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Hagerty
Hagerty Employee

4 rad Japanese trucks under $10K

Fun fact: Toyota is not the only Japanese automaker that has produced trucks in the last fifty years. OK, maybe you already knew that. But the collector vehicle market seems to think otherwise. We're seeing major price gains for practically every truck with a Toyota badge-classic FJs, of course, but also the recently departed FJ Cruiser and the [...]
https://www.hagerty.com/media/market-trends/hagerty-insider/4-rad-japanese-trucks-under-10k/
49 REPLIES 49
Blackfeather
Pit Crew

Cool old trucks and SUVs... I hope that Hagerty looks a regular cab Japanese trucks that offered a V8 engine, these trucks are considered Unicorns.
gster
Intermediate Driver

Those Suzukis were nice when they were new. I rented one for a trip in Costa Rica years ago.
II haven't seen one here in Toronto for years, I do see a few still on the road (barely) in Mexico.
I don't think that Canadian winters were very kind to them......
Jcra719
New Driver

Can't forget the older Datsuns either; 520 and 521. Often times can be on the more expensive side of this scope, but in pristine condition are still fetching under $10k. They're hard to find, but if you have one they always draw attention. I like that the Younger generations are drawn to them and into them seemingly just as much, if not more that the older 2wd Toyotas - mainly because there is a sense of exclusivity in seeing one in the wild or owning one.
4wheel2wheel
Intermediate Driver

The biggest issue for anything from Japan prior to 1990 was the dreaded " Tim Worm" which had no mercy. I owned a 1977 620 King Cab, L20B, 5 speed, "Lil Hustler". Bought it in 1987 for $300 a drove it until 1994 when it dissolved out from under me. I loved that truck, It drove fine, handled well and the cargo capacity was excellent.
The 620 series was the very first Nissan vehicle to feature a 5 speed manual gearbox. This was because Datsun wanted to fit a 5 speed to the 280Z for the 1978 model year. So to insure that the transmission would handle the load and the abuse that was most likely to be subjected to in their premier sports car, they first fitted it to the 620 series trucks in 1977.
DvSuton
New Driver

Prior 1990? You're joking right. They still have rot prone metal in everything they push out the door.
OrangecrushCJ7
New Driver

An interesting tangent would be to feature some JDM trucks. They are a hot topic right now, especially with the problems owners in Maine and Rhode Island are facing.
JohnGalt
Intermediate Driver

I bought a new 1986 Pathfinder year-end holdover in early 1987. It was one of the best, fun to drive vehicles I have ever owned. If you are looking for one, be sure to check under the back seat for rust around where the seat belts bolt to the chassis.
BroncoJoe
Pit Crew

Really miss my VX, 2000 Dragon Green, sold it due to new twins and the piss-poor gas mileage. Great looks, the plastic cladding prevented most, if not all, door dings and overall I felt it was pretty well-made, just a really rough ride and again, the poor gas mileage (usually 17-18, 19 if you're headed downwind).
BillClay
New Driver

I love Dragon and Foxfire VXs!!!
OHCOddball
Advanced Driver

Hard to find anything that isn't rusted to death though.
Plavchan
New Driver

When will Suzuki restart Suzuki usa and bring in the Jimny to the US marketplace . The samurai out performed most all. Brands due to its light weight design . I would prefer a Jimny in the space better than the new Ford bronco
hyperv6
Racer

Here in the midwest the Nissan/Datsun or Toyota are rusted into a memory.

The Vericross is seen often non running in driveways with plastic panels covering the rust.

The Sidekick and Geo Tracker and Samurai are cut up and still running in tough truck competition.

In fact a friend has a Samurai that is all original having not seen salt. It is the only I modified on I ever see anymore. Kind of cool to see today.

 

I loved the Chevy Luv trucks first gen. They had a cool style and with a set of wheels they looked custom. The reverse opening hoods also were cool. Sadly they are all rotted away here due to salt. 

Planespotting
New Driver

My first car was a 1987 Nissan Pathfinder XE V6. It spent a lot of time off-road in stock trim on snowmobile trails, 2-tracks, and sometimes smaller. The thing never left me stranded. Maintenance was pretty much nothing more than oil changes, brakes, cap & rotor. The back seat was not comfortable at all but other than that the thing is one of the legends to me.
Turbo4Joe
Intermediate Driver

I remember that butt ugly Isuzu VehiCross with yards of black plastic and the 'snaggle-buck tooth' grille.
Luckily I only saw 2 or 3 on the road before they went to the scrapyards.
TonyT
Technician

"Booty" is in the eye of the beholder...
camarogirl57
Intermediate Driver

How bootyful is natur.
zmega
Intermediate Driver

I owned several older Nissan trucks. They were fun, reliable, useful. Also owned a FJ60 Toyota Land Cruiser - underpowered but still fun, reliable, and useful.
bogey52
Pit Crew

The Mitsubishi/ Dodge pickups of the '80s were my favorite, a sweet shifting 5 speed and the 2600 engine ran great. The Mitsu versions even had a diesel option.
An odd ball I had a decade earlier was a Nissan Patrol- Nissan's match to the Toyota FJ , the Nissan had styling similar to a Land Rover 88 but sadly not the aluminum body, my Nissan was a rust bucket.I remember giving a lift to a female hitchhiker in that, ha, she saw the 'PATROL" name at the center of the steering wheel and asked if I was some sort of cop?? She probably was carrying some weed..
DKinColo
New Driver

Totally agree on the Dodge / Ply / Mitsu pickups. Still have my '80 arrow sport in the barn.
GRP_Photo
Instructor

I had a 1985 standard cab Toyota 4WD and loved it. Bought a 1989 Nissan Hardbody extended can 4WD after I totalled the Toy. I sold that with 176K on the odometer. It was pretty bulletproof, except for the driveshaft. There was a support bearing in the middle that kept wearing out.
When I was in the market for a new truck 11 years ago, I made a stab at buying another mid-80s Toy. Couldn't find one in decent shape and the prices were more than a new Tacoma.
topside
Advanced Driver

I've owned a couple Pathfinders, an '88 2-door and my current '93 4-door. Pretty much bulletproof, and my current '93 with 215,000 miles on it has only required normal maintenance. I take good care of it and as a result I get occasional offers and frequent appreciative comments. They are susceptible to rust in snowy climates but I've only had a little at a rocker/quarter seam that was likely negatively affected by a previous repair, and it's been corrected. The 4WD system predates the shift-on-the-fly convenience of modern 4x4s, and it's kinda "trucky" in ride & handling, but it's been as faithful as a dog. Still pulls 20-22 MPG, and I'd take it anywhere.
GRP_Photo
Instructor

In my opinion, the reason millennials are attracted to these trucks is that they're small.
BillClay
New Driver

Nice article! I owned a VehiCROSS for a few years in the mid-00s, and was lucky enough to find a used Alpine supercharger to put on it. The SC made it awfully quick - I could keep up with a V8 Cayenne S under full acceleration up to about 105 mph - but brutalized the gas mileage... as in 13 mpg overall average running on premium in 2008 when local prices were over $4.50/gallon! It was a very capable truck in bad weather and off road, but the small size and wild design meant it did not have a broad appeal. When Isuzu pulled out of the US market and VX-specific parts were being shipped from Japan, I pulled out too. I loved it though!
jello67
Intermediate Driver

I don't know that one of these could be found for less than $10,000, but a Mazda Rotory Power pick up would be an impressive add. The Isuzu Vehicross is also an impressive pick!
Oldskooltoy1
Pit Crew

Honorable mention?
I would say the rarest of all Japanese trucks would be the Daihatsu Rocky!
Two door and pure simplicity!
I believe the rear shell came of, similar to the first gen 4Runner!
MiragePro
New Driver

I had the little sidekick for several years. Great little fun 4-wheeler. Had to sell when I moved to a smaller place. Now that I live in a bigger place I now have a Mitsubishi Montero Gen 3. The Mitsubishi Montero Gen 3, also known as the Pajero, has won the Dakar Rally 12 times, nearly twice that of their competitors. These are records earned in the Guinness World Records and currently unbeaten. The Dakar Rally is an off-road endurance race from Paris, to Dakar, Senegal. Having to cross sand dunes, mud, rocks, and among other things, averaging 500 miles a day. Love it even more. 7 passenger, with lots of cargo room when the seats are folded down. 4-wheel drive with locking differential's, leather interior, sun roof, electric windows and mirrors. 2001 and only $5000 6 years ago. Drive it out in the desert and at times go rock climbing.
AG1962
Instructor

Great choices. Look for price jumps soon! In the late 1990s and early Aughts, I had a 1987 Pathfinder SE with a manual tranny that I used to drive hundreds of km north over two-lane roads, in Alberta winters, once a week for work. We also took it across the mountains to the coast in winter, no easy drive in Canada then or now. It was ideal for the job: great traction for heavy snow, powerful fuel-injected V6 for long highway stretches, acceptable fuel consumption, room for gearor luggage. When I no longer had to drive north, I sold it and all the rust that had attacked it over 15 years. It was not economically saveable then; today it might be worth doing the welding and body-work. The Impreza that replaced it was just as capable, really (except off-road, which I never did).
MattK
Detailer

Another vehicle manufactured by Suzuki was the subcompact X-90. Sold here in the states to replace the sidekick, it was small and certainly interesting and now a bit rare, actually it was rare when they stopped importing them, they only sold about 7200 of them.
Malibooyah
Pit Crew

My first post… and a great collection to comment on!

The Pathfinder was a mind blowing SUV when it hit the market. The boxy style and the side rear triangle windows made it one of the favorites of my youth. The 4x4 was a beast in the heavy winters of the northeast.

The Sidekick, super cool little truck, was a much more polished version of the Sammy… which I drove for years in the early 90’s. Fortunately I was finally able to acquire one recently. Only 4x4 this time which is a bonus over the 2wd I destroyed in the snow.

Was the Chevy Luv built off of the Datsun or vice versa? Had a 79’ Luv and it looks like it was a clone.

Have seen some really beefed up versions of the VehiCross lately and they have a place for sure. With such a limited run it sounds like something to grab up while you still can.

Thanks Hagerty!
Lotus47
New Driver

You have forgotten one of the coolest Japanese trucks of all time, The Mazda Rotary Engine Pickup especially the last of the breed the 1977 model. I wish that I had one every day.
KdFregistry
Intermediate Driver

It's no wonder that with Americans long love affair with trucks and combine that with the huge spike acceptance of vintage Japanese vehicles as collectors items that these small japanese trucks will be on the rise. Higher gas prices can also make these more appealing as well.
DvSuton
New Driver

Americans do have a long lasting love of pick ups. Unfortunately, non are from Japan
RickL
Detailer

What no 1989-1993 Mazda B2200 or B2600. Shame. Look around there are a lot of them out there and a lot of B-Pickup enthusiasts. I know a lot of them are slammed (torsion bars make it easy to lower front), but still lots of nice stock ones. I know I have 1990 B2200 bought new by brother in Fla. then to another brother in GA, now me in NC, still only 150,000 miles on it. All stock, 5 speed, manual everything, with A/C. Although it would have been nice if they offered a turbocharged version.
JohninNC
Instructor

I was just looking at these B Mazdas, some great buys out there. High school pal had one dropped all the way down, rode terrible but we had fun in it. 2 12" subs in the king cab portion. He'd roll the window down a bit to "Let the bass out".
Uniquecoaches03
Intermediate Driver

019.jpgI own a 1971 620 Bulletside short bed with 53k original SoCal miles. I love that little truck. No rust, no dents in the bed, still has all of the paint markings on the suspension. A lot better than the usual rusty junk that we get in Illinois.

ThePorscheMan
Detailer

Got a new Sidekick in '89, JX, drove it for 100,000km with no issues whatever. Got over 50mpg on many trips (crossed Canada/US 5 times) and its sweet spot was 120kph @ 4,000rpm. Reasonably comfy and could do all sorts of stunts off road, only issue being its non-posi' rear yet I only got stuck once. Miss that little puppy and now I think I'll look for another one.
PurelyPMD
Detailer

Have owned 5 1995 and older Nissan Pathfinders over the last 3 years, made money on every single one of them. Still looking for that perfect 2 door though...
pcbrig
Pit Crew

I wish I could share your gushing praise of the '85-'95 era Pathfinder, but if my factory-ordered, 1990, top of the line SE-V6, 5 speed, 4-door is any guide, they were anything but "reliable." I so much expected (and wanted) to love it. However, it suffered from congenital rust problems early on (rocker panels, in particular; and I wasn't driving in snow/salt regions), various electronic gremlins, faulty adjustable shocks, constantly broken exhaust manifold bolts, etc. Exlcusively dealer-serviced, too. I've owned many solid and reliable vehicles (cars, trucks, SUVs; most purchased new), but next to my lemon Audi A4, 2.8 liter, Quattro, my Pathfinder was the most problematic and unreliable of them all. I couldn't wait to get rid of it after about six years of moderate usage.
bblhed
Instructor

No LUV for the Chevy LUV? It was an ISUZU but no one knew what ISUZU was so the chevy sold like hotcakes.
DougL
Detailer

I do have a certain interest in a 4 door Geo Tracker, or equivalent, with the 2.5 V6. I do not have any interest in any of the others. It is hard to find any of these that have not been through then mill, then rusted out.
sanjon
New Driver

This is my 76 Datsun pickup that I have owned since it was new . I modified it back in the early days adding a Low Manufacturing 4WD kit to it . I also added a Buick turbo V6 with automatic transmission to it . It still has the original paint which has turned to a nice patina . It is fun to drive and I still get comments on it . 

 

 

1976 Datsun pickup1976 Datsun pickup

JohninNC
Instructor

That is truly awesome.
Gary_Bechtold
Specialist

I'm surprised the old Pathfinders have not taken off yet. They were honestly some of the most rugged SUV's of their time. The Vehicross was just weird and that had quite an appeal in my area. I saw more than a few of them.
Dieseldude
Pit Crew

Also forgotten are the Datsun / Nissan 720 pick ups from 1980 - 1984. I picked up a couple 4X4's last year and they were quite affordable compared to others.
Dutch
Intermediate Driver

I put 265,000 miles on a '96 GEO Tracker. It lasted that long due to sheer hard headedness and ingenuity. A real keep it alive mission! It finally got so rusty that I got tired of chasing grounds and had to let it go. So many good times in that old dog.
The only replacement option was (and still is) a Wrangler. Too much money, there.
I miss that car.
JohninNC
Instructor

Vehicross is expensive and if you get an oil burner 3.5 in the Vehicross/ Trooper look out. Rodeo Sport is cool. Later Amigo too. 1st gen Rav-4 is pretty cool especially the 2 door 4x4 manual trans. Any 4runner in good shape is a solid buy. JDM's! Yes please!
bsnyder77399
New Driver

I never had one, but I always liked the Subaru "Brat". They put seats in the back so they could sell it as something other than a truck.
DvSuton
New Driver

Like everything from Japan, these lasted only a few years before the rust and rot consumed everything. No different from todays Japanese and Korean brands. Over rated junk
eighthtry
Advanced Driver

Trucks? I had several when I was 8. They were Tonka trucks. I really do not count them as trucks, but they could handle a big load and anything else I could throw at them. The definition of trucks has certainly been twisted.