While I’m not a huge car person, I do find amusement in seeing all the funny vehicles that drive the roads when I visit new places, and if I can get a chuckle out of the different cars on the road here, then I figured maybe some of you car people out there would enjoy seeing the cars of Palau. So I sat out on the roof like a total creep yesterday and took pictures of cars as they drove by. I’m probably already sounding like I don’t have a clue what I’m talking about, so I went ahead and asked Fletch to share some of his expertise. 

First off, it’s worth noting that the majority of cars in this country come from Japan. Someone told us when we first arrived that Japan has a rule that cars older than 10 years old aren’t allowed to be on the roads, and that's why they send the 11-year old cars here. Someone else told us that Palau got all the cars that were flooded after the big tsunami in Japan. Neither story is quite true, but after doing some research I learned that Japan does have a vehicle inspection system that is so onerous and expensive that it is easier for most people to just trade in their fairly young cars, rather than spend a fortune on the inspection. Inspections are mandatory when cars turn 3 years old, then must be done every 2 years. Once the car turns 11 the inspections must take place every year. The reason they are so strict is because Japan is already so congested that having cars break down on the road is incredibly disruptive. So with everyone buying brand new cars, what happens to all of the used ones? They get shipped to nations such as Palau, where 2002 and 2003 vehicles are way nicer then we actually need them to be.

The cars that come from Japan have steering wheels on the right hand side and have speedometers in kilometers per hour. Some cars from other places have steering wheels on the left. And since Palau used to belong to the US, they drive on the right side of the road and post speed limits in miles per hour. It's all sorts of confusing.

1. WiLL Vi


Apparently this is what happens when Japan tries to market a younger crowd using inspiration from historic vehicles.

From the expert: Created from the designers at Toyota as the first attempt to have a younger generation car buyer. The aim was to have a vehicle for every stage of a person’s life, from their first car (Will), to middle age (Toyota), to later years and wealth (Lexus). The lessons learned from the Will project (which included 3 cars) were implemented on the later Scion project.

2. WiLL Cypha


When the Vi wasn’t a hit, they tried this one, naming it with the words "cyber" and "phaeton” combined. Incase you're wondering, a phaeton is a light, open, four-wheeled, horse-drawn carriage. That makes this a virtual horse carriage. Small wonder this didn't fly either.

From the expert: This was the second iteration of the Will project. See above.

3. Nissan Cube


First generation Nissan Cube

These definitely exist in the states, but here there are herds of them. Watch the main road for one minute and your chance of seeing a Cube is 93%. What you don’t see in the US is the original version. Whoever redesigned it probably saved the company. 

From the expert: While functional, the original Cube styling was severely lacking. Also the mechanics and efficiency of using the Nissan bargain bin of hand-me-down parts from the micro Nissan March, didn’t lend toward an efficient or comfortable ride. A complete redesign was implemented during 2002 to bridge the gap to a larger city goer that could carry 4 people.

4. Toyota Fun Cargo 


Look how fun that tail light is. It’s like a yin and yang sign of fun. Apparently too boxy for the UK, they nick-named it the “ice cream van.”

From the expert: Also called the Yaris Verso. The mini Multi Purpose Vehicle (MPV) was efficient with a diesel engine and could transport large amounts of cargo for its size, but was replaced with the Toyota Ractis for aesthetic reasons.

5. Nissan March

First generation Nissan March

The old model definitely falls into the boxy category. The new model introduced Japan to the concept of curves. In my personal opinion this car wins the award for Palau's cutest car. And it comes in a wide variety of bright colors.

From the expert: Even though the US has only had the recent version of the March for a few years, Nissan/Datsun has produced it as the Micra and March since 1982. The March has been Nissan’s choice for competition in the super mini category. With the latest version, it has grown out of that sector to appeal to even a small family. The second generation was produced from 1992 til 2003 and grew in popularity as a reliable and efficient car. The third generation was released in the US, Europe, and Australia in subsequent years.

6. Pajero Mini


We almost ended up with one of these. Every local and their cousin is selling one. So that got us to thinking that maybe it wasn’t worth buying.

From the expert: Versions of the Pajero were based off the Minica platform. The Jr, Mini, I/O, and the Full Size Montero (later sold in the U.S.) all had roots from the kei classification in Japan (a classification given to cars small enough to meet set requirements). Only the Mini made the cut for staying in this classification because of its small size and small engine. These Minis were rarely exported as it wasn’t financially profitable. Because the Minis met the kei classification, they were labeled as “yellow tag” cars, and thus received yellow plates with black numbers.

7. Nissan Rasheen


This is a very funny, wide and squat toad of a car. From the back it sort of resembles a sideways house door.

From the exert: Only sold in Japan from 1994-2000, the Rasheen was a short 4wd vehicle that was meant to target poor road conditions. It was comparable to a Suburu Forester, but produced years before. Although functional, the design was scrapped during the change in management known as the Nissan Revival Project.

8. No Name


If anyone can name this car I will buy them an ice cream cone. (Toyota’s Fun Cargo put me in the mood for ice cream). It’s the silly little random vehicles like this that inspired this post.

From the expert: ???

Edit: Thanks to reader vousmevoyez, we now know that this vehicle is a Mitsubishi Toppo. Thanks for reading and sharing your knowledge!

Special thanks to Fletch for his contribution.