If collecting Hot Wheels has taught me anything, it’s the importance of diversity. Diversity sparks creativity; creativity fuels culture. Without it, I honestly believe there would be no car culture, and certainly no Hot Wheels.
For a long period of time, Hot Wheels reflected California’s custom car culture. The diversity of that one segment of car culture carried the Hot Wheels brand for nearly 50 years. Collectors that have been around for more than 10 years can recall a time when Hot Wheels was predominantly a #Muscle Car brand. As of the last several years, we’ve seen an infusion of Japanese and European car culture. The popularity of these models among collectors has fueled the designers, prompting them to introduce more niché car cultures and past vehicles from Japanese and European automakers.
The best instance of this diversity comes (oddly enough) in the form of an American vehicle: the Dodge Van. The Hot Wheels #Dodge Van is a brand-new casting for 2021, as its first appearance is the in #2021 Hot Wheels “B” case assortment — in the #HW Drift mini collection. Unknowing collectors may question why such a — the word, “basic” comes to mind — automobile is being released by Hot Wheels. However, more observant collectors will notice this isn’t your typical Dodge van — even though the legal name for this casting is super vanilla…
The front end of the Hot Wheels #Dodge Van offers a front diffuser and a tow hook, giving even the more casual collectors the inclination that this is a track car. Logical concerns of Hot Wheels pimping out a passenger van seem imminent. But, as the title implies, Dodge van racing — or Dajiban [pronounced dah-jee-bahn] racing — is carving out its own niché in Japanese car culture.
How did dajiban racing start in Japan? … and what’s so special about Dodge vans?
The common belief among those that partake in racing these 1976 to 2003 Dodge vans is that the culture essentially started as a joke. These vans were originally used to haul the motorbikes of Japanese motorcycle racers. The legend goes on to say that during an intermission, someone raced a lap in their van sparking an outcry of laughter from fans and participants. One thing led to another, and you soon had challengers looking to top the previous van’s track time.
Dodge vans of this era were already incredibly popular cargo haulers, but in Japan, the narrow streets and lack of space favored a van with a short wheelbase that was easy to control. Oddly enough, it was the short wheelbase that doomed the #Dodge Van in the American market — as its lack of stability made it a horrible vehicle to drive at high speeds.
The prized vintage among these Dajiban racers? The 1994 Dodge 150 van.
Hot Wheels Designer, Ryu Asada, designed the new #2021 New Models #Dodge Van — introducing a global collector base to a niché racing syndicate in Japan. This #First Edition release of the Dodge Van comes in mint green, a popular color for historic Japanese vehicles. The large panoramic window atop the roof of the vehicle may have collectors thinking back to another popular racing Dodge van by Hot Wheels: the #Custom ’77 Dodge Van. Through the top of that vehicle, you could see the racing harnesses on the seats and the nitrous oxide tanks in the back.
The interior of this new Dodge Van casting offers collectors a view of the go-kart hanging out in this van’s payload as well as custom racing seats towards the front surrounding the van’s shift knob and hand brake.
Hot Wheels has always done a terrific job at having a diverse mainline, and the release of this #Dodge Van proves that the brand isn’t afraid to make a splash in a small segment of car culture. I would have to imagine that word has traveled to Japan about this van, and it has Dajiban enthusiasts eagerly awaiting the day it wears some Watanabe — #Real Riders 8-Spoke — wheels.