Crossover & Midsize

We Want A Toyota RAV4 More Than Ever After Seeing This Conversion

Mitsuoka is that Japanese company doing those crazy conversions of mostly Kei cars turning them into retro dreams. Since they were Japan-only vehicles we could only admire them from afar. But now it has turned its attention to the Toyota RAV4, a vehicle sold by the gajillions in the US. So now we want a RAV4 more than ever after seeing this latest Mitsuoka conversion.

This RAV4 conversion madness is called “Buddy”

Mitsuoka 2021 RAV4 Buddy retro conversion | Mitsuoka

It’s called Buddy. As explained in its advertising, “You’ve always been by your side Buddy no matter how much you remove the squirrel.” Yes, exactly! We agree 100%.

What Mitsuoka does is take any current generation RAV4 and replace the front sheet metal and rear bumper with its own retro Chevy truck-inspired conversion. The stacked headlights, chrome bumpers, and egg-crate grille are all blended into the existing RAV4 bodywork. Mitsuoka even gave the grille a bit of “speed” by angling it back a tad. Brillant!

The conversion is a playful, joyous take on 1970s styling cues wrapped around a boring RAV4

Mitsuoka 2021 RAV4 Buddy retro conversion |Mitsuoka

There are also retro Rallye wheels with dog dish hubcaps to tie it all together. In the back vertical Cadillac-like taillights play the part. A flat panel reminiscent of those Chevy truck tailgates is emblazoned with “Mitsuoka” showing your pride in ownership. In all, it is a playful, joyous take on 1970s styling cues wrapped around a boring RAV4. 

With no shots of the interior, we don’t know if the Buddy retro madness carries over into it. That horrid brown and mustard plaid upholstery Chevy truck interiors wore would go spectacularly inside. The black and tan interiors currently available are so 2020s. We’d rather they be more like the 1970s with the slightly mismatched trim that falls off in the first 20,000 miles. That’s the Chevy we remember.

Why wouldn’t Mitsuoka make these components available here as kits?

Mitsuoka 2021 RAV4 Buddy retro conversion | Mitsuoka

But here’s the deal; until now there was no hope of seeing anything like this from Mitsuoka. Now, with all of the RAV4s running around the US we finally have a vehicle this genius can be applied to. So, why wouldn’t Mitsuoka make these components available here as kits? Within reason, it is legal for car modifications like this in the US-if the owner does it themselves. 

As nothing mechanically, emissions or safety-related is altered the RAV4 can be your blank canvas. Mitsuoka might also consider a similar approach to the Honda CRV and Nissan Rogue. Maybe a Ram-like CRV and an F-100-like Rogue? Let’s get all of the old truck makes covered. 

Until now there have only been meager customization choices for such a popular vehicle

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What little aftermarket components that are available for these crossovers are mostly generic or made to improve performance. And most of the performance stuff gets used for sedans and hot hatches, not small SUVs. So this could really open up what has been up to now rather meager customization choices for such a popular vehicle. 

While we wait to see if Mitsuoka takes the bait and starts supplying these parts in the US we have more images to pique your interest. Imagine it’s 1979 and you’re cruising down PCH in your RAV4 1970s Chevy truck mashup. It’s a heck of a lot better than driving your boring RAV4 in 2020 surrounded by COVID-19 with armed militias roaming neighborhoods looking for bad guys.