Small kei class fire trucks land in the United States, bringing smiles to everyone. A small fire truck in San Francisco is different from the rest. Not only does it make everyone smile, but it has been restored so that it can also fight small fires!
the Chronicle of San Francisco told the story of Kiri, the tiny kei-class Daihatsu HiJet fire truck that smiles at the people of the San Francisco Bay Area. The little truck spreads its joy around the world through they are instagram, too much. But Kiri is different from most Japanese fire trucks in America because it has been fully restored to fire fighting condition. Yes, that means this little truck is more than just a show.
Scroll Kiri’s Instagram It’s an absolute delight and as someone addicted to the process of importing vehicles from Japan, I had to find out more. I reached out to Kiri’s owner Todd Lappin to find out more about this great little truck. Lappin’s love for the fire truck is reminiscent of the love we have for our own favorite cars. Kiri is not so much a vehicle as a member of the family.
Kiri is a 1990 Daihatsu HiJet from the small mountain town of Kirigamine in Nagano Prefecture in Japan. It was built for firefighting by Tohatsu, a company known for its small fire trucks and boats. Kirigamine is a seaside resort with hotels and a ski area. Kiri’s house was a volunteer fire department and, given the area, it’s no surprise that she didn’t see a lot of action. Kiri takes its name from the city where she spent most of her life.
The fire truck was purchased at a low cost auction. Lappin worked with an importer, Vans from Japan, to bring Kiri. There isn’t much interest in a 30-year-old fire truck in Japan, so these are ripe for picking for import. Lappin has previous experience importing cars via an imported Nissan Skyline a few years ago. He blames our own Jason Torchinsky for his quest to bring Kiri.
Kiri landed in the United States in 2020 with just 4,000 miles on the clock and Lappin thought the truck was absolutely perfect. He didn’t need to do anything for it. But there was one problem: the firefighting equipment was not provided with the truck.
Firefighters are generally stripped of their parts before being exported. Kiri, like so many other Japanese fire trucks, arrived without firefighting gear, but Lappin made it his mission to restore Kiri to its original state. He scoured the auctions of Yahoo Japan and other Japanese fire truck owners for parts. He says the hardest part to find was the truck’s pump, as parts are scarce and heavy, making them expensive to ship.
But luckily, Vans From Japan was importing a bigger HiAce fire truck for land build and it still had its pump. As this pump was no longer needed, it became Kiri’s, and the little truck became whole again.
These trucks operate a little differently from the fire trucks Americans are used to. Instead of having tanks on board or connecting to fire hydrants, trucks like Kiri dive into any water source they can tap into. This means ponds, rice fields, fountains all that the pump can suck water from.
How does Kiri drive? Like most kei trucks it is quite slow. The top speed is around 60 mph, but she manages San Francisco like a boss. Low-end torque means the small truck feels most alive at slow speeds around town.
The truck even has a loud PA system that Lappin used to stream everything from vacation music to warnings about Godzilla sightings. It’s no surprise that the adorable thing puts a smile on faces everywhere she goes. Kiri can even party with other imported cars.
The adventures of the truck brought joy to the people of San Francisco through these trying times, but the reach of the truck is global. Kirigamine, Kiri’s house, even follows the truck as it explores the world around it.
Follow Kiri on his Page Instagram for heartwarming kei truck action.