CC Capsule: 1960 Toyota ToyoAce PK20 – Surviving 57 Years On Just One Litre

There are a lot of older trucks in Burma. Hinos and Nissans and Mitsubishis, as well as Chinese brands I’m less familiar with (FAW, DongFeng, etc.). But most of these trucks have big old Diesel engines, made to last forever. There are a lot of smaller trucks too, of course, but few of this ToyoAce’s vintage.

The little trucks usually die out fairly young, i.e. by around age 30 to 40, particularly if they are not Diesel-powered. So I was surprised to see this old ToyoAce in a market in Shan State – a 1-litre gasoline truck still hard at it.

The 2nd generation ToyoAce came out in early 1959. Almost immediately, it got a new OHV engine and a code-name change – but the rest of the truck stayed pretty much the same, from what I could find out in the web. So this is one of the “later” early ones, I think, as the side-valve trucks did not seem to have been exported.

Above: 1959 ToyoAce PK20 double-cab pickup; Below: circa 1964 ToyoAce PK30 (1.25 / 1.5 litre)

The new P-series engine was a 998cc straight-4 providing a respectable 45 hp. It sat under the front bench seat, which could accommodate three passengers thanks to the column gearchange. From 1962, the 1-litre was replaced by a 1.2 or a 1.5 litre and the ToyoAce got a revised grille incorporating the turn signals. In 1967, a new engine and a quad-headlight facelift prolonged the little truck’s production till the early ‘70s.

Needless to say, I have no idea whether this truck still has its Toyota P-series engine. It wasn’t made for very long, so finding parts for one in the middle of Southeast Asia can’t be too easy. Then again, it’s surprising how much punishment old Toyota engines are able to take.

What would worry me more is the rust. You could almost see through the truck. And the side step looked like it might collapse any minute now. Didn’t seem to bother the driver, who was taking a morning nap in the back…

The ToyoAce’s front suspension looked like it had had a few extra leaves put in just in case. The weight limit on these was 1000 kilos, but such considerations are seen as purely decorative in these parts. Just like that Peugeot 404 video Paul shared a little while back, folks here tend to use their vehicles above and well beyond tolerance levels imagined by their designers.

There are very few of these left in the wild – this is the first one I’ve come across in running order. It’s obviously still being used as a local bus (the red license plate indicates this is a public transport vehicle) and odds are it hasn’t left Southern Shan State in ages.

Most of its newer brethren are Toyota Hiluxes, Nissan Sunnys or the little Suzuki Carrys. In more rural areas, the minibus niche is also filled by these Chinese-made motorcycle/pickup contraptions.

Ox carts are still used as well, of course. But the lowest form of motorized transport in Burma seems to be these crude tractor-like rigs. No body, no hood, no lights (some do have a single headlamp), no exhaust pipe. There are several versions of this type of vehicle put-putting around rural Myanmar, belching acrid black smoke right in passengers’ faces. Most seem quite new and some have a semblance of a cabin, but many do not – and all come from (you guessed it) China.

Given this context, seeing this 57-year-old ToyoAce was, quite literally, a breath of fresh air. At least somebody had bothered to style it and engineer it all those years ago. It may not make it to its 60th birthday, but it will have served a little corner of Asia very well for over half a century.