The rumor is, it got started like this:
1. Japanese motorcycle racing enthusiasts needed a way to transport their bikes to the track.
2. Someone realized that the handful of secondhand Dodge cargo vans imported to Japan were perfect for the job–large enough to carry a bike, but stilly stubby enough to navigate Japanese streets. (And presumably cheap, because no one in Japan wants unstylish Dodge Ram vans made from 1971-2003.)
3. Japan being Japan, everyone started using Dodge Rams to transport their bikes to the track.
4. One day during a break, some jokester pulled one of the vans onto the track, and barreled through a run. The incongruity elicited laughter, and others pulled their vans onto the track to give it a try. Then they realized it was fun.
Now there’s a robust subculture for Dajiban (say “Dodge van” with a Japanese accent), led by the website Dodgevanracing.com and supported by modding shops like Abe Chuko Kamotsu (“Abe Secondhand Cargo Van”). That shop’s proprietor, Abe Takuro, is tasked with custom-crafting elaborate Ram hacks because, as Dodgevanracing.com owner Takahiro Okawa told Road & Track, “There is nothing specific for Dodge vans, performance-oriented, so he has to build it.”
Takuro opened his shop, which only handles Ram vans, last year; he now has over 100 clients.
Here’s a look at how a typical Dajiban track day goes down:
To learn more about this subculture, check out any of the links above. The R&T article has some great gems in it, like the following: “Abe’s gray 1994 Ram 150 serves as development mule for customer modifications; he says that he has ‘the price of a new Ferrari’ in it, and that it hasn’t been washed in 20 years.”
Lastly, remember Dodgevanracing.com’s motto: “No Dodge van, no life.”