What We’ve Learned After a Year With Our Delica, the Space Tractor

Delica Before and After

Amazingly, it’s been a bit more than year with our Delica. It’s amazing the places we’ve gone and the things we’ve seen with the Space Tractor in just over 365 days. It’s been quite the journey, and it’s just begun. We’ve also learned a lot.

We bought the van in mid July, 2017, as seen in the top photo. We did as much research on the thing as humanly possible before we bought it. We hemmed and hawed about some of the rust, how to get parts, and the price. We weren’t sure if this was a good idea, a bad idea, or something in between. Needless to say, we jumped in feet-first to crazy diesel-powered, right-hand drive JDM vanlifing. Is “vanlifing” even a word?


Patience: It’s one of the things we learned about having a vehicle like this. We talked a bit about it in our Delica ownership article. You’re not going anywhere fast. You’re going to get stopped everywhere by onlookers and question-askers. You’re going to need to wait for parts (usually). It’s all part of owning a weird vehicle.

The Delica community has be great, and relying on others’ expertise is a must, since these rigs weren’t sold in North America. And while there’s lots of good info out there, sometimes it’s hersey, sometimes it’s just wrong. And every now and then, you just have to take a chance on stuff and hope it pans out, such as the 3D-printed curtain hangers, which did work.

We’ve learned that driving a forward-control vehicle is also interesting. Little “hazards,” including speed bumps, can feel like huge obstacles. I always give people the seesaw analogy: If you sit in the middle of a seesaw you hardly notice when it moves. This is what it’s like in most cars. But if you sit on the end of a seesaw, any movement is much more exaggerated—and that’s what you do in a Delica since you’re over the front wheels. And when you’re off-road, it’s a totally different experience that takes some getting used to.

Despite the exaggerated feeling, it’s been more capable than we imagined. Whether descending Lippincott Grade in Death Valley, or tackling the obstacle course at the BC Overland Rally, even with open diffs, the van has never disappointed. It does get a bit tippy, however. Shocking, I know.

We’ve kept our van simple, especially on the inside, and this has worked for us, as you can see in our tour of the van. We haven’t torn the interior out, rather, we’ve worked around it and utilized its strengths. This has allowed us to carry a passenger or two and still camp like we recently did with my mother. She slept in the van, we tent camped outside, but there was enough room in the van for three people and our gear to get where we needed to go.

We’re still learning. I think a ball joint is going out, and I’ve already ordered one. We’re still working with our roof rack setup and where to stow everything. We’ve been all over the place with this thing in the past 365 days. We’ve been to British Columbia, Washington, Oregon, California, Utah, Arizona, and Nevada in it. We’ve had it in the snow, sand, mud, dirt, and pretty much everything else.

It’s slow. It’s steady. It’s been reliable. It’s been a ton of fun. We look forward to the next year with the Space Tractor. It’s come a long way, and we’ve only just begun.


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