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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.


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Since 1983 I've owned four Datsun/Nissan pickups:  521, 620, D21 and a current series Frontier.  The 521 was a gift from an owner who couldn't start it--turned out rust in the gas tank had solidly plugged the fuel filter and the fuel pump.  It was known as the Red Menace (actually it was faded to a kinda pink) due to randomly failing brakes.  Finally fixed that problem--and the rusty gas tank--and hauled stuff for years.  While the US version was rated at 1000 lbs, the identical Japanese version was rated at 1000 kg (2200 lbs).  The lower US rating was to allow importation as a 1/2 ton truck.  


Size creep:  my '07 King Cab Frontier is 206 inches long, and has the same size bed as my '72 521, that was 172 inches long.  Even my '81 King Cab was only 181 inches...But if I describe my Frontier as a "twin cam, 4 liter V6, six speed manual, 4 wheel disk brakes, Bilstein sport shocks in a 2 + 2 body" it sounds more like a sports car than a pickup truck...