cancel
Showing results for 
Search instead for 
Did you mean: 

8 throwbacks to when compact pickups were truly compact

If today’s “compact” pickups seem like yesterday’s full-size pickups, you’re not crazy. A 2020 Ford Ranger is 210 inches long, and a Toyota Tacoma, nose to tail, is 212; those figures are comparable to a 1979 Ford F-Series regular cab pickup. Even in the ’70s, that seemed like more truck than some people needed. The Japanese pioneered the idea of smaller pickups, mostly because they designed trucks for their home market, where space came at a premium. However, as consumers embraced small cars in 1960s and ’70s, they also embraced small pickups.

 

Here are 8 throwbacks to an era when compact pickups really were compact.

 

Read the full list on Hagerty.com:

https://www.hagerty.com/media/automotive-history/8-throwbacks-to-when-compact-pickups-were-truly-com...

Replies (85)

Replies (85)

Personally, I think the manufactures are missing the boat, they should offer a small, lightweight pickup, with few luxury features, a stick shift, four banger and sell for around $12,000. It would sell like hotcakes. Regular cab. Make A/C and automatic options. No power windows, no power steering or brakes. 1000lb payload capacity. Rear wheel drive. 

New Driver

I used to own a 1975 LUV. Absolutely loved it. I currently own a 1982 S-10 standard cab short bed 2 WD manual transmission, and love it too. I will never get rid of it. You couldn't give me a truck with more than two doors unless I could sell it. Those things are taxicabs, not trucks. They are hideously ugly, and the beds are so small they are mostly worthless. 

Passenger

When old full size pickups are restored using S10 frames might be a clue that pickups have gotten too big?

Pit Crew

I thought the Rampage was interesting. The hauling capacity was similar to the larger El Camino, and the 2.2 responded nicely to cam and ignition advance.

New Driver

You showed a photo of 1959 Datsun 1000 and in all my years as a professional automotive technician, I never saw one anywhere. However, I saw many Datsun 520/521, 620 and 720 trucks. I bought a used 1977, 620 King Cab and drove it for seven years until it rusted out from beneath me. I loved that truck, the mechanicals were bullet proof, it always ran like new and never broke down on me. I was very sad the day I had to have it taken to the local boneyard because it failed state inspection for excessive rust. But back then everything coming out of Japan was a favorite prey for the ubiquitous Tin Worm. Datsun/Nissan, Toyota, Toyo Kogyo/Mazda, Mitsubishi, Isuzu, None were spared.

New Driver

You missed one that I owned in 1969 not many imported to the US it was a Morris Minor pick up. It was fun to drive had a 950cc minor engine with a four speed transmission. Not sure how much the payload was because I used it for fun.

Passenger

As an old dinosaur, I was intimately familiar with all - save the BRAT. In 1965, having won the bid on a damaged in transit Datsun pickup, we drove it from Kenosha all the way to Forsythe, Montana, where the state patrol could not find the dimmer switch, either. The days before Federal law now seem like the OK Corral. We got Hillmans, Sunbeams and Toyopets along with all domestics. Had we been as prescient as our friends the Qvales, I would be polishing my XKE instead of reminiscing with Hagerty.

New Driver

I love driving around these days in my 1979 Dodge D50!

Passenger

I would have included the 1960-1965 Ford Ranchero...equipped with a V8 automatic these were fast little trucks...my sister admitted many years ago that she never lost a drag race when our father let her use it on weekends...

Pit Crew

I owned a 1976 Ford Courier ( Mazda B-series ) with a four speed for a few years. Although the truck was really only suited for two ( smallish )

people, the bench seat accommodated seat belts for 3 people. But it sure was cramped with three. Although I tried hard, I couldn’t not brush

against my buddies wife’s inner thigh every time I shifted into either 2nd

or 4th gear. Although my truck really needed the fifth gear ( it revved high at even 55 mph ) I still always enjoyed driving it. By that time 

( actually before that time ) the Japanese were building very well synchronized gearboxes. I remember that they had a “king sized “ cab that was no more than about 6 inches longer than the standard cab.

Good times.

New Driver

Perhaps it was safety that pushed trucks into becoming bigger and bigger.  I'd love a modern day El Camino based on a Chevy Sonic or a Ranchero based on the Ford Focus.

New Driver

How could you ignore the Mazda Rotary Pickup?

Passenger

My Dad had 2 Datsun pickup trucks. The 1971 I took my road-test for my driver's license. I liked that little truck his second was a 1982 with 4 wheel drive.  We did a lift kit and monster tires, I can't believe he went for that project! My brother had a Subaru BRAT it really was a fun little thing. It was great in the snow and we used to drive it on the beaches back in those days too. Somehow I don't find the new stuff that interesting anymore. Sure they go like hell and handle nice, but the just don't put the same smile on your face.

Navigator

Remember when a pickup was the cheapest vehicle you could buy??

Passenger

I just had Hagerty insure my 1994 Honda Acty. A truly compact Kei-sized mini Truck. It’s a direct Japanese import, right hand drive. 38 HP, 4WD and can haul 771 pounds of cargo (some Acty owners regularly haul over 1,000 pounds). I got a 1994 with 6,000 miles and it looks a couple of years old for $6k

Passenger

Also Ford had a small truck, Econoline with the cab over the engine.

Passenger

My small pickup just passed its 40th birthday, low original miles, a West Coast truck so no rust anywhere except for paint that is going away. A reluctant 4 speed manual, 0-60 in five years. I've owned it forever and I refuse to sell it even though I've had 3 good offers. It's the parts chaser, the girls in the family love it and can park it with ease (no Power Steering; who needs it?) so they shop in it,  and so on. It's a member of the family. It never does not start and run. I can afford several new pickups and won't go near them. Unless one is in construction or some trade where size and other requirements are necessary they are ugly, cumbersome, and too expensive.

My small truck will be restored in tandem with some other projects in the offing. It will be restored as a decent driver. 

Intermediate Driver

My friend "Dilly-Boy" had a Chevy Luv pickup lowered during the time in the mid 80's that lowered mini-pickups were hot. We had a trip planned to drive his Luv  3 1/2 hours from San Diego to the Colorado River near Yuma, AZ to camp for the weekend. While filling the truck up with gas-a rare full-tank fill-up - we started smelled gas and seeing it leak out under the truck. It turns out that he had a hole at the top of the tank. (Never noticed it before because he had never filled the tank to the top. Usually $5 a fill-up.) We pondered what to do, three wide in the cab listening to Iron Maiden. He went back into the 7-Eleven and came out with gobs of Bubblicious bubble gum-which we all started chewing. He stretched the bubble gum out and put pieces of it on top of the gas tank hole-which eventually hardened with the gas. No more gas tank problems during that San Diego-Yuma road trip. 

New Driver

The AMC Jeep Scrambler CJ-8 made from 1981 through 1986 deserved a mention as a notable small pickup. The recently released Jeep Gladiator incorrectly has been compared by some to the much-missed Scrambler.

 

New Driver

You left out the Jeep Comanche.

New Driver

Though I really loved my 3 Toyota pickup trucks, (two if I don't count the 4Runner) the ones that surprised me the most where the Volkswagen and Dodge front wheel drive pickups' failure, because they were such perfect pickup trucks for snow country where a full-size truck wasn't needed. Even when empty oh, they had the engine weight over their driving wheels and would go through snow based only on their ground clearance.

Advanced Driver

Loved all of my compact pickups. Did all the jobs the big guys could do but in a tossable easy to park and drive way. Owned 1980 Plymouth Arrow that was rear ended by a fool on an interstate off ram, no injury. Replaced with an 86 Dodge D-50 that rust finally ate. Then on to 95 Mitsu Might Max and lastly to a 98 Nissan Frontier 4X4. Then the extra large phase started and I was done with pickups. Cost became extra large too. Miss all the little guys who could!

New Driver

I view the unibody designs as the compact coupe utilities aka baby El Camino/Rancheros. Subara Baha, Honda Ridgeline, the rumoured Ford Maverick and Hyundai Santa Cruz are the successors to this.

 

Where I live we didn't really see the first gen compact trucks (or they didn't last 10 winters). 80s to early 90s S10, Rangers, B2200, McFly Toyotas, Nissan Hardbodies and such were everywhere until they weren't. Only thing I have seen that kind of felt the same in recent decades was the first-gen Chev Colorado but they might have been bigger (never had one side by side with a 92 Mazda).

 

My two best friends in high school drove 87 and 92 Mazdas respectively, and they were great trucks (though the fold-down cushion wasn't much of a back seat). I'd happily buy a new version of that exact same truck today.

Detailer

When I was in college in the late 1970s, I had a weekend job at a nearby NAPA store and would often make deliveries in a LUV pickup. It was nothing special, but it was ideally suited for most of the deliveries we needed to make. I'm sure I never carried more than a hundred pound load at a time, so it made no sense to use a full-size pick-up or a van. 

New Driver

Loved my Datsun 521 pick up and loving my 1976 620 Datsun pick up done as a tribute to the first Datsun raced at the 24 hours in Daytona. 

620 Turns heads wherever it goes and always generates conversation when stopped long enough for someone to walk up.

The Dodge's in the article caught my attention as a possible everyday driver, lots of go-fast stuff for those motors

Passenger

Glad to see that my VW pickup made the list. It isn't fast, even with turbo diesel engine swap, but it gets 40+ mpg and has hauled a lot of stuff, including my fully dressed, iron headed 428 FE engine.  Gets lots of thumbs up, too.

Navigator

....And somehow the mid-70s small, quick, sharp-looking and high-revving Mazda Rotary Pickup (REPU) failed to make this list.

New Driver

I picked up an 84 Rampage last year. Fun little driver that gets attention at the gas station and at shows. All for under $2k.

Passenger

I had a 1974 Ford Courier. It had the 1.8L engine and Jatco automatic. The 1.8L went south, so I replaced it with a 1974 Mercury Capri 2.8L V6 and a C4 transmission. What a difference it made! Also changed the front brakes to later Courier disc brakes. Big difference too!

 

I would really like to get a Toyota HILUX, like the one pictured in the article. Those turn signals on the tops of the fenders give it character. (Maybe Toyota did not have turn signals for the Japanese markets, so that was the only spot they could put them on for USA.

 

What happened to the Isuzu PUP and Hombre in your article?

Passenger

How on earth did you not include the Mazda Rotary Pickup? THAT was a unique vehicle!!

Navigator