grille with dual rectangular headlights at each side. A choice of black or chrome is offered for the bumper and grille too.
A smaller selection of wheels and interior trims are available on the 106, though, of the available range, there’s none too conspicuously absent.
Of course, a full-size Cruiser is a little more car than every owner needs, where the slightly more compact Prado would do the job. If the 1996-2002 Prado is just too modern for you, there’s two flavours of first-gen available, to turn the clock back ever so slightly.
The American Classic comes with a choice of Bundera-style round or Prado-esque square headlights in a modified Prado grille, complete with Toyota script. Opt for the Prado face and you also have the option of black, chrome, or a blend of both.
The American Classic’s real party piece is its available wood panelling. A vinyl wood decal applied along the doors capped with wood-look trim top and bottom. The Classic just wouldn’t fit its name without it.
It’s also possible to get irresponsible with colour choices, teaming plenty of chrome, metallic gold paint, polished wheels and wood trim. A more measured approach might be best.
If the American Classic isn’t attention seeking enough, there’s also the Color Bomb Prado option, which adds in big wheel arch flares, a meatier front bumper, a Yakima roof carrier system and a choice of predecessor Prado grille and headlight themes.
As for the name, well along with more subtle shades there’s a choice of can’t-miss-it green, yellow, blue, purple and orange exteriors. Bead-lock wheels are also available with a matching outer ring.
Oh, and wood. You can still get it with wood trim for some unfathomable reason.
It’s possible to be a bit more subtle inside with some calmer trim options… As long as you ignore the body-coloured dash inserts and seat piping.
Last, but by no means least, are the Coast Lines packages for the previous Hiace van, which wind the cloak back to the 1980s, with – of course – a choice of dual rectangular or single round light faces, depending on the era and spec you’re aiming for.
Paint options extend to single colour, two tone, and contrast roof layouts. Colours are warm and retro with a huge array of choices, not to mention a slew of side decal add-ons.
Both five-seater low roof and 10-seater mid roof van are able to be converted. Interiors get a full make-over, and the rear sections are designed to be reconfigurable as travel, work, play and sleep spaces.
By far the most customisable, the Coast Lines lets you not only run an array of fletcher, fabric, or mixed trims in the interior, but also adds a choice of wood grain vinyl flooring or loop pile carpet. Groovy.
Pricing for a turn-key package starts from ¥2,298,000, or around AU$30,000 but can vary if you elect to BYO donor vehicle, or run up depending on how detailed you go with customisation.
If you’d like to configure your own retromod Toyota you can try the Renoca configurator, but be warned, the results are highly addictive.
Leave a comment and share your ideal spec, below.
Click on any of the images in the article to launch a gallery of alternative configurations.