Meet the Absolutely Rad JDM 1995 Toyota Hiace That I’m Calling Home


To get it fully trip-ready, I outfitted it with some inexpensive bins in which to store toiletries, clothes, and coffee supplies. I installed a bargain-basement Bluetooth head unit and a foam mattress topper to put on the bed (which the Super Custom comes equipped with, thanks to its folding and rotating rear rows of seats that lie flat and flush with each other). Some personal effects—Hot Wheels cars in the cabin, a pink floral comforter, a minature makeshift makeup stand—gave it a personal feel. 

Final touches included a power inverter to charge my laptop, mosquito netting for the massive sunroof, and a battery-powered fan for warm nights. It was the least work I’ve ever needed to do to make a living space habitable for me; this thing feels meant to be lived out of. The best part of this whole transformation is I finally can say I own my home. The American dream is dead for my generation unless you don’t mind calling a right-hand drive Toyota your abode, and honestly, I’ll take it. 

It also arrives in my life amid a troubled atmosphere that seems to demand a sturdy home. On top of the aforementioned breakup, the uneasiness from reintegrating into society at large, and the plan of driving into the vast unknown of the American West completely solo, the world locked down with me as a guy and it is reopening with me as a woman. 

This is a difficult experience regardless of circumstances, but the climate right now is tense for trans people. Thirty-three states currently have legislation on the table to revoke our rights in some shape or form; it appears we are the wedge-issue of the 2020s now that gay marriage has finally proven a losing battle for conservatives. I am extremely lucky to have supportive friends to see and talk to and to have the platform for my work that I do, but it’s difficult to look forward to emerging from the chrysalis of transition when roughly half the country finds your very existence objectionable. 

And so with this tension I bought the van. It was love at first drive and I needed to give myself the motivation to push forward. It would be so easy to have written part one of this story, chalked it up to a silly dream, and moved into a studio apartment to for another time. Looking at the van sitting in the driveway is a 3,000-pound reminder for me that even if it is a silly dream, now is going to be the time I chase it. 

This motor—the 3.0-liter, four-cylinder turbocharged diesel 1KZTE—is shared with the Land Cruiser Prado and Hilux, vehicles that have been tested in the most extreme conditions on Earth through actual warfare. I don’t intend to drive through any active conflict zones, but given the state of the country, it’s nice to know it would probably handle things fine. I didn’t expect the motor’s clatter under my seat to give me confidence. The van and its turbodiesel heart change nothing about the political climate I set off into, but they inspire resilience within me to know even when I’m alone, I can rely on it.

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