Anyone who has kids of a certain age knows the Pizza Planet pickup truck that appears in most every Pixar film, most prominently in the Toy Story franchise. As my middle son was obsessed with Toy Story in general, and Buzz Lightyear in particular, I have seen the films too many times to count and instantly recognized this Toyota pickup as its doppelgänger when I saw it. A few years later, I purchased it but had to promptly kill it.
The Toyota inspiration for the Pizza Planet truck is evident from its overall shape, with vertical tail lights and a characteristic “YO” left on the tail gate. In Toy Story 2, the owner’s manual is shown with the manufacturer stated as Gyoza of 1978 vintage. So it is a bit earlier than my truck but the resemblance and overall look is certainly there.
I had seen the truck around town previously and admired the color scheme. The front license plate was an indication of long term ownership but unfortunately, the body was well past its best. This was the better side, believe it or not. So why did I snap this Toyota up when it came up for sale? Well first of all, it was extremely cheap and I am a sucker for cheap. But mostly, I bought it as a mechanical donor for my ill-conceived Honda S600 project.
It turns out this truck did indeed have a history of long term ownership. The man I bought it off of had owned it since 1984, but in recent years it had been demoted to the occasional dump run before finally being retired. Due to an extended period of sitting, the battery was toast and the brakes needed a bleed. For a bit of extra character, the Toyota could only be started with a flat head screwdriver.
I have never been a huge truck guy, but I have a soft spot for the compact trucks of the 1970s and 1980s and after owning a Mazda B2000, I firmly believe they are a perfectly sized compromise between hauler and commuter. I briefly flirted with the idea of resurrecting the Toyota to at least drivable status, but it was just too rusty even for me to consider. I did, however, make my first movie tribute vehicle on an extremely modest budget.
While physically larger than the Honda S600, the Toyota truck had a rugged 22R four cylinder engine mated to a five speed gearbox. The lack of fuel injection limited the number of wires and also meant I could use low-pressure fuel lines. The live rear axle was definitely on the wide side but would be much easier for an amateur to adapt than an independent suspension. Front suspension was via torsion bars, similar in concept to the S600, giving the added benefit of being easy to lower. My first plan was to take the whole front suspension as a unit and transplant it onto the Honda frame while retaining the Honda steering rack. The rear would either be a Locost-style four-link with Panhard rod, or a leaf spring set-up. The five bolt pattern gave better wheel options than the six-bolt pattern of a Mazda or Nissan mini truck.
Given some closer measurements, I calculated I would need fender flares of epic proportion to contain the wider track Toyota axle. Narrowing an axle was out of my modest budget. After much pondering, I decided on a new radical plan. Rather than narrow the Toyota bits to fit the Honda body, I would widen the Honda body shell to fit the Toyota’s dimensions. The SR5 was supposed to be the sporty truck of the 1980s and lowered, it would surely drive at least as well as an MG B or something similar.
It is not as crazy as it might first seem since there was not a whole lot of Honda left to make wider. The trunk and hood would be the major pieces and they were relatively flat. There was no windshield so that had to be sourced one way or another and as a nice bonus, widening the body would give me a larger transmission tunnel. I still needed to cut the Toyota wheelbase to match the Honda, though. With some very careful cutting and welding, I managed that step. The Toyota frame had to be repaired in several places at the same time.
At this point I had very little money in the Toyota/Honda pickup/sports car hybrid, but I came down with a severe case of cold feet. I figured it would take a couple thousand dollars to complete to even a drivable rat rod standard, but I was still at a loss as to how I would license such a beast. Despite the Toyota frame, I could not very well pass it off as a 1982 truck. The Honda had an identification number on the frame, but it would require an extensive out-of-province inspection. Where would I find a willing and sympathetic inspector? The hot rod guys seem able to, but this was not your typical fiberglass ’32 Ford-based hot rod. In the end, I have to admit that I wimped out. The 22R motor was sold for more than I paid for the whole truck, the remains of the body were scrapped, and some of the little bits found new homes. The S600 was sold off at a slight loss which was balanced out by the modest Toyota profits.
I still contend it could have been done–perhaps not as cheaply and easily as I had envisioned, but it could have been done. But that is how I killed a beloved children’s movie character lookalike. Sorry Pixar fans!