Yesterday, every major newspaper in Japan carried the above spread in celebration of the 60th anniversary of the Isuzu Elf, the first Japanese cab-over-engine light truck in its class. In six decades and six generations, the Elf has sold over 6.5 million units, including in the United States under the Chevy and GMC brands, and it was launched on August 26, 1959.
The Elf debuted during a time of rapid change in Japan. Industrialization and manufacturing were accelerating at breakneck pace, and the country needed a truck to ship goods across long distances. With the goal of developing a useful truck for cargo haulers, the Elf was engineered with safety, easy loading, and payload capacity in mind.
Its versatile construction manifests as box containers, cranes, tow trucks, fire engines, dekotora, and more. As the number-one selling truck in its segment in Japan, and over the years has become a staple of Japan’s motorscape. It’s no wonder that examples can be frequently seen carrying all sorts of freight on the country’s expressways.
In commemoration of the 60th anniversary, the Isuzu Plaza showroom in Fujisawa City, Kanagawa Prefecture — near the plant where the Elf is manufactured — is holding a special exhibition. It will feature every generation of the Elf, starting with the original built from 1959-68.
A light blue second-generation, built from 1968-75, and a medium blue third-generation, built from 1975-84, are also displayed alongside old brochures and promotional materials.
There’s even a rare Elf FF MyPack, which as the name suggests is a front-wheel-drive version. Introduced in April 1972, the layout allowed for greater freedom in the cargo configurations, but due to its high price (about 1.5 times that of a regular Elf), it was discontinued after just two years in production. At the showroom, it is displayed alongside a fifth-generation built from 1993-2000.
The exhibit will last until April of 2020, and is open daily from 10 am to 5 pm. According to Isuzu, the exhibit celebrates “the best-selling truck that has continued to support people’s lives, regardless of era or country.” Indeed, the Elf has been sold in over 140 nations around the globe.
Legend has it the name “Elf” was chosen because the fictional beings were mascots of prosperity from hard work. Early promotional materials even featured a jaunty sprite wearing a pointed hat. With that kind of attitude, it’s certain we’ll be seeing 60 more years of the tireless Isuzu Elf.
Images courtesy of Isuzu.