Friday, January 22, 2021

Taking On A Project

 The Chinky Pox is an extremely dangerous disease. It traps you indoors in the winter, with nothing to do but stare at the computer, and nibble on snacks until none of your clothes fit. So I need a project:

Destiny calls and I ride! Maybe. What I'm thinking of is buying a Japanese Kei truck. This isn't as easy as it sounds as they are not normally sold in the U.S. Here's one I had been considering:

Cute, no? Vehicle shown is a Suzuki Carry. Many other makes are available but they all look alike. Similar vehicles are seen around here as Cushman vehicles used on golf courses or in large industrial settings to move parts or tools. In Japan, they are used to transport farm or industrial goods modest distances. Engine size = 660cc, top speed is about 68mph. Stay off the U.S. freeways.

People are discovering these things as a more comfortable transport for hunting, fishing, and farm and ranch work and are finding that if you're not going very far, they work well on the road. The sides of the truck bed all fold down to give you a true flatbed, and the truck bed is 4.5' x 7'. Steering is almost universally on the right and the vehicles themselves mostly feature 2/4wd with hi-lo ranges and a locking front axle. Pretty versatile. The big drawback is that U.S. standard crash protection is non existent, so be careful. This also means they only weigh about 1500 lb so they go OK even with no horsepower to speak of. 

These are imported for off road use only in the newer models, but after 25 years, the safety standards are waived and you can try to put one on the road. Every state seems to have different standards for these things so be sure to check before buying. Some have been licensed in CO so I know it can be done BUT...

I asked my county clerk for info on papering one of these if I bought it from an importer with a Japanese title and got this:


  1. Statement of conformity from NHTSA

  2. Statement of fact from the importer (see wording below)

  3. Any one of the following US Customs forms:

    a. CPB7523 – Entry and manifest of Merchandise Free of Duty

    b. CPB 3299 Declaration for Free Entry of Unaccompanied Articles

    c. CPB 3311 Declaration for Free Entry of Returned American Articles

    d. CPB 7501 – Entry Summary (does not require a Customs Inspector's signature)

    e. CPB 3461 Entry/Immediate Delivery Secure and Verifiable ID will be required

  4. DR2698 Verification of Vehicle Identification Number (Colorado form)

  5. A certified weight slip may be required when weight is not disclosed on the ownership documents. Weight in pounds = kg x 2.23

  6. Odometer disclosure – Odometer disclosed on secure form. Owner must sign to begin odometer tracking.

  7. English translation of all accompanying documents. Translation must be notarized.

Importers must sign a SOF stating the following: “All appropriate entry and conformity documents including photos were properly completed, signed, dated, and submitted to NHTSA for approval on ____________(date).

Agents, subagents, dealers, or notaries may witness (certify or notarize) the importers signature. Dealers may not sign in place of importer.

NOTE: If the odometer reading is in kilometers, it must be converted to miles. Use the following formula: Km x .621371 = miles.

NOTES: Item 1 Being over 25 years old, the vehicle should be exempt from this.

Item 2 Should come with the vehicle if you are the first US owner.

Item 3 CPB _7501 and 3461___normally come with the vehicle

Item 4 This is a Colorado form available at the DMV Must arrange an appointment and meet the nice CHP cop who signs these. What I have heard is that the existing VIN # will be acceptable.

Item 5 Self explanatory. I believe the Japanese title includes the vehicle weight. Just include the conversion to pounds in the translation.

Item 6 Again mostly self explanatory. Not sure what a secure form is. Probably notarized. See note above: Mileage in miles to 6 decimal places!

Item 7 Self explanatory. Metric numbers should also have US conversions.

The importers SOF as described above. This should accompany the vehicle.

Also required, but not mentioned, would be a proof of insurance (get some from Haggerty @ $45/mo or so) and since I live in a Very Special High Altitude Zone, I will also need an emissions test proving that the vehicle meets the requirements for one sold normally in the US for the year of manufacture. There are only 6 counties in the US that are included in this group, and 5 of them are in Colorado. And yes, I live in one of them.

That last item may be the really big stumbling block as the 1996 Kei vehicles, although described as having to meet “tighter emissions standards”, the standards in question are Japanese and I have no idea what those might be. Also fuel injection does not appear on the things until the late 90's and I have doubts about a carbureted vehicle getting through emissions. It could happen though.

If you are buying from an importing dealer, all items except #4 above should come with the vehicle. If you are buying one already titled, in Colorado or some other state, all you need is the bill of sale, insurance, and if you live near me, an emissions certificate. The emissions cert is required to get license plates but not to get a Colorado title. Anyway you can get the title and a temp tag good for 1 or 2 months regardless, so you can go to a testing station and watch the techs there explode their heads trying to test it.

If you decide to give this a try, and you live outside the Emissions Zone, your odds are pretty good. Others have done this and succeeded. In the Denver metro area getting one of these through emissions may be as easy as getting a good tune-up or as hard as having to replace the engine. Of course if it turns out you need to replace the engine, you can always just proceed to the point where you get a title, then sell the thing to someone in a less restrictive county. Ones I've seen offered for sale seem to sell the same day.


Bob P said...

OK is it a 2wd or a 4X4 the way you said it (2/4) means it ether front or rear wd drive.
4X4 would let you have the locking hubs? By the way, thought you did not like 4wd drive
Bob P

Billll said...

It has a lever that lets you select: 2wd, 4wd hi, or 4wd lo. Yes, I don't have much use for 4wd, but as underpowered as this is, It probably would be handy to have from time to time. Some of these things come with 2wd only but most of them are selectable.