Every week, I scan popular online marketplaces looking for bucket list cars and motorcycles. As many of you know, each week, I round up my favorites and present them to you to drool over. Along the way, I often run into oddball vehicles. Here’s one of those finds. On the outside, this Mitsubishi Fuso Canter has some Dekotora style (I’ll explain that in a sec). Then you open the doors and find out that there’s a tiny camper inside! And yes, you can own it.
One interesting side of Japanese car culture that we don’t see often in America is the Dekotora truck. Dekotora, which roughly translates to “decoration truck” or “art truck,” involves taking a truck and adorning it with heavy visual customization, as shown below. These trucks may feature massive chrome structures, artwork, all sorts of neon lights, custom bodywork, and interiors that would put the work of Pimp My Ride to shame. According to CNN, many of these trucks were inspired by a series of films published by the Toei Company in 1975.
In Torakku Yarō (Truck Guys), truckers piloted rigs decorated top to bottom with intricate and flashy customization. Decotora style existed before Torakku Yarō, but the films get credit for taking the style and giving it mass appeal. Today, these trucks are so stunning that they sometimes get worldwide attention and their drivers get their own profiles. Dekotora rigs vary in size and in intensity. Some trucks are mild while others are very wild.
This 1994 Mitsubishi Fuse Canter for sale is on the mild end of the spectrum — definitely not as wacky as the truck above. It has a giant chrome visor hanging over the windshield, a chrome bumper, and what appears to be some crazy lights. Otherwise, it’s just a white truck. But there’s way more going on inside.
Where The Canter Comes From
Mitsubishi Fuso Truck and Bus Corporation started life as the commercial arm of Mitsubishi. In 1932, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries launched the B46 bus. Measuring in at about 23 feet long, the B46 had seating for 38 people and carried them using a 7.0-liter gasoline six making 100 horsepower. Fuso was the name chosen for the bus after launch customer Japan Ministry of Railroads held a contest. Mitsubishi Fuso would continue to build buses and introduce more vehicles like trucks.
The Mitsubishi Fuso Canter launched in 1963, replacing the marque’s T710 truck. These first Canters were cabovers just like the Canters of today, and Mitsubishi Fuso says that this front-wheel-drive two-ton truck came in several body styles and was driven by a 2.0-liter 90 HP gasoline engine or a 2.0-liter 68 HP diesel.
This Canter Camper
This 1994 Mitsubishi Fuso Canter comes from the truck’s sixth generation, which launched in late 1993. Located under the cab is a 2.8-liter 4DR7 diesel four-cylinder engine that the selling dealership says is making 120 HP. That’s backed by a five-speed automatic transmission and drives the rear wheels. While I could not find performance figures, I would expect this camper to be a slow cruise like other Japanese camper imports often are.
The rest of the magic happens when you pop open the doors.
Now, I could not find any identifying markings in the interior and the dealership hasn’t given any information about the camper, either. With that said, I do not think this was a conversion from a DIYer. Through some digging, I found another Canter camper from this era with the same camper body and with the same interior layout. Annoyingly, that one also lacked identifying marks. With at least two of these out there, I think a company did it, though which one currently eludes me.
Peering inside, this has all of the amenities that you’d expect from a camper of this size. The seller says that there’s a stove, sink, refrigerator, microwave, seating for six people, and more. Sadly, there are just a few pictures of the interior, but it looks pretty cozy. Given the army of fans between the cab and the living space, it would appear that the camper is short on air-conditioning.
One feature it does have is pretty neat. Move around to the back through the hallway or the rear barn doors and you’ll reveal the unit’s bathroom. This is a wet bath featuring a flushing toilet and a shower. I love this because if you’re in a secluded enough area, you could read the Morning Dump from the throne or take a shower in full view of nature. Unless only I’m that kind of weirdo.
The seller doesn’t give us any information about how power works in this camper or anything about tank sizes, but they do give us some information to help size the thing up. This camper measures in at 16.4 feet long, 6.5 feet wide, and 8.3 feet tall. It weighs in at about 5,555 pounds. In other words, it’s a little shorter than the camper vans that are popular here in America; a significant chunk of that is thanks to the cabover design. There are 55,147 miles on the odometer, though it’s unclear if those miles are verified.
Perhaps even better is that this Dekotora-style camper is just $21,995 from a dealership in Seattle, Washington. Yes, that’s still a lot of money, but when even the least expensive Winnebago campervan sets you back $140,000, that price suddenly looks a lot more attractive. I’d be willing to cruise at 65 mph if it meant saving over 100 fat stacks. So, I’d say that this is almost a deal. You’ll have a camper that looks like nothing else at the campground. I’d love to see the Dekotora theme finished out, maybe with an awesome mural on the side?
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I hadn’t thought about Dekotora style in some time. Always enjoyed that campy over the top stuff even if it’s not something I’d drive. This one is nicely compact with lots of features, but I shudder when thinking of the acceleration-or lack thereof.
Another possible article would be on the decorative trucks and vans of India. Top Gear’s India Special featured some, but I couldn’t find much on the internet back then
Why is there an upside-down hanger on the hood? Unlicensed mobile abortion clinic?
Somebody really has to start training ChatGPT on JDM model names.
Man. I still really, really lament not being able to buy that flatbed hauler when I saw it. That thing is still just so amazing.
Oh boy, those rails up front look they’d take a person’s head right off in a vehicle vs. pedestrian accident.
I think this was a camper made by a company in Japan called “California Dream”? It looks familiar, but I’m far from an expert.
My parrot and I could travel in style in this little camper.
This would be a fun car to pull up to a campsite in. Glad to see some dekotora here.
“…a dealership in North Seattle, Washington.”
There is no North Seattle, Washington, although I see where you got it. The dealership is on Aurora Avenue North but, somewhat confusingly, on their website they wrote their entire address on a single line without any separation:
8101 Aurora Ave. North Seattle, WA 98101
You know, I’ve been to Seattle twice before and didn’t recall passing through a “North” version of it when I picked up my Honda Beat or when I got my VW Touareg V10 TDI. I thought maybe it was one of those things like how we have a West Chicago out here. Thank you!
You’re welcome! I see you’ve edited it, which is more than I can do with the typo at the very end of my original comment. The ZIP Code shown at the top of their website in the line I quoted is 98108, not 98101 as I have it, although in reality both are wrong as the actual code for that address is 98103. Sigh.
Ooh 81st and Aurora: come for the camper, get some fentanyl and a scabrous prostitute while you’re there!
I’m not sure what the Venn Diagram would look like between “outdoor enthusiast” and “weebo”.
Good day tripper. Try to stay overnight and might as well leave your partner now.
So cool to heard about decorated truck culture in other countries. When I was researching one of my favorite movies, Sorcerer, for Reels & Wheels Podcast, I learned it was a similar South American culture that inspired the movie’s trucks. Lots of decorations and cool names.
Doesn’t the cab usually tip forward on cab-overs for access to the engine?
If so (I’m really just working with assumptions based on internet pictures), how do you get at the engine in this one?
Probably a panel under one seat or the other that lifts up. That’s how most of the Japanese cabover vans are.