Sometime it’s not just about what a car is, it’s what it represents. Even just sitting there, machines project the potential for speed, for escape, for the journey. The Delica? Your ultimate adventure vehicle.
This one belongs to Andrew Strain, an outdoor sports photographer I interviewed for my local outlet (story below). It’s a 1996, one of the JDM imports that fill Vancouver’s streets.
Of all the Japanese market cars that you find up here, there are few more common than the Delica. For instance, when I drove that Stagea wagon out to Stanley Park to take a few photos, well of course there was somebody parked in a Delica, illegally camped. From some registration documentation I was able to find online, it looks like the total number of vans is somewhere about 2000 imported - though who knows how many are still out there on the road.
Andrew uses his Delica properly, and will be up and down the backroads of BC this year, right up to the Yukon. He’s driven it out to Alaska before to cover backcountry skiing, and his shots of his truck/van/whatever - like this one, lit up by a campfire at night beneath a canopy of stars - are completely stunning.
I spent a little time out on the far west coast of the Vancouver Island, just down from Tofino, and I noticed just how many of these things are around. They’ve essentially replaced the Westfalia and the old VW Microbus as the outdoorsy, surfer-lifestyle vehicle of choice.
It makes a lot of sense. The Delica has the underpinnings of the Pajero, so it’s very capable, combined with a thrifty-ish turbodiesel engine, and a spacious van body. You can sleep in it. You can carry eight of your friends. It’s pretty decently reliable, all things considered. Apart from a scarcity of some parts, it’s an easier vehicle to live with than a Westy.
The VW ‘Bus is now a collector’s item. The Westy is aging rapidly, and really quite slow. The Eurovans are astoundingly expensive. This thing fills that gap - but it still pisses some people off. The provincial insurance company is working hard to extend the importation law to basically ban right-hand-drive cars until they’re twenty-five years old. The claim is that they’re involved in more accidents.
I’m sure that’s true. Passing can be a bit tricky in a right-hooker, and blind corners at speed are sometimes alarming. But hey - you’re only supposed to drive within your vision anyway, right? Also, the Delica is more suited to trundling speeds than scorching up the highways. It’s a stop-and-smell-the-roses kinda machine. Lumping it in with all the RHD drift cars that get smacked up pretty regularly by more aggressive drivers just seems unfair.
So, perhaps it’ll become one more endangered species on the road someday in the future, but for now the Delica is just about the perfect car for BC’s big outdoors. You just have to wonder - if these had been made in the 1990s on this side of the water, might there now be a whole new generation of young people, getting ready to run to the hills in a hand-me-down van, far from any cel-phone signal, venturing beyond the reach of social media in search of something real?