Neighborhood Alley Outtake: Datsun 1600 (521) Li’l Hustler Pickup, and Its Replacement

One of the best things about our neighborhood is the alleys. I can walk out my back door and back garden gate, and head down the alley to our neighborhood market/cafe and other shops, and never set foot on pavement except to cross the streets. The backyards are more scenic than the front yards, and there’s blackberries and other fruit to pick in the right times of the year.

Just one block down from our house sits this old Datsun pickup, a 1600 (521) from somewhere between 1969 and 1972. It hasn’t moved in the past two years or so, and there’s a radiator sitting next to it, but it used to be a regular driver, and I’ve shot it severe times before, in another part of town. And next to it is its apparent replacement. I’ll bet you can guess what it is.

Here’s how it looked in about 2009. These were from the years when Datsun’s Li’l Hustler pickup was leading the mini-truck boom, and it was by far the best seller in its class. Datsun started out in the US back in 1962 or so, by selling little toy trucks in California, Oregon and Washington, and after a few years, they really took off.

The 1600 was a big improvement over the 1300, as it used the very lively 96 hp SOHC four that was also used in the legendary 510. These things were featherweights, so the 1600 scooted right along, for the times. It became the in vehicle for young Californians, used for everyday transportation and to haul the surf boards or off-road motorcycles on the weekends. A lifestyle vehicle trendsetter.


But Toyota didn’t play second fiddle for long, and soon caught up and passed Datsun/Nissan in the pickup market. And this Tacoma generation cemented that, and it’s never looked back. Nissan’s frontier is an also-ran. But in its day, the Datsun out-hustled everything in its field. Now it’s just sitting in one.