Once every two years, the classic car enthusiast goes to Le Mans in july to sleep drunk in an uncomfortable tent placed between a Ferrari 250 Breadvan and an Alfa Romeo Tipo 33/TT/3, because that’s what Le Mans Classic is mainly about. Still, during this 2018 edition, I noticed a more exciting sight while I was chillin’ in the paddock. And that exciting sight was… Kei cars, kei cars everywhere !
Because we were definitely not a market targeted by those tiny cars made to comply with a strict japanese tax regulation, we didn’t get a lot of them, and the few we did weren’t exactly the coolest ones. If you are lucky enough you might eventually come across a Dahaitsu Move or a GME Rascal (that is basically a rebranded Suzuki Carry), but the japanese domestic market kept the most interesting ones for itself. So when I saw those Honda Acty loaded up with mechanics and some vintage centerlock BBS speeding through the paddock, I was quite amazed and started documenting it.
Why kei cars then? I asked a team and they said that their little size is perfect to be packed in their trailer, and they were perfect to then move people, parts, tools and mechanics around the paddock. Kei cars were made for that racing life without before they even knew it.
The most common specimen at LMC seemed to be the Honda Acty, from the first facelift of the first generation to some late second gens, with period japanese stickers still on their windshield or back. Some teams have even chopped them from the top of the radiator grill upwards to make them fit more easily in their trailers, and have also transformed the back tub into a flat bed.
It is no surprise that the classiest and most refined of them all, was the legendary Dahaitsu Midget 2 brang here by J.D Classics. Yes, that’s the unusual kei car we discovered in Gran Turismo 2 without really understanding why it was put there in the first place. Another spotlight was a Dahaitsu Move with the roof scooped and replaced by a piece of wood to stock up some wheels, and still leave room in the trunk. Possibilities are endless.
The only rivaling european vehicle in the paddock was a Piaggio Ape, but let’s be honest it didn’t carry the same panache as these japanese engineering masterpieces.
I may be over rating them slightly, but bear in mind that without its trusty Honda Acty, that broken down Iso A3C would just be a motionless piece of overpriced italian metal.