Some automotive topics require a sort of detached objectivity and other are just so cool you can't help but cheer out loud and stare like a 15-year-old boy on a Brazilian beach. Dream Factory Blow look-alikes are definitely the latter. In Translogic Episode 9.1, we take a look at these reinventions of classic American vans and trucks. While full-size vans haven't been fashionable in the U.S. since the early 1980's, in Japan they're Murdoch-crazy about them. But since vehicle registration and taxes are based on engine size and weight in Japan, owning something like a full-size Dodge Tradesman would cost a fortune, even if you had somewhere to park it. The alternative is to build one that's based on a small and inexpensive Japanese Kei Car.

The term "Kei car" (or "K-car") is short for keijidōsha or "light motor car." A K-car can be no longer than 11.15 feet by 4.86-feet wide and must have an engine that displaces less than 660cc, making no more than 63 hp. The small engines mean more than 30 mpg is common. Many of the Dream Factory Blow vehicles are built using K-cars, including such popular Japanese microvans as the Toyota bb, Mazda Spanio and Suzuki Lapin. Yes, those vintage Chevy Suburbans, 1970s Dodge vans, and VW microbusses all started life as something akin to the Scion xB.

The appeal of the Dream Factory Blow cars is pretty simple to understand: Even after modifications, these are still Kei cars and owners can still reap the many tax benefits. Japanese motorists must pay an acquisition tax that's based on the purchase price of the car -- the more expensive a car, the higher the tax. At the time of purchase, a weight tax must also be paid, so larger cars with big engines pay more tax. Then there's an annual tax that's based on vehicle category. K-cars are the smallest and pay the least, while large passenger cars and even cars Americans would consider compact pay substantially more.

In addition to the lower taxes and cost of ownership, K-cars are appealing for another reason. Many Japanese motorists must also prove they have a parking place for their car before registering it and then they must pay tax on that space. In some areas of Japan, K-cars are exempt from this due to their small size. K-cars also get special license plates.

Japanese car culture and style can clearly be a little odd at times. However, it's obvious American and Japanese enthusiasts alike share a love for the past. Even by American standards there's something really undeniably cool about a car that looks like a 1978 Dodge van but still offers all the comforts of a modern car including getting 30-40 miles per gallon.

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