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Hiace project Day van leaving these shores.

Joey spud

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I have been looking for a cheap van for a while now,something that i can cart crap about in and also use as a sort of Day van.
My budget was £1500 max but i really wanted to spend far less if possible and improve it over time but it soon became obvious that VW t4's are massively scene taxed and Transits are all rotten at this price.
Vito's likewise rusty and mega milages only available for my budget and i have no love for Vivaro or Trafics as i have spent too many hours towing the things or sending them off on the back of a flatbed.

So i started looking at the humble Hiace.
These never seem to go wrong in 17 years of roadside breakdown patrolling i can't recall attending one with anything more serious than a flat tyre or battery.
Early non turbo 2.4 diesel ones are so simple they just run and run but the downside is they are only 87bhp and so sluggish and a bit thirsty compared to a more modern van.

I spotted one down in Devon on ebay and while i dithered about the distance it sold for £1500 and i thought fuck it i should have had a bid on that,then it was relisted on a buy it now for £1600 (no bites) then auctioned again starting bid £1000 that was then dropped to £800.

After a few messages with the seller i popped in a max bid of £999 and waited for the auction to end and i found i had indeed won a shonky 1996 Toyota Hiace for £895.

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Have a picture she's a honey i'm sure you'll all agree.


It had been sitting for a couple of months but the seller said it was 100% good to go and he would and had driven it all over the place without any concerns so i arranged a date to collect it and said i would call him the night before to confirm i was deffo coming down.


Being a bit lazy i didn't fancy driving 240 miles down to the west country then back again in a strange slow van all in one day so decided to drive down on one day stay over night in Okehampton then collect the van the next day for a leisurely run back up to Kent,what could possibly go wrong with such a simple plan.


I booked an overnight stay at the White Hart in Okehampton and really cannot recomend the place highly enough.

It's a freshly refurbished 17th centry Pub / Accomodation owned by JD Weatherspoons and for £70 a night was absolutely spot on.


So i checked in late afternoon and had a couple of pints of Shipyard American craft ale (£2.49 bargain) then messaged the vendor to say i was actually now in Devon and would see him in the morning.


At about 10pm i got a call from the seller who sounded a bit sheepish.

He had just been down to where the van was stored to add some fuel and give it a whizz up and down the lane only to find the battery light was staying and his multi meter was showing it wasn't charging and a front brake was badly binding and getting a bit hot.


You got to laugh really it's just one of those things so as i was down here now i may as well go and have a look so we arranged to see it in the morning anyway.

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Marvellous things, I'll be watching this with interest.  Here's mine:




Never really got around to documenting my conversion, it's been done very slowly and amateurishly over 2 years and still isn't 100% done but I love it and it's been as reliable as expected.  The only issues I've had really have been down to years of hard use and wear.  Cosmetically it's almost rust-free bar a couple of areas, unfortunately the chassis is dissolving quite rapidly but I'll keep it going as long as I can.

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Next morning saw me and the other half standing in front of a sad looking van.

The heavy mist and drizzle was trying its best but failing miserably to disguise just how rough the paintwork was.

Internet images really do flatter to deceive,i knew about the replacement side door that was required after a Polish lorry had stoved it in but i didn't realise it had been painted black with a sort of purple sparkle finish lacquer.

It's going to need a budget blow over or maybe i'll have a go at wrapping it.
But it was good underneath and generally straight bodywise.These simple 2.4 engines sound so nice and this one at 160k was quiet and leak free,started on the button with zero smoke.

The thing is i didn't now want it or to be more precise i didn't want the hassle of getting it 240 miles back home so i started to make my excuses when the guy said because of the faults and feeling bad about not checking it over properly before i drove down i could take it away for £600.

Bugger that saw me fold and i paid up the revised amount,i must say the seller was a genuine guy and genuinely felt bad about the problems.

So how do you get a van 240 miles back home with a sticky brakes and non charging batteries ?? Call up your ex employers of course.


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So the Hiace was moved from its resting spot in a Farm yard (no not a barn find) and driven about seven miles to a nearby Travelodge just off the A30 and despite the dragging brake it performed well enough.


Right lets go online and tax it then shall we??.


Er no we can't,no matter what i try i can't get the internet to work on either of our devices so had to resort to taxing it via the dvla automated phone service which spilled out a long 12 digit reference number at the end as my only proof that it was now taxed.

I do hope Mr RAC man believes it's now taxed.


The RAC were called and a 45 min eta was given for a Patrol to attend so while we waited i started it up again only for the charging light to now go out and even the front brake had seemed to sort itself out.

I was in danger of making myself look a bit of a dick here but decided to wait for assistance rather than push on up the wet A30 and run out of electricity.


The nice Patrol checked the charge rate and it was a lowly 13.1v under load and there was only around 10 amps coming out of the alternator when measured with an Amp clamp.

Then the Alternator body got a bit hot and smelly along with the charge light showing again so the unit was goosed.


Rather than straight away offering to get it recovered home it was suggested that an Alternator could be sourced from ECP in Launceston and fitted in the carpark.

Nice try but no thankyou that part will be mega expensive (rrp and then some) and it still doesn't solve the possible brake concern.


When the lad realised i was traveling with another car and that the van could travel up to Kent unattended he gave up trying to push a repair and agreed to the Recovery even taking my word it was taxed as it was still showing as sorn online.


To start the ball rolling it was decided that the Toyota could be trailered (rdt) behind his van as far as the Recovery Contractors premises at Exeter.


So i waved it goodbye and went home in my boring but capable diesel Avensis.

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I don't think you'll be disappointed with your purchase :) We have the import version, a Granvia day van and have been on more trips away this year with it than probably the previous 3 with a caravan. There's just enough space to be comfortable but they're just about small enough to fit in a normal car park space. I used mine as a daily drive for a month last year when the Leggy was in for MOT. They are pretty bullet proof, easy to work on and even genuine parts are surprisingly cheap.

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Watching with interest! Ex- employer Mr Spud, have you moved?


After seventeen years i decided to give them 4 weeks notice.


The short version is i loved the job but in the end it got too embarrassing working for them.


The succession of Private Equity type owners have ripped the soul out of and ruined a great company,everything has been cut to the bone and greed is now King.


Taking a break and going to look around for something new to do next year.

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Now it's just a case of waiting for the Toyota to travel up and get dropped off so i had better stay local i guess.

I got a call at 08.30 the following morning from RAC asking if i was still in Devon and did have any spare keys for the van ?

It seems they had gone to load it up at the Contractors Exeter yard and managed to snap the ignition key in the door lock (two different keys).
Luckily for me i did have a spare ignition key but unluckily for them it was in Kent.

"Not to worry the wheels are straight we should still be able to load it up ok we will see you later".

Come 6pm and there was still no sighting of the shonky van so i rang up to enquire where it might be (they have got previous for misplacing vehicles) to be told it's in storage at Thruxton and did i know the ignition key was broken...
Closely followed by another call saying the van was at a Contractors site in Portsmouth and did i know the ignition key was broken...

Next morning the Hiace has been spotted by an ex colleague at Clacket lane services enjoying a quick coffee before finally landing at my place at mid day.

"Honey i'm home"

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So what does a £600 Hiace look like ??

Just realised i have a bit of a Japanese themed driveway.

Saab sold on ebay but winner has gone silent on me after i waited in all bank holiday for the clown to turn up.

I think it may have been blue.






Chod spotting monkey installed.


The previous owner broke up a Granvia so thats why it now has the Granvia dash and single seats along with the two side windows fitted.

I do like the early Hilux wheels too.


I think first things first is to get the alternator sorted out,looking on line the cheapest unknown branded ones are around £140 so i will take my one off and drop it off at an old school place in Bexley http://www.bexleystarters.co.uk/   to see what's what.

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I used to drive a R plate one of these for work years ago, it was a nice thing to drive if a bit slow. Also it'd slide the rear end first when flat out around bends on dual cabbageways, which I obviously did most days because young twat*.







*I'm older now

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looks alright, double airbed for dossing, keep the single seat for eating your butty and brew. cartridge stove for making brew (dont use it inside bus), bucket or porta-potti (you know what for). jobs a goodun. Ours was cheap because the previous owner didnt stop when they heard the crunches (hardly a straight panel) so dont bother about the door, your iffy caliper might free off if not get an exchange. you will have a usable camper and change out of £1500, i am saying that figure allowing for new tyres all round, brake overhaul, service and new belts, less if your good with spanners, ask flat4 for her parts contacts


good thing is converting to a van takes us 10 minutes, dozen 14mm bolts removes the seats and a 8' sofa fits along with a lot more, the granvia isnt a great drive being on torsion bar suspension but its a van and better than a rapidly dissolving transit

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Out of interest, the Saab you sold, is that the one on eBay with an iffy gear selection?


Yes it was that same one.


The winner (with a grand feed back of 2) after much excitement and gushing about how the car was going to be a long term keeper started making excuses about picking it up and then fell silent.


I will rewrite the ad and list it again soon enough as i need the room.

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Watching with interest, I fancy one as a day van too, is there a engine to avoid? or a year when they start getting flakey?


To be honest i don't know much about them either.


Early ones are 2.4d non turbo so not too quick but are unburstable later ones are 2.5t d4d engined so quicker,more efficient but more to go wrong but being a Toyota they dont really go wrong.


They seem to do massive milages and dont rust out as bad as a Transit.

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After seventeen years i decided to give them 4 weeks notice.


The short version is i loved the job but in the end it got too embarrassing working for them.


The succession of Private Equity type owners have ripped the soul out of and ruined a great company,everything has been cut to the bone and greed is now King.


Taking a break and going to look around for something new to do next year.


Much like the A.A then..............

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Watching with interest, I fancy one as a day van too, is there a engine to avoid? or a year when they start getting flakey?


As said above, to add on what I know of the Powervan: longitudinal non-turbo 2.4D in earlier ones is a little bit slow but a simple, solid, reliable lump, gearing is quite short so feels lively enough at lower speeds, starts to run out of breath after 75mph-ish but more than capable of motorway use.  They come in short and long wheelbase and that's about it, all rear wheel drive.  There was a 2.7 petrol which is pretty rare, they do seem capable of enormous mileages with very little maintenance.  Bodyshells don't seem to rust much at all, the chassises do though as I'm finding out - although that said, they're endlessly better in this respect than Vitos and Transits.  Secondhand parts can be a bit tricky to find and often stupidly expensive, probably as not many get broken unless they've been crashed, anything that still runs and drives seems to get shipped off to Africa.


From 2002 they have a slightly different grill and the 2.5 D4D engine plus a few minor upgrades, not driven one so I don't know how much difference it makes but probably quite a lot!  From 2007ish onwards they got a different face and some interior upgrades but fundamentally the same van, I think the last couple of years up to 2011 they got air conditioning and some other toys, at some point they got a 6 speed gearbox too which I do envy.  The Granvia and Regius are Hiace grey import derivatives, the Granvia has a posh interior and many seats (see BorniteIdentify, he has one) and the Regius is similar but a narrower bodyshell.

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  • 2 weeks later...

An update it shall be.


The van came with a set of new budget tyres laying loose in the back alas they were an inch too round for the van but they were the perfect size (205/55x16) for Focus,Mondeo,Astra's of a certain vintage so i popped them on the bay on a £80 buy it now listing and had them sold and collected the next day.

I whizzed the Alternator off in a matter of minutes (nicely placed up high) and went to Bexley to see if it could be revived with some old school skillz and new bits.
No was the short answer after quickly stripping it it became clear it was beyond repair,the windings were blackened and burnt and the armature was deeply scored and badly worn.

The guy said if i had some deep emotional attatchment to this particular Alternator then he could do something with it if i left it with him otherwise a new gauranteed one was £160 and he had two on the shelf.


New it was then ouch at the price.

Another twenty mins to refit it and we now have 14.4v and 25a at the twin batteries.

While i was roaming about pretending like i knew how to use a multi meter i decided to remove the nest of redundant immobiliser wiring from under the dash and also add a couple of extra 12v sockets.




Just a quick check of the sticky brake and then a test drive.

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  • Joey spud changed the title to Hiace project Day van leaving these shores.

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