CC Capsule: 1977 Toyota Publica (KP50) Van Deluxe – A Bit Of Grime For A Change

Enough of the fully-restored, expertly-curated and secretly-modded showroom queens of Central Tokyo. Well away from the beaten path, in the never-ending maze of side streets that lay west and south of Ikebukuro, one can find some pretty funky stuff hidden among the residential areas’ tiny parking lots. Good thing this is all Publica-lly accessible…

The Publica was the smallest Toyota one could buy in the ‘60s and ‘70s. The first generation (1961-69) strictly adhered to the initial brief, featuring an air-cooled twin well below 1000cc. With the second gen (1969-78) came a completely new body and water-cooled 4-cyl. options, which ended up replacing the twin completely by 1975.

The Publica’s bread-and-butter were the two-door saloons, but the platform was ideally suited to small utility vehicles as well, being a RWD layout with a good old cart-sprung live axle. The Publica van and pickup were therefore a matter of course, the latter being sold right through to 1988.

The van, for its part, only outlasted the saloon’s demise by about six months – until October 1978 – when it was replaced by the Starlet.

The remains of this Publica van indicate that this is a very late model, featureing the post-1976 “4th facelift” grille. The emblem was always this though – some kind of deer-like creature. Very odd – I’m not sure that any other Toyota, back in those pre-corporate logo days, had an animal for an ornament.

Nothing all that ornamental inside, of course. But it almost looks like a different car in here: the upholstery seems to have weathered the past four and a half decades without a scratch. They should have used that fabric to wrap the body.

On the one hand, it’s a sad sight to see this valiant little van turning into dust. These Publicas were as basic as they come, but they looked so neat and they really gave the B120 Sunny a run for its money (which the Nissan handily won in the end, but that’s neither here nor there). On the other hand, Toyota made over 300,000 of these, so there must be a few that escaped the tin worm.

I do hope I’ll be able to find a 2nd generation Publica in decent nick (and in a more accessible and picture-friendly place) to do the JDM version justice on CC someday. In the meantime, let this one rust in peace.


Related posts:


Curbside Classic: ’72-’78 Toyota 1000 (Publica P30) – Going In Circles, by Rich Baron

Cohort Classic: Toyota Publica Ute (P30) – Cute!, by PN