The Hiace

The Hiace Mk 3.0

The van now has a Garret turbo fitted to the engine giving 9psi of boost, and more power, particularly  on hills and for top gear motorway driving.  Also the addition of smaller 225/70/16 All Terrain tyres for better acceleration and smooth running on the road. Most noticeable we have the 1998 Toyota WRC graphics, and I have also modified the internal living space to give more space and comfort. 

 The Hiace Mk 2.0

Chris' Hiace has been modified for better off-road performance. It has a 2" suspension lift achieved with extended rear spring shackles & hangers and front torsion bar adjustment. It has 225 75 16 B F Goodrich Mud Terrain tyres on 16 x 7" modular steel wheels. The front wheel arches were modified to accommodate the wheels. The front end of the van was entirely rebuilt in Portugal after a collision. The van also has a breather snorkel fitted to better protect the engine from dust, sand and water.

Off-road on the edge of Europe, on the Portuguese west coast

The Hiace Mk 1.0 as it was originally imported in 2011


Make: Toyota
Model: Hiace Super Custom
Year: 1993
Engine: 3LT, 2.8 Turbo Diesel (aftermarket turbo kit)
Transmission: 5 speed automatic
Part time 4WD with Hi & Low range, locking front hubs.

Camper conversion:

Hi-top camper conversion, Yokohama Japan.
Rear seating, converts to double or single bed.
Bed in hi-top can be slid out or used for storage when folded away
Cupboards and storage in rear.
Two ring propane stove, 6kg propane bottle.
12 volt compressor fridge, Webasto Marine.
Sink and water pump, converts to shower that can be set up outside at the rear
Diesel heater, hot air blower type (Mikuni MY16)
Portable propane heater

Exterior fittings:

Rear roof rack and ladder
Two central roof bars
Roof storage box
Tow bar, with bike rack
Parking mirrors, front and rear

Current solar system 220 watts in total
The 100 watt panel on the left can be tilted towards the sun

My early solar set up, 2 x 40 watts

Electrical systems:

Solar panels on roof, 220 watts total, 1 x 100 watt, 3 x 40 watt, charge controller & battery monitor inside van.
2 x 110 Ah deep cycle batteries (charging from alternator, solar panel or 230v hook-up.)
Five 12 volt sockets
Two 230 volt sockets & two 110 volt sockets
150 & 500 watt 12v to 230v inverters
Kenwood stereo also hooked up to 2 x 30 watt Sony hi-fi speakers in rear. 


  1. dan says:
    September 23, 2012 at 11:10 pm
    hey great van set up bet it cost a bit ill looking into living in a van

    taigenetsudo says:
    September 23, 2012 at 11:27 pm
    It doesn’t cost too much, and can be done cheaper. You’ll soon start recouping the money living this way – it’s so cheap living! Go for it!

  2. Hi there -- Great series of films, great way to live. I am looking at this model and wondered what speed can you do without killing the engine. Does it run ok up and down hills, i heard the 2.8 non turbo was underpowered - Is it possible to tow a camper tent? Sorry for the myriad of questions
    Best Regards

    1. Hi Phil,
      Thanks for your comments and feedback. The van will cruise nicely at 60mph. You can do 70 or even 80 but its not as efficient or comfortable driving at that speed. You do tend to lose a bit of speed on hills yes, but I'd certainly tow a camper tent no problem. The engine is a good workhorse and very powerful in low box 4WD. Take care, Chris

  3. Hi Chris
    Many thanks for the info, just what i needed to know. There is one on Ebay very much like yours, even had the 3 inch lift, looking at your adventures over the moors it seems to stand up pretty well as long as you dont go too extreme. Is it ok in the snow.
    Best Regards

    1. Thanks, I'll take a look. Yes its excellent in the snow. The running gear on these is very similar to the early Toyota Hilux.

  4. Dear Hiace Hobo,

    Your van looks great.

    I'm looking for a Hiace 4x4 to live in, but cannot find one. In Germany they are all exported to Africa, in Netherlnads there are none. Any idea where to get one with, if possible with stire wheeel left.

    Wish you a lot of pleasure.

    By the way how much diesel do you use per km ?

    1. Hi and thanks for your comment,

      Hmmm, you will have to find one from the UK probably as the 4WD Hiaces are imported form Japan as they drive on the left there too. I don't think they made a LHD one. I get around 28-32 mpg, so you'll need to convert the figure. Good luck finding a good van - why not try a VW syncro 4x4?


  5. Like the blog. What sort of fuel consumption. Hs it been reliable. Sorry to be direct, but how much did the van cost? W

    1. Heh, thanks for getting in touch. Its around 28-32 mpg, and I've got 30mpg fully loaded with a bike on the back and a kayak on the roof, on good roads of course. Its been generally reliable apart from gearbox problems at one time so watch that if you test drive one. Look on the 'Vans for Sale' page to see the cost of these vans as it varies quite a bit.

      Take Care,


  6. thank chris. I am looking at an ebay one tomorrow. What do you notice if the gearbox might be going off?

    1. Hi,
      You would notice that it feels like the clutches are slipping on some gear shifts, like its not going firmly into each gear. Or, you might notice it jumping out of gear unexpectedly at a steady speed. Also test the overdrive button is working. This stops the van going into 5th gear if you set it to 'off'. Have fun - I hope it goes well, let me know if you get one!


  7. Thanks for the feedback. Just picked up the van and drove 131 miles home. Average 27.5 mpg (very strong head wind all the way, up and down the A35 across Dorset and Devon, stops in Bridport and Exeter. Gearbox seems fine. The On/Off overdrive buttin seems to work ok, I eas driving with it on all the time, but just tried turning it off (lights up) when going up hill and it seemed to work. The previous owner had the van for five years and first owner from importer and had never used it all ! How do you use yours, if at all?

    I have a pretty ropey old T25 and so trying to trade up. Both are high tops with the upper pull out bunk. Initially found the Hiace a bit claustrophic than the 'brick' which is wider all the way up and taller in the hightop. Already worried where I will put everthing as the T25 would seen to have double the stowage space (under the seats in the Hicace hardly useable, in the T25 takes loads of gear. Anyway will see how it goes.

    One thing I found was sort of graunching from front wheelsuspension when maximum turning wheel when parking and slow speed. Have you ever found this>

    1. Hi Joyful,

      Great news that you got a Hiace. Raises glass! All sounds good there. So the o/d off switch - two times when it might be useful are:

      1. Going up a hill where the van naturally wants to go about 45mph, sometimes it will shift in and out of top gear trying to chose the right gear. Turn o/d off and that goes away.

      2. Towing something. Going down a fast hill you might want to keep it in 4th for a bit more engine braking, then use the switch for that.

      Saying this, I never use mine, and even going uphill I just adjust speed accordingly with the throttle. Going down a steep hill, I sometimes put my gear shifter into 2nd to get the engine braking.

      I've never had a VW but any I've seen do seem a bit roomier in some respects. My Hiace has a pretty high-top so its not been an issue for me. I do like the way you can walk through into the back in the VWs though.

      I get some sounds when on steering lock, though its mainly a bit of grunting from the power steering I think. Its never been a problem.

      Well, enjoy your Hiace, and keep in touch - I'm planning an owners hub page here on the site soon if thats your thing, thinking, van pics, stories and guest blog posts.


    2. "..graunching from the front wheel suspension when maximum turning wheel when parking and slow speed.Have you ever found this." YES !! I get the same. And when coming to a halt a sort of "clunk" or "grind". I was told by a mechanic that this was no problem as it was an automatic, and most auto's do that noise when stopping. But I'm not convinced, as steering when maximum turning at slow speed seems to be connected to this. AND a drive belt of mine, time and time again needs adjusting as it makes a high screeching noise when making these tight turns. The mechanic I use has "fixed" it for me several times over the years. One saying it was a struggle to reach the tightening bolts for the belts that they have tried replacing too.

    3. Second problem I'm facing at present is to do with air conditioning system. Have had it looked at by 2 local companies. Both have failed to fix it, although both have tried to help. Both say the air con is in good condition. No problem with the condenser ect or air con unit. First company thought it was working, but were testing it when it was cold. In summer you could tell easily it wasn't working. So they advised me to take it to a company more experienced doing air con. The second company led me to having to order in from China a "Pressure Switch" which they suspected might be at fault. Unfortuneatly it wasn't this either. Next they said it would need further "diagnostics" but told me they were so unfamiliar with the vehicle and system that they said it might take a lot of time to trace the fault and didn't really seem to want to take on this job. So my question is: where in UK are the best air-con mechanics who know how to fix import Hiaces air-con systems. Any advice welcome.

  8. Thanks Chris, all very encouraging. Yes the access in and out of the cab between the seats with the T25's is really nice. But just keeping them running is so much hassle.
    Anyway I am a Hiace man now, Just doing some stowage if gear last night - very toasty with the Eberspacher blowing nice and hot in wet, windy and cold Plymouth.

    How do I plug in my laptop (is Dell with 19.5v input.

    Also have you tried a USB TV tuner for the laptop?

    How did yiu get that front end damage. is it is the bog somewhere.

    1. Hi, Sounds good man.

      Do you have 12v sockets in the back? You could get an inverter, some examples of which are on my aStore on the site. I have one of those little USB TV tuners, in fact I was planning to do a post on it before the crash. Its pretty good when I have no 3G signal for getting TV on my laptop.

      The story about the damage is all on a recent post called, 'Thoughts on the New Year.' Should be pretty easy to find from the Blog page. Enjoy the heater!


  9. Hiya,
    I wonder if yours had an air conditioning unit installed just behind and above the front seats? ours does, because I think its a converted minibus. If yours does/did, do you have any idea how to remove it?or how I can find out. Its a massive waste of space, as I never use it and now we've turned the seats around, a tall passenger bumps their heads.
    On another note, we have glued a flexi solar panel onto the roof (pop-up), which is alot lighter though we have to take it into account when we park!
    THanks for any advice,

    1. Hi, did you have any luck with removing the aircon? I have just bought a fresh import1990 Hiace pop roof camper and I also feel the rear aircon is a waste of space.

  10. Hello i have a hiace 4X4 from swiss whith manual gear box and the 1RZ gasolin moteur
    i want to change it for a 3RZFE..:-)
    i have a quastion have you more photo for the modification in front for the 225 75 16 ...? i know your web site but i can see it in the photo thank you very mutch

  11. Just looking over your blog great work I've a 1991 YMC LH119 4WD beast too, imported it in 2008, they rock but sorry I din't keep it waxed and wash it more often as rust is now my biggest problem (and getting to use in but the kids love Daddy's camper as a play house)

  12. Hi Chris, well it's now August 2016 and your hiacehobo tracer map says you are still positioned in Belfast. Come on mate get moving ! Just thought I'd share a couple of details about my experiences with a Hiace Campervan 2.8. Firstly I wonder if when travelling and your water tanks (wash water- not engine) are filled up a bit,it might affect the driving and steering. My van seems to run pretty smoothly around towns, but when I travel to Spain on the Autovia's, the strong winds in Spain seem to make my steering fragile, or at least that is what seems to happen when in windy conditions. I wonder what is causing this. Is it down to my steering being not right, or is it that my side awning under the poptop catches the wind and makes the vehicle a bit unstable, so that I have to travel slower. Any thoughts would be appreciated