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Hagerty Employee

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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101 REPLIES 101

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.

Intermediate Driver

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

Intermediate Driver

I had a 76 Datsun pick up.It came down with carb problems. I fixed it,I put a Ford 289/C4 in it. That wasn't easy I had to make a dog house and put the back four cylinders in it. By the time I got done the only thing Datsun was the sheet metal and the frame. It wasn't unibody.

New 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!


I just finished a complete rebuild of my Mazda B2600i Cab Plus engine, w/ 5spd. ( I'm the original owner.)   All new water & fuel pumps, filters, hoses & belts, with likely more to come.  After spending $5k-$6k, I've got an 'almost new', great truck (240k miles), that fits my needs and handles like a decent car.   I expect it to be the last truck I'll need, and I like driving it better than anything I checked out to replace it after the original engine died.


Had a HiLux as a yard car when I worked in a junkyard. Tough as nails, junkyard gas finally killed her. Why is the Comanche not on this list.


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.

New Driver

Those little Datsun pickups were common as muck in the 70's San Francisco Bay Area.  For a while I drove one delivering auto parts.  With no load, the ride was just awful, the unencumbered rear axle bouncing off the road with the slightest provocation.  I picked up a hitchhiker once.  He quickly revealed he had just spent the night in jail after a bar fight in which he broke a few ribs.  He would have been a lot better off if he had been picked up by someone in a Vista Cruiser.

New Driver

What? No Mazda Rotary (REPU) pick-up?