Mitsuoka, one of Japan’s most eclectic tuners, can’t resist the market’s shift towards crossovers and SUVs. It alchemized the Toyota RAV4 into retro family hauler that borrows styling cues from 1980s Chevrolet trucks.
Called Buddy, the Americanized RAV4 is the latest in a long line of intriguing creations that put a retro spin on a modern car. Chevrolet’s trademarked Bowtie emblem doesn’t appear anywhere on the crossover, but the shiny grille and the two-piece rectangular headlights are strongly reminiscent of the third-generation C/K pickup, especially the face-lifted model introduced for the 1981 model year. Mitsuoka also redesigned the hood, made the front end boxier, and added a thick strip of chrome-look trim that reminds us of the C/K’s metal front bumper.
Stylists didn’t stop there. Out back, they added vertical lights (which are admittedly closer to late-model Cadillac units than to what Chevrolet was fitting to its trucks in the 1980s), a new hatch shaped like a pickup’s tailgate, and another chrome-like insert that gives the RAV4 a more truck-ish appearance. Buyers will even be able to order the Buddy with dog dish hubcaps and vintage-looking wheels. Mitsuoka takes tuning seriously; while some firms settle for adding stickers and decals, it went through the trouble of designing and manufacturing new sheet metal.
Don’t expect to find a 454-cubic-inch V8 between the fenders, or a three-on-the-tree in the cabin. Mitsuoka made no powertrain modifications, meaning buyers can choose between a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 171 horsepower, or a 178-horsepower gasoline-electric hybrid powertrain built around a 2.5-liter four-cylinder.
We haven’t seen the Buddy’s interior yet, so there might be more truck-themed surprises to discover inside. Pricing information remains under wraps, too. Mitsuoka will fully unveil the crossover on November 16, 2020.