COAL: 1982 Toyota Pickup – Just Like A Rented Mule

TK front

Having accepted a job as a Rural Mail Carrier, I was in search of a cheap vehicle that could deliver the mail. I didn’t have to look very far as a lonely Toyota that was neatly tucked away in a carport along my drive to work, sprouted a for sale sign one day. I had always been curious about these little trucks, and although it had the usual massive amount of rust, it was priced very reasonably at $500. I bought it and proceeded to beat it until it met its demise a mere six months later, a new record for me.


DS rear

This truck had been sitting in the carport for over a year and belonged to a guy a little older than me who lived in the basement suite. It was a family hand-me-down that had served him in a pinch until he bought a nicer vehicle. As once again no pics of the actual truck survive, think of it as an amalgam of the pics of the blue truck from Tom Klockau’s CC on the Toyota Pickup and David Saunders’ COAL on the same truck. While mine was the same colour blue as the CC truck, its initial condition was somewhere in between the blue truck and David’s yellow truck.

It was a base model shortbox and also had one of the ugliest canopies I’ve ever seen. This unfortunately was a necessity as it allowed a (semi) covered cargo area in which to haul the mail. The only problem was that the single walled box had rusted through at the wheel wells, but I stuffed some rags in the gaps to protect the mail from road filth.

TK side

All the truck needed was a new battery. In fact, I don’t think I even did my customary full tune-up, but I must have at least changed the oil. I lived in a small apartment with three other dudes and the manager was generally not too enamoured with us, and my ugly beaters certainly didn’t help. I feared that working on derelicts in the parking lot might put her over the edge. Also, I had recently had some medical issues that had rendered me unemployed, so once I was well again, I resolved to bust ass and dig myself out of the hole I was in. This meant working two jobs full-time, both of which relied on this poor truck that I had no time to work on. I also still had last week’s COAL as a plan B in case the truck broke down. That’s my excuse for beating this poor thing.

The truck was reliable, if not pretty. The only work that had to be done during my ownership was a starter solenoid and a flat tire repair. The fact that it only had 180 000 km worked in its favour, but there’s no stopping the rust on an old Toyota. The tailgate handle was always very finicky and took quite a few pulls to get it open until I discovered that I could stick a finger through a rust hole and apply pressure to the rod that opened the latch. Opened every time with the rust hole trick; rustiness has its advantages.

Blue Interior

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To anyone who thinks automakers should go back to building compact trucks that are truly compact in size, I’d like to invite you to spend some time in the interior pictured above. Mine was identical minus the console and stereo, and it was a punishing place to be. I didn’t mind the uncomfortable seats and the general lack of space, but the heat was inadequate as was the lack of tunes. It had just enough heat to defrost the windows but no more, which was a problem as I got out of the truck constantly on my mail route. Since I couldn’t handle letters with anything more than thin gloves my hands were constantly cold, so I sat on one hand to warm it up while shifting and steering with the other. Good times. Both the truck and I were suffering temporary pain for long term gain, at least that’s what I told myself.


While the truck was uncomfortable, it was certainly fun to drive, especially on twisty, snowy mountain roads with its well worn tires. My night job was as a bartender up at the local ski resort and I used to delight in subjecting co-workers to free rides up the mountain to work in my little sports truck. After the first couple of corners I could always tell by their reactions whether they were a thrill seeker or not. While many of the Aussies I worked with had never seen snow prior to that season, many loved my rally car-inspired driving. Don’t get the idea I was some maniac scaring the hell out of all my passengers; if they starting gripping the handlebars real tight I would slow down and drive nicely. Everyone needs to get along with their co-workers.

Toby Creek rd

As you may have guessed, the truck met its demise on that same twisty mountain road. I smashed her up good, but it wasn’t really my fault. I had gotten off work after midnight and was giving a drunk friend a ride home. Coming around a tight corner, I noticed a vehicle pulled off to the side of the road near the creek. I thought to myself that that was a terrible place to pull over and let off the gas to slow down. Suddenly my dim headlights illuminated a downed power pole blocking the road in front of me. I stomped on the brakes but it was too late, I hit the pole dead on.

My drunk friend opened the door to have a look but I grabbed him before he exited as the severity of the situation dawned on me. The other vehicle was 100 feet in front of me and had hit a power pole knocking it over. The force of that pole falling over, pulled the one I hit to the ground and to top it off I was parked on the power lines. This became evident as I tried to reverse the truck off of the power lines. They weren’t arcing or sparking which leads me to believe they weren’t live but I was determined to get off the power lines. I floored it and cranked the wheel but the truck just ended up “climbing” the power lines until the rear suspension was relieved of its weight and the tires spun. I shut off the truck and waited for the fire department to come and tell us it was safe to exit the truck.

yota tech

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The truck was a write-off but it wasn’t dead yet. Aside from a smashed grille, headlight bumper and fender, it still ran fine and you could even still open the hood. Through a quirk in the insurance system, my company refused to cover me but the insurance of the other guy who hit the power pole covered me and cut me a cheque for $1000. I doubled my money and they let me keep the truck, with the catch being that I couldn’t renew the insurance when it expired. So I sledge hammered the metal where the headlight mounted straight, replaced the headlight and kept driving it. I even took it on the 16 hour marathon drive home to Winnipeg for a visit and to collect some of my junk my parents were (rightfully) threatening to throw out. That would be one of the last times I spent in that torture chamber though, I was ready to move on to something more comfortable.


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As summer arrived I was back riding my motorcycle as the insurance expired on the truck. Then an opportunity to own a car that had been on my wish list for a long time presented itself and it was time to dispose of the Pickup. The new car would need an out-of-province inspection, and one of the local mechanics happened to be very fond of old Toyotas and was in need of a 22R engine. So, I traded him the truck for the cost of the inspection and we were both happy. It’s funny that this was my first experience with a Japanese vehicle, but it must have made an impression on me, as I now have three different Toyotas in my driveway.