SHOWA SNAP: Unicorn Datsun U221 pickup zooms through post-war Tokyo

Showa era images always manage to unearth something of interest. For example, in a photo taken in the late 1950s or early 1960s, we stumbled upon an ultra-rare Datsun U221 pickup. It looks like a coupe at first glance, but is instead a ute-like vehicle with a very small bed. We’d bet the number of these still in existence is somewhere in the single digits.

The above photo is what a 1959 Datsun 211 is supposed to look like. The U221 manages to maintain two rows of seating while adding a short tray at the rear. The funny thing is that Nissan already made a Datsun 220 pickup with a standard bed, though the cab was limited to one row of seating.

The above photo is of a what a more common Datsun pickup of the era would have looked like. Technically, it’s a 1958 Datsun 220, but the differences are mainly cosmetic. Most importatly, you can see the bed is a completely separate box unit, not integrated like the U221’s. In older Nissan naming convention, a “1” in the tens digit place indicates a passenger car while a “2” in that place indicates a truck.

So technically speaking, the U221 should probably be a U210 since it’s more car than truck, but it was marketed primarily as a commercial vehicle. The kanji on the side, though too blurry to read, hints that it’s a company car. The short bed was probably used to carry refrigerators or other household  machines. The driver is probably an appliance repairman rushing off to a job.

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7 Responses to SHOWA SNAP: Unicorn Datsun U221 pickup zooms through post-war Tokyo

  1. BlitzPig says:

    I’m almost more intrigued by the 1957 Ford sedan in the foreground.
    That must have seemed like piloting an aircraft carrier around the streets of Tokyo at that time.

    • nlpnt says:

      I wish the photo was just a little wider so we could see the license plate and tell if it was a taxi, a private car owned by someone Japanese, or if it had a Y-for-Yankee U.S. Forces plate.

    • MikeRL411 says:

      It was common for GIs to sell their cars to the local market, The Japanese buyer had a year to inspect and properly register the vehicle with Japanese vehicle officials, A racket rapidly developed. Firat buyer sells the car, after 11 months. Second buyer now has a year to complete registration Guess what happens 11 months later. Racket exposed* Local registration impounds the car until proper paperwork transferring ownership is provided, then on to inspection a tax payment. There were a lot of Cadillac sedans available for $500 soon after.

  2. Ben E says:

    I always love these snapshots. I really like the cement truck in the background! Would love to know more about it…

  3. speedie says:

    Is that a parade going on in the background?

  4. Negishi no Keibajo says:

    Love the Shows Snspshots. Haven’t been to post for a couple of years. Che, check…

  5. Richard says:

    They carried that theme through to the “U620” pickup like a coupe version of the regular 620 sadly only for the domestic market as far as I am aware, was a cool looking version.

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