COLLECTIONS: A 1971 Datsun 521 pickup comes home

“Several people have tried to buy it from me,” says Marvin Askew of his 1971 Datsun 1600 pickup, “Especially kids. They want to strip it down and lower it.” But luckily Marvin didn’t sell it to them, because now the truck he cared for for over 40 years fills a gap in the ever-growing Heritage Collection of Nissan Motor Corporation. 

Marvin purchased his Datsun 521 from the quaintly named Hippodrome Datsun in Nashville, Tennessee on November 30, 1971 for the princely sum of $2,111. In over four decades of ownership, he put just over 150,o00 miles, including 25 round trips to Alabama, on it. Marvin changed the oil every 2,000 miles, each change recorded alongside every bit of maintenance or repair in a notebook that more than vaguely resembles Indiana Jones’s diary.

“I owned a 1970 Ninety-Eight Oldsmobile and I’d rather drive that truck than the Oldsmobile,” Marvin explained. “It’s just so nice, it’s just smooth. At 50, 55, 60 miles an hour it just runs like a sewing machine.”

After passing up all the “kids” who wanted to buy it, Marvin sold his 521 to Dan Vito, described as a local collector and Nashville businessman, three years ago. It was Dan who approached Nissan, located right next door in Franklin, Tennessee, with the truck.

After years of roaming around in Nissan USA’s backyard, the green truck, which Dan had named “Sweet Pea,” had come home. Nissan recently made the acquisition official with a tribute video and even invited Marvin Askew to its US headquarters for a reunion with is truck. Watch the video below.

Images courtesy of Nissan.

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25 Responses to COLLECTIONS: A 1971 Datsun 521 pickup comes home

  1. cesariojpn says:

    “Especially kids. They want to strip it down and lower it.”

    See, this is the bane that is befalling collecting J-Tin (or any classic car period). If you want to modify something, find something on it’s last legs. Find something that has been abused. Don’t cut into something that has survived a long time the day it came from the factory.

    • Max Edelweiss says:

      How about “No”. Plenty of cars going to ruin because of pig headed old owners weirdo perceptions.

      • cesariojpn says:

        Howabout YES. If it has survived largely unmolested since it’s come from the factory and still is being run, don’t cut into it. Find a junker or a car about to be scrapped/parted out.

    • Randy says:


      That truck is GORGEOUS, and deserves to be preserved. Maybe get all the measurements and pictures, etc., and make a model from it.

      Use the measurements and pictures to bring an updated real one to market! (Maybe under the Datsun brand, and send them to the states!)

    • Dave says:

      I have one for sale

  2. Scotty G says:

    I’m an original-or-restored-to-original-specs guy, in general, which is probably why I don’t really fit in here too well. But, something like this original Datsun 521 keeps me coming back day after day. I’m not that old and I don’t know if I’m pig-headed or if I’m even a weirdo, but I agree with the gentleman on not selling their beloved vehicle to anyone that they didn’t want to sell it to. You can’t force someone to sell their vehicle just because you don’t agree with their wishes on keeping it original. I mean, I guess you can, but not in a free society, which I’m guessing all of us live in.

    I just hope that the second owner, the “businessman” (i.e., someone who knows how to make money) didn’t make a killing on reselling it to Nissan. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, it ended up in a great spot, away from all of those dang meddling kids.. like Max.. (KIDDING!) (crickets)

    • Ben Hsu says:

      No worries, Scotty. Everyone’s welcome here — modders, stockers and everyone in between. When we post about original cars, we get commenters that think we’re anti-modding. When we post modded cars, we get commenters that think we’re anti-stock. Your point of view is very much valued!

  3. danfiveten says:

    Just like my original show 510. But i would never let her rot in a museum. I take her and drive her to every show i can to let people enjoy her. Sitting in a museum is to me the same as burring the car. She will never be driven again 🙁 Its like that other original 510 up in north washington at a nissan dealer. They finally tried starting her, and it failed. the brakes are gone, gaskets shriveled. Cars are not meant to be paperweights. I would love a original 521 to go with my dime though.

  4. Max Edelweiss says:

    Cars are made to be used. Maintained, but used. Cars that aren’t used are piles of components and no more. Perhaps with historic racecars and things it’s slightly different, they become monuments rather than cars.
    The idea that all younger people want to hack and destroy stuff is horsesh1t also.

    I know an original 10A RX-3 that is gradually slipping beyond restorable condition. It’s locked up in a backyard, under a huge tree, up to the sills in leaf litter; it has not moved in over 15 years. The owners keep it registered and will not sell because they think it is getting more valuable and do not want to see it molested. Happy to watch it gradually be demolished by neglect though. Obviously that is a different case to this 521, but there are many pig headed dreamers with that kind of attitude.

    • Randy says:

      Yeah, but there’s a difference there, and maybe it’s you… MOST people, myself included (back in the day), under 30, do NOT take such care. Reminded me of an acquaintance who has so far lost 2 cars; 1 to stupid behavior, and 1 to poor selection of “friends.”

      That truck’s a rare piece now, and if some “tuner” gets it, they’ll likely mod the driveline, rip out the interior for racing seats, “hellaflush” it (and do it wrong – there was an article about that on JNC not too many months ago), start drifting it ’til it ends up beat to death, or wrapped around a tree, and remove one more rare vehicle from the population. There are plenty of newer, structurally good, but not pretty vehicles to choose from for that, and probably a lot that are easier to modify.

      Take a ’90-something Toyota, Nissan, Mazda, or Mitsubishi pickup, for example; hundreds-of-thousands of them out there, versus the few thousand(?) 521s still rolling.

      Now, that RX-3 may be a candidate for “a younger person” who’d modify it; just by what you described, it’s not in comparable shape to this truck.
      (Just for the heck of it, maybe get in touch with the owner and see if s/he will let you clean it up and help them get it to presentable condition, for free, of course… Labor of love, and all that… Who knows? Maybe if they see what it’s really like, and that you appreciate it, you might wind up with it! Watch for snakes in all the leaf litter, though!)

      Now YOU may have the appreciation of a classic vehicle, but with all the “tuners” out there, eventually, outside of a museum, the only to see these things will be pictures, and that would be a shame.

  5. Scotty G says:

    I’m confused, at which point in this article or in the video did it mention that just because this beautiful truck is going to be in a museum it isn’t going to be driven or used ever again and it will be left there to rot? Most car museums aren’t like art museums where the exhibits just sit in the same spot for years and years.

    There is no need to read anything into this story, other than:

    a) A gentleman owned a nice truck.
    b) Said owner didn’t want to sell said truck to anyone who was going to modify it.
    c) Said truck is now in a museum.
    d) End of story.

  6. carlos ortiz says:

    Sorry. But the paint has been re-done. I can garantee that. Every 521 from factory has dents on the bed where the bed connects to the floor. Every 521 has them. The one in the link im posting was 100% original. The only modification it had was the aftermarket steering wheel and aluminium radiator.

  7. Negishi no Keibajo says:

    That is one beautiful truck. While I lean towards period correct(ish) mods, I can really appreciate pristine examples. I have a different philosophy by rescuing cars from the abyss; buying someone else’s bastardized project and bring it back to a usable/ admirable state. My $2000 Craigslist 86 Suzuki Samurai Tin Top (w/ Kei pedigree 🙂 is the workhorse of the household… all 11′ 6″ trail roving, parallel parking goodness.

    P.S. I agree about the repaint. No orange peel and not a Burger King ding after 150K? That vintage rear bumper also tends to have a sheen of rust in pretty short order.

  8. Bonzi Lon says:

    My 71 521 wants to look like this one so much, or find someone that will restore it to this standard.

  9. Jim Daniels says:

    In the process of moving out of the city to the mountains my father purchased a 72, 521 with 100,000 miles on it in 1977. Other than a set of chrome wheels and baby moons it was as the above pictures appear. At 14 years old I learned to drive on the dirt roads and streets in our rural community. In the summers we cut and sold a lot of fire wood it the truck. I always got to drive and learned to drive slideways, now referred to as drifting. In the winters snow covered roads, well it was more of the same. With a plugged radiator and mountain passes my Mother over heated the motor, blowing a head gasket and warping the head.This was one of the first motor I rebuilt while in high school shop. I loved that truck and miss it still today.

  10. Emilio perez says:

    I have a 1971 datsun 1600 pick up. I need some parts.
    Dash board, filter for dual carburators, 4 caps for the wheels. Driver mirror, and more. Because iam fixing my truck. Thanks

  11. Deeg says:

    That truck is beautiful.
    What are those things on the front bumper, and where can I acquire a pair?

  12. Jose Perez says:

    I have a 1971 datsun 1600. Only 97000 miles. Engine and transmission are in great condition.

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