Hydro-Acty-Vated

Words & photography: Steve ‘Autoholic’ Edwards

Some guys have a love for hot rods that stretches back to their formative years, but for others, well, they lean towards less mainstream vehicles and make them stand out.

Phil Egan ended up giving away his first car, a Triumph Dolomite, as the running costs were out of his reach as a student. Once he’d finished his studies and was in gainful employment, Phil’s thoughts turned to finding a reliable form of transport, and while his friends were all lusting after various sports cars, he was looking at Bedford Rascals instead.

Eventually, instead of going the van route, he bought himself a Smart car. Obviously, being a fan of Street Machine and customising cars, the Smart was never going to remain stock; in fact, a body kit, a set of cool rims and a remap that took the little car’s 599cc, three cylinder engine to the heady heights of 80 brake horsepower were the order of the day. All of this, and it was a left hand drive car, too, as Phil was early to that party – Smarts weren’t actually available in the UK at that point so he’d modified an imported car.

Then the Smart roadster came out and that really tickled Phil’s fancy, so he managed to get one and promptly had it re-sprayed in a Porsche Peppermint Green. That’s where he got the nickname “Minty,” which he used on the forums he inhabited and on Instagram ever since – find him at @freshandmintycarshack.

He’d sworn to his wife, Carla, that the roadster would be his last modified car, but that was before he discovered the delights of the Nissan Cube. Phil found an importer of the boxy but roomy vehicles, and then proceeded to work his own special brand of magic on it. The car was finished in Pearl White and featured an air suspension set-up, and he did so well that the car attracted the likes of Fast Car and Totally Nissan magazines, who both ran features on it.

A second Cube followed, modified in a different style, but the couple welcomed their son, Ethan, into the world and so something with a little more space was needed. Its replacement was a Nissan Elgrand, the 3.5 litre V6 seven-seater, which is very popular in the Land of the Rising Sun, where some have been modified with body kits and crazy flame paintjobs. Phil added a full audio build and maybe it might get a feature in these very pages someday, but it had been bought to complete Phil’s daily commute.

Due to a change of job, Phil’s commute changed from five miles a day to a whopping 60 mile round trip, so he thought about getting something a little more economical. While he was browsing Instagram, he spotted a cool little Honda Acty TN550 pick-up. He messaged the owner just to say he’d be interested should the little truck come up for sale, and was surprised to get a message right back saying that it was available. It had been painted in MTN Hardcore UFO Green paint, a preferred paint brand of graffiti artists, and was running a set of classic Mini wheels. Phil broke every rule of car buying when he went to see it – it was raining, nearly dark and he’d not bought a return train ticket. Fortunately, it made it back with only one issue, which turned out to be a loose wire in the engine compartment.

The two-cylinder, 545cc engine stuffed under the rear deck is half of the one installed into the company’s Gold Wing motorcycle, which propels the truck to dizzy speeds of 62mph and returns 45 miles per gallon. Phil sent the truck to Ray Ramsey at Rayvern Hydraulics, who began a bucketful of modifications to install a full hydro suspension set-up. Ray liked the truck and was very envious, so Phil told him what his budget was, asked him to build the truck as if he was doing it for himself and left it to him, and an excellent job he did too. This included custom hydraulic rams, raised suspension towers, tubbed front arches, a notched floor pan and custom rear ram mounts to give a seven-inch maximum drop. The rear bed has been cut to expose the Yokohama tyres wrapped around the polished Image billet 10-inch Mini wheels.

Phil has always been a fan of novelty interiors, and this build is no exception. He’d bought another donor truck to make sure he had a ready supply of spare parts, and though he’d not bought it specifically for the interior, once he’d washed off the mildew he found he had a pretty good set. He switched the seat and the door cards over, as the ones that came with the truck had seen better days, and while they went well with the builder’s van theme he’d first envisaged, they didn’t quite cut it once he’d switched to a more retro feel.

The truck didn’t come with a stereo, and it still doesn’t have one; Phil has to use his phone. What he has fitted is a cutting edge, very neat Vibe Powerbox micro-amp that delivers 400 watts of power to the four-inch Vibe Slick speakers that Phil has built into old Thermos flasks – these are disguised by their own lids when not in use – while an old Roses box protects the amp from prying eyes. There’s also an old copy of The Sun, complete with Page 3, and some old magazine that used to be popular, apparently.

On the bed, the Clarke toolbox performs its intended function while the 60-litre barrel has been bolted down and now serves as boot space. The crates serve as protection for the exposed rubber and, unsurprisingly, in the battery box there’s the battery, which has been relocated from underneath the bed, as there just wasn’t room for it. The truck has been well received at several shows over last summer, including Japfest, Players Classic at Goodwood, Fitted UK at Event City in Manchester, and was presented with a Judge’s Choice award at the Fueled Society event at Harewood House. All this attention on the Acty means it’s not been performing the commuting duties it has been bought for, so the Elgrand has been pressed back into service as it was just sitting around with its tyres going flat. So while others concentrate on the more regular cars, Phil will be tooling around in his cool Acty, lowering the suspension but raising smiles wherever he goes.

1989 Honda Acty TN550

  • MTN Hardcore UFO green paint
  • Stock 545cc engine
  • Image billet 10″ wheels (rear)
  • Stock Honda steel wheels (front)
  • 145/80R10 Yokohama tyres
  • Rayvern hydraulic suspension