A long-held love of modified micro-vans and trucks meant that when Phil Egan spotted this odd, little Honda Acty up for sale, it was just too good an opportunity to miss.
“Many people wrongly assume that this is a recently-imported JDM truck, but Honda officially launched micro-trucks in the UK in the late 1970s, most famously as the original camper van used in the Sooty And Friends Children’s series on ITV. After that, Bedford introduced their slightly bigger and more powerful Rascal rival,” explains the ever knowledgeable Philip Egan. As the proud owner and builder of the beautiful brown modified Honda Acty van here, he’s a bit of an aficionado on these diminutive oddities and has been since he first fell in love with Bedford Rascals when he was just 12 or 13 years old in the early ‘90s.
This particular truck is a 1985 model and spent its early years in Hyde, Cheshire before bouncing around all over the UK. Philip eventually took ownership of it back in March 2016.
Scratching an Itch
“I’d been after a microvan or truck for years, I don’t know why, but I just always get attracted to strange vehicles,” he laughs, counting a couple of Smart cars and Nissan Cubes as highlights in his eclectic automotive back catalogue. “But this was the first time I actually committed to put my money where my heart was and bought one – primarily down to its original mint green paint scheme.”
But as funky as the modified Honda Acty looked wearing its minty fresh makeover, Philip is not one to leave things standard and soon had it wearing a host of his own unique tweaks.
Wheels & Suspension
“The first thing I did was lower it on a set of custom GAZ coilovers up front and fitted custom 10in Image billet 19 wheels,” he remembers. “As you can imagine, there aren’t a lot of off the shelf parts for these machines, so a lot of what you see on this type of build is often custom made to suit.”
With the sills suitably slammed to the tarmac and rolling on the badass billet rims, Philip’s first proper outing with the truck was at the Retro Rides Gathering at the historic Shelsley Walsh Hillclimb in Worcestershire, before making another appearance on the ‘WheelWhores’ stand at Ultimate Stance later that year.
Switching to Hydraulics
“It’s a pretty unique little thing and it always gets a lot of attention wherever I take it,” smiles Philip. “But I was never fully satisfied with the way it sat, especially at the rear end, so I took it off the road in 2017 to have a bit of a rethink on the direction I wanted to take it.”
With the modified Honda Acty out of action, Philip took the opportunity to show off another of his quirky collection, a Nissan Elgrand MPV, so he could still get his car show fix even while the Acty was in a state of limbo.
“I knew I wanted to take the Acty’s stance much lower so I booked it in with Ray at Rayvern Hydraulics in Guyhirn near Peterborough for a hydraulic suspension setup and the required custom fabrication to the chassis that would allow for a huge 7in maximum drop. It was a lengthy process, but I was in no rush to get it back out there, and Ray did an amazing job.”
To get the truck to sit so much lower than standard, Ray needed to give the wheels clearance when the body sat on the deck, so he modified the rear bed with cut outs to allow the wheels to poke through when at maximum drop. But while this solved the problem of clearance for the wheels, it shifted the issue to the engine.
“The truck was now so low that the exhaust and air filter were fouling, so we had to redesign both to work when the truck was at maximum lows,” laughs Philip. “The air filter I sorted myself, but I left the professionals at MIJ exhaust systems in Walsall to get busy and make a custom system that worked with the drop.”
It was the start of the 2018 show season when the truck was finally back in business and, now able to cleanly lay frame at the flick of a switch, Philip made full use of the enhanced practicality and proceeded to travel all over the UK, showing the truck at the majority of the modified shows in a shabby chic style with drink crates as wheel tubs and an ‘80s-period builder’s van interior. The year peaked with a Judge’s choice award at Fueled Society at Harewood Hill Climb in August that year, so it was certainly doing the job of turning heads and catching the judges’ eyes too.
“At the start of 2019 I decided the truck needed some proper TLC and to rejuvenate the chassis and give it a fresh new look,” Philip recalls. “I started by stripping the truck right down for soda blasting at SBL before the we could complete the extensive body work, which would include a full respray at DC Customs in Dudley.”
The original reason for much of the reworking was because Philip wanted to get alloys on the front end and the only way to achieve this whilst retaining the full 7in drop with split rims was to go for some ultra slim 3.5in items up front, but this meant increasing the diameter to 13in to give space for the split rim bolts.
Further Body Mods
“The larger diameter rims meant that I needed to enlarge the front tubs to allow the wheels clearance to fit,” says Philip. “And at the rear end I wanted to enclose the rear suspension and wheels to give it a more standard look, as before they were exposed when they tucked up inside the bed.”
To achieve his vision he spaced the drop sides out further and widened the rear tailgate by four inches before welding customized Chevy Blazer wheel tubs to the bed to cover the rear wheels when the van dropped low. Philip then had some custom lower panels fabricated from sheet metal to cover the sides and rear of the bed and continue the line from the bottom of the front doors right around the sides and rear of the truck. Although this did mean the need for further custom work, he was keen to maintain the panel’s clean look. So, the fuel and oil fillers, which would usually be accessed underneath the drop sides of the bed, had to be relocated to allow access via the bed instead of the sides.
Beautiful in Brown
Other trick modifications that Philip made were things like smoothing the holes in the bodywork from the deleted wiper jets, washer filler, aerial and door mirrors, and adding a smoothed Bedford Rascal front bumper. Then came the deep metallic brown paint.
“The final piece of the exterior puzzle was to upgrade the lighting with 7in LED headlights and Stealth LED taillights on custom brackets and add the aluminium for Williams canopy,” says Philip. “I managed to source the canopy from a donor truck that came up for sale in 2020 which had it fitted. Since then, I’ve cleaned it up and installed a side window, which looks great.”
Donor vehicles have actually played an important role in this build, as aside from the metal canopy, a cannibalized Honda Acty also gave this modified one its seat material and door cards.
“I’ve got a few other Acty vans which I’ve picked up over the years and use as donor vehicles as they’re a great source for hard to find parts,” he explains. “So every time I see one pop up for sale on Ebay, I always try and nab it if it has any good parts I might need further down the line.”
As well as the reclaimed vinyl seat trim and door cards, Philip decided the dashboard could do with a lift too, so sent it off to flocking experts Flocking Fantastic in Derby to have the whole thing covered in the funky brown fuzz. It works really well with the beige vinyl on the seats and the two tone wooden gearknob and handbrake handle, not to mention the shagpile roof-lining, and combined with the Astrali dished steering wheel, finishes it all off perfectly.
“Many people ask if I’m going for a modern Japanese drift style with the truck, but that’s a look that’s been done successfully many times before by people all across the globe, so to me it didn’t really hold much appeal,” states Philip. “I wanted to make the truck look as though it left the factory like this with the bodywork changes being obvious only to people who really know what standard ones look like. For me, that’s a much harder thing to achieve.”
But you know what? We reckon he completely nailed it. And his haul of silverware from shows as diverse as the Restoration Show to Japfest suggests we’re not the only ones digging this dinky truck’s subtle styling. It just goes to show that, when it comes to building a show stopping ride, don’t follow the herd, just acty on your instincts.
Feature from Fast Car. Words: Dan Sherwood. Photos: Ollie Wildsmith.
Tech Spec: Modified Honda Acty
545cc, 2-cyl mid-mounted EH-engine, cone air filter and custom intake pipework, custom full stainless steel exhaust system
standard manual gearbox
Rayvern Hydraulics suspension with 7in drop, raised front suspension turrets, custom four-link rear setup
Stock all round
Wheels & tyres:
3.5x13in (front) and 5.5x13in (rear) Image Billet 19 three-piece split rims with 145/60/13 Hankook tyres and 175/50/13 Yokohama A539 tyres respectively
Wiper jet holes, washer filler hole, badge holes and aerial holes filled and smoothed, smoothed Bedford Rascal front bumper, door mirror mount holes filled and smoothed, front arches cut and tubbed, custom fabricated lower side panels, custom fabricated lower rear panel, rear tailgate widened by 4in, bed cut to allow wheels to poke through beneath Chevy wheel tubs cut and welded on bed, alloy fuel tank located under bed, oil filler relocated to under bed, 3in chrome peep mirrors, 7in LED front headlights, Stealth LED taillights on custom brackets, Ifor Williams canopy
Flocked dashboard, Astrali dished steering wheel, chrome rear view mirror, beige vinyl seat covers, beige vinyl door cards, brown seat belts, wooden gear knob, wooden handbrake handle, shagpile carpet roof lining
If you’re feeling inspired by this mini motor, why not cast your eyes over our shortlist of the best kei cars to import next.