QotW: What’s the coolest Japanese Nostalgic Truck?

There’s been a lot of QotWs about Japanese nostalgic cars, so it’s high time we asked about their bed-equipped workhorse counterparts that were responsible for creating an entire vehicle segment:

What’s the coolest Japanese nostalgic truck?

Our pick is the Datsun 620, which is one of the most beautiful pickups ever forged. Plus, it almost single-handedly launched the mini-truckin’ segment. For the purposes of this QotW, we’re asking only about bed-equipped vehicles. SUVs like Land Cruisers and Monteros will be in a future QotW.

What say you, dear reader? As always, the most entertaining or inspiring comment by next Monday will receive a random toy. Click through to see the winner from last week’s question, “Where’s your favorite place to drive your nostalgic car?

This week’s winner is Aaron, who recommends a hidden gem from the Lone Star State.

There’s a great little pass that runs next to North Central Expressway, that’s US 75 for you non-Texans. I won’t name the road, but It’s an old, winding, two-lane state highway. It’s slowly being built-up around, but most of it still runs through some beautiful scenery and a really great bridge pass.

I love to take my 1st gen Celica through it on the weekend, it makes a great bypass for all of the construction and manic weekend drivers that take 75. The Celica’s on coilovers and stickies, so it likes the turns. The best part is in some of the clearings I can see the 75 traffic at dead stop in the distance. I laugh and then put my foot into it, zipping along with all 60hp from my 20R.

Omedetou! Your prize from the JNC gashapon is the latest recolor of the Hot Wheels Mad Manga!

[Image: TexasFreeways]

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43 Responses to QotW: What’s the coolest Japanese Nostalgic Truck?

  1. Nigel says:

    1979 Toyota Hylux.
    (The choice of many good people and bad people to move “things” with).

  2. James says:

    71 Datsun 521. I’ve never owned one myself mostly because I’m broke the majority of the time but to me this little truck has so much character with it’s simple classic lines. It has so much potential to be whatever you want it to be. From street truck to off road the 521 has you covered so long as you have the patience, money and know how.

  3. Philip says:

    Have you ever looked into the hypnotizing baby face of a Toyota Publica Pickup? You will most likely feel a spontaneous urge to give it a warm and cozy home and devotedly look after it for the rest of your life.

    I will hopefully be given the chance one day to get one imported to Europe.

  4. bert says:

    This is another tough one! There are many cool jap trucks, from the Toyota Stout/Hilux, the aforementioned Datsun, the Mazda REPU, and various three wheeled creations. But I find this hard question has one very simple answer! The coolest Japanese truck is the Subaru Brat! Why? Because Ronald Reagan drove one.

    Everybody Loves Reagan!

  5. Dutch 1960 says:

    The very first Toyota 4×4 pickup in the early 80s. Round headlights and flared fenders. Not the best vehicle in every way, but when it rolled out, “bam!”, like the original jeep, it redefined it’s 4×4 niche. And like the first jeep, they are just “right” in all the details and proportions. Short cab, short bed, raised up to there from the factory, steel wheels.

  6. James says:

    I posted earlier about the Datsun 521 and thought that an example of how cool they can look was necessary, so:


  7. chris erickson says:

    though this answer is extremly biased as the owner of one, Im going to have to go for with the 1974 Mazda repu. Who can argue that a compact pickup that came stock from the factory with both a 13b rotary and fender flares wasn’t both brilliant and shocking at the time. Granted it suffered from low MPG and very low production numbers but i believe that just adds to the allure, a truck most people wont see in their lives on the street in loud factory colors like “lawn green” whats not to love.

    • kelly greendige says:

      There is no other japanese truck that moved so much people than the Mazda Repu.
      From the days of the early 70s to the late 70s, the Repu is number one.
      Owners across the US and Canada has been blessed with the magic that Mazda has made. To this day it is one of the most sought of Mazda Rotary vehicles to be made. Haters can say it was a Ford in disguise but it was Mazda that lent over the compact truck.

  8. Steve says:

    I myself own a ’74 Datsun 620 and a ’72 Datsun 510 4 door and am completely in love with them. Got a friend of mine who’s got a couple Toyotas as well, ’72 hilux and ’73 Mark II Corona as his daily.

  9. Danny says:

    When my parents met, my dad drove a Datsun 620 (though I’m not positive that’s what they’re called here in the states). He was attending college in northern Ohio, and has told me great stories of impromptu roadtrips at 3 in the morning, and of the little Datsun towing a Checkmate ski boat without a fuss. He also admitted that anytime he encountered one of his roommates at a stoplight, a drag race was almost mandatory, and the Datsun held its own against the VW Rabbits of the late 70’s.. It sounds like the 620 was ready for whatever adventures or trouble the old man was looking for, and I think that’s why when I was looking for a new daily driver, he preached the virtues of simple 4 cylinder pickups.. The apple musn’t fall far, as now I roam around in a little pickup with crank windows, 3 pedals and no carpet..

  10. jivecom says:

    honda T360. without T360, there would have been other kei trucks, but honda couldn’t have subsisted on just the S500 sales, so there wouldn’t have been a honda for much longer

  11. John says:

    And the Datsun B120 gets my vote. Half car, half truck, all awesome. 🙂


    Sold new in Japan and Australia for 30+ years and in South Africa for over 40 years. Think how awesome it would be to walk into a Nissan South Africa dealer and buy a 2006 model truck that looks exactly like the 1973 version. 🙂

  12. Cherry X1R says:

    How about the Subaru Brat. jump seats, 4wd capability, some turbocharged models and T-tops on the second gen models. I don’t know if they were ever sold in their home market but they are Japanese, they are classic or nostalgic and they’re really cool, the people sure think so when I take mine out for a spin.

  13. Brandon says:

    I don’t know if it is considered nostalgic quite yet, but I’d put my vote towards the Racing Beat California Haulin. It’s powered by a 13b turbo out of a FC and a has a sweet paint job that screams ’80s. If I had a Mazda B2000 truck I’d try to make one similar to the California Haulin.

  14. mattraver says:

    repu hands down ,from the factory flares to the battery in the bed side and its tuff looks i think its the clear winner

  15. Andrew walker says:

    1972 Datsun 620!!!!!!!! helll yeah My buddy has one and I would love to have it……. The sound that the weber carbed L16 makes is just unreal!!!!

  16. Watt2159 says:

    Fourth Generation Toyota Hilux, it was in BTTF, and Ivan “ironman” Stewart drove one………nuff said.
    P.S. it also doubles as a tank!

  17. Adam Laws says:

    I do love a 79 Hilux… and I have a big soft spot for my brother’s 1963 Toyota Tiara ute (I know I know .. pick up!) but I think the winner is probably the Mazda REPU… can’t get much more JNC than a rotary in a pick up!

    Photo link for the Tiara so you guys know what the hell I am talking about:


  18. daruma says:

    Hilux 🙂 Here’s a pic of mine:


    Everyone drives Hiluxes. The UN, the terrorists, you can still buy new parts for it b/c there’s people still fixing em (unlike my a20 series celica)

  19. Aly says:

    What always comes in some shade of green, and looks like Kermit the frog from the front?

    Yep, it’s the Daihatsu Midget MP – one of Japan’s quirkiest three-wheeled pickups. You could easily forgive its rattly 300cc two-stroke engine because you took one look at its comically curvy body and you knew that it was a happy car. It was cheap, reliable, and a valuable workhorse for small businesses in postwar Japan, and over half a century later it’s still cool in a space-age sort of way.

  20. Kees M says:

    i could be biased because i own one but I love my 1969 Toyota RN11 (link below). I also fell in love with the Publica Pickup. JUST ANOTHER TOYOTA LOVER!!!


  21. Benjamin says:

    For 2WD, Datsun 520/521. For 4WD, Toyota FJ45. True trucks that were bought to be used and abused.

    The Subaru Brat is not a truck. If it was 1984, and I wanted a car-truck, I’d buy an El Camino. If I wanted a car with t-tops, I’d buy a Trans-Am. If I was suffering from the side effects of Reaganomics and couldn’t afford either, I’d settle for the Subaru Brat. I’d use the bed to haul my Betamax player down the dump, and stop by Circuit City on my way home to check out those new Laserdisc players.

  22. Taylor says:

    The Chevy Luv of course.

    Its the best looking mini truck (imo), and possibly the most versatile. You could do anything with it; from 4-wheeling, drag racing to rat rodding. The Luv looks great slammed and the longbed version has the longest bed of all the mini trucks.

    Plus I own one, so that helps my opinion 🙂
    Baus: http://instagr.am/p/OSSF0atUxH/?fb_source=og_snowlift_photo_user_message

  23. LTDScott says:

    I discovered that many Japanese trucks were available in their homeland with a double cab configuration. Think extra-cab El Camino. Ever since then, I’ve been fascinated with them, and I have a Tomica model of the Datsun 620 version sitting in front of me now.


  24. Tofuik says:

    Dad had a mid 80’s Nissan 720. Just something about that strange dual spark plug Z24 and how the truck haul’d ass down the gravel roads as I tagged along to help him with electrician work as a kid. It was previously my grandfathers truck and when he died it was passed on to my dad. It smelled of gasoline and pipe tobacco. It got the hell beat out of it daily all the way into the 2000s and eventually left to go continue its life in mexico. Now days anytime I sit in an older import that someone smoked in I get this wave of nostalgia, of the good times going 90mph on shitty roads with the windows down and the doobie brothers turned up. I miss that truck.

  25. knoonz says:

    I would have to go with the first gen Mazda Porter Cab. It’s so quirky, it looks like a little robot ready to haul around a bed full of junk. It’s almost like a 1960’s Japanese precursor to WALL-E:


  26. mrbigtanker says:

    the 521 is hands down the best looking truck period.the 620 is so over done its not funny

  27. Jason says:

    My personal fav, and coolest by far is the Datsun U320. After all, you have to admit its genius. Bed in the back, and a 4 seater ! This is after all coolest, not best looking. This should win best practical truck as well. =)

  28. Don says:

    I agree, the Datsun 620 is the best looking Japanese truck. They were very basic and hard-riding, with no frills. They were also called Lil’ Hustlers which was strange marketing, but it was the ’70s. I still remember the first time I saw one and how impressed I was on how nicely styled it was. I bought a used one years later, and drove it for several years. Brakes were awful, as they were drum in front, but the engine was really a strong and well-engineered component. I replaced the Datsun with a Mazda B2600i that I bought new in 1991 and it is a much better truck, but not nearly as pretty.

  29. I owned two Toyota Hilux when they were new and worked for a Toyota agency in San Bruno, CA….. My first, a mustard gold 1973 was a great little hauler that was one of the first fixed up in the bay area – lowered, chrome rims with blackwall tires, black snap-on toneau cover with matching vinyl top – custom dual glasspak exhaust, etc etc…. Never liked the silver painted grille and tailight bezels. Replaced it 1n 1977 with a similar bright yellow hilux SR5 (removed the terrible stripes the first day!) set up about the same without the vinyl top – liked the body colored grille better and the cab was enough larger to make it way more comfortable – Both were shortbeds, that I thought looked better than the long ones – The Datsuns had a slightly better look but the Toyotas were better built and faster. As for best vintage truck, around 1959, Toyota built a few “El Camino” type pickups out of their Toyopet Crown sedans and sent them in LHD spec to test on the emerging California Japanese car market – not much interest at the time but I have seen one of the few that were sent and it was way cool!!!! Now drop it down a bit and pop on same chrome smoothy wheels and fit a toneau cover……….

  30. Socarboy99 says:

    I couldn’t agree more that the Datsun 620 is the greatest old mini truck. The Toyota Hilux may have been the most durable, but the 620 was the looker. That vehicle (the 620) started my love for the mini truck from, as a child, memories of the bright blue early ’70s model my father’s best friend had new in the day.

  31. bdawg says:

    The Datsun NL320 destroys all. That smooth, unibody design makes me tingle.

  32. Grinder says:

    Datsun 620 with the 520/21 as the runner up but only because it has that sexy 510 face 🙂 The bullet side was a more complete package as far as body lines go – the 520 just had the face and not the body to back it up ;P

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