CC Capsule: 1984 Nissan 720 – Who Needs a Big Truck?

Datsun pickup overloaded 01

Well, maybe these folks do, come to that. This precarious-looking rig was spotted on I-45 in the Greenspoint area of Houston, on a sunny Saturday morning in 2003. Hope they made it to their destination, and didn’t have to stop short, or change lanes real quick, or make any sharp turns…

…so what’s the Curbside Classic connection? Well, underneath that giant heap of bric-a-brac was a Nissan 720 pickup, becoming rather scarce even at the time the photo was taken.

 Datsun pickup overloaded 02

Following several generations of increasingly popular Datsun pickups, the 720 was one the earlier Nissan-badged vehicles sold in the States, built from 1980-1986 in both Japan and (from ’83 or so) the USA. Based on the bed and taillight configuration, the intrepid machine shown here appears to be a 1984 model, built at Nissan’s then-new Smyrna, TN plant.

1985 Datsun 720 4x4 Truck King Cab (1)

Although sold in several combinations of bed and cab length, with both two-and four-wheel drive (earlier COAL piece here), the featured vehicle is the more prosaic (and cramped) regular-cab 2wd version, dressed up a bit in DX trim. Under the hood, presumably, is the Z24 103 HP, 2.4 liter four installed as standard for this year, giving its all to motivate that pile o’ gear down the highway.

Just for the record, here’s more or less what it would have looked like from the front, unladen. Having frequently driven a 4 x 4 version of one of these back in the day, I recall them as being just about as rugged and reliable as Toyotas of the same vintage, although less refined and with rather flimsy interior fittings (see below). Although the 4 x 4 was a real backbreaker, one of the hardest-riding vehicles I’ve ever been in, I imagine the 2wd versions were less so.

31007010002_large cardomain_com

There has been quite a bit of argument here recently as to whether there actually remains a market for small trucks in the US. I’ve generally been on the side that says yes, but can see a compelling argument for the contrary position in these photos. Speaking as a person who has inadvertently scattered some of his possessions across a busy highway, maybe two, or even three, trips might have been a better choice. I’m just sayin’.