During the gas crisis of 1973, many Americans were lucky to be cruising the streets in Datsun 521s and getting better gas mileage than a '69 Camaro. The small, compact trucks weren't necessarily the rage, but they were very popular amongst many groups of Americans, specifically on the West Coast. Starting as early as '59, many Americans had started picking up small compact trucks to do daily chores and use as work horses. Big V-8 trucks were readily available and affordable, but you couldn't beat the reliability and hustle of the smaller trucks. Little did these manufacturers of compact trucks or minitrucks know, it would only be a matter of time before people got their hands on them to cut them up and make them their own. If they could only see us now, I'm sure they'd turn in their graves.
We managed to put some information together on a few of these little trucks. The obvious one we left out was the Ford Courier, and in later years the Mitsubishi Mighty Max and Dodge D50, which are basically the same things.
Starting as early as '59, many Americans had started picking up small compact trucks to do daily chores and use as work horses.
These little things have been built as far back as 1955, but they weren't introduced to the United States until 1959. They basically started the craze, and for the longest time, they were also the top dogs in the market.
'59 Datsun 222
It was known as a Datsun 1000, and it was powered by a 1000cc four-cylinder motor. It was putting out a whopping 37 horsepower. Woo wee! With that much power, you'd think it could barely go down the road with a passenger, much less carry weight in the back. But these little trucks could certainly move. The truck was soon updated to a 1200cc motor.
'60-'61 Datsun 223
The only real change this year, besides a few changes to the grille, was it now had a smooth 60 hp with that 1200 cc under the hood.
A very customized Datsun NL320.
'62-'65 Datsun NL320 with variations
Starting in 1962, there were a few variations of the truck, including the Datsun 320 unibody, which is a very popular and rare truck. It's also the version found on our cover this month .
'65 Datsun 520
In May of 1965, the all-new 520 was introduced. No, we don't know what happened to 420, but we have a feeling there were hippies involved. The early 520s had two headlights and the later models had four. They also introduced the J13 1299cc four-cylinder motor this year. Sales were also the biggest improvement in 1965, as Datsun sold more than 5,000 units.
'66-'68 Datsun 520
Basically, this was the same thing as a '65 520, except all of the models now had four headlights.
'69-'71 Datsun N521
Finally real power-well kind of. This year the 1483cc four-cylinder J15 was introduced with a powerful 77hp. Also, it has the D badge on the hood and a 1500 badge on the side. This year, they introduced the world's first 1/2-ton mini truck.
'72-'79 Datsun 620
These little babies were the first to offer the longbed in 1975, and the first extra cab in 1977. 1978 offered disc brakes up front. The rest was history.
The Toyota truck has always been an economical and affordable truck. It was introduced by Toyota of Japan in 1964 as the Toyota Stout.
A very stock '71 Hi-Lux.
In 1964, Toyota entered the American market with a little beast known only as the Stout. It wasn't very pretty, but it wasn't meant to pose for pictures. It was durable and needed to compete with trucks like the Datsun 320. The truck was equipped with a 1.9L 1897cc motor, and it put out a smooth 85 horses.
The Stout continued to terrorize the public with its looks but kept on truckin'.
In '69, looks improved, and compared to the Stout, it was luxurious. It was still a rugged little truck that came standard with a four-speed transmission. The motors varied over the years, ranging from 85 horses to 108 horses.
This '70 Hi-Lux looks right at home with some big wheels and a lower stance.
Interior improvements were the only real changes in these years.
A larger and cleaner looking truck came out in 1975 that offered the 20R. Along with this newer motor, the five-speed manual transmission was also an option.
The 2.2L motor was one of the only nice things about these trucks. The SR5 package was upgraded, but to make things better, you could now get a 4x4 pickup. People who lived in the mud had a lot to smile about.