I’ve seen this one on the street a couple times – it’s definitely still in use. I recently found its nesting place and couldn’t resist taking a few photos. It’s so refreshing to find a 50-year-old pickup that looks like this. Neither over-restored to prissy trailer-queen status, nor sacrificed on the altar of hipster normalization and turned into yet another road-scraping restomodded atrocity. Just the kind of patina half a century of honest work will put on a resilient labourer.
The paintwork looked original throughout, though it may not look like that in the pictures. I guess a few minor things did get fixed up – those taillamps may well have been replaced at some point in the not-too-distant past and the reflectors were probably added for legal reasons. But that’s just TLC. The only obvious addition is that lamp and that weird-looking antenna thing. Anyone know what that might be used for?
The interior was a bit of a let-down, with that ill-fitting radio and that suspicious headrest. But those aside, it all looks to be in perfect working order – and in surprisingly good condition. That’s the good thing about vehicles from this era: there are not many things to break, and if they were decently made and used with care, which this one must have been, they last forever.
Datsun pickups were an essential part of Nissan’s plans for world domination. In the late ‘50s, they started exporting the 211 pickup, closely derived from the 210 saloon. When the 310 Bluebird arrived, the 320 commercial chassis (above) followed suit, graduating to a 1.2 litre and inheriting the saloon’s front end, but keeping the beefed-up rear suspension and non-synchronized 1st gear throughout its tenure, from 1961 to 1965.
When the 520 arrived, two years after the 410 Bluebird it was based on (esthetically). Just like the previous two generations, the 520 was available as a pickup, a two-door wagon and a curious double cab based on the wagon. One notices a numerical discrepancy between the 520 pickup and the PininFarina-designed 410/411 Bluebird saloon it’s supposed to be honed from. The reason is that, as of this generation, the pickup and the saloon were structurally unrelated: the 410 Bluebird ushered in unit body construction at Nissan, whereas the pickup/delivery 520 kept its trusty separate frame.
They just made the 520 look like the saloon – especially when it got upgraded to quad headlamps in 1967. But really, aside from the engine (a 1.3 litre 4-cyl. J-engine, a Nissan-made reverse-engineered Austin B-series used on the 411 range), the Bluebird and the 520 no longer shared much of anything under the skin, unlike previous generations. The 520 also had access to the 1.5 litre version of the J-engine, which produced a decent 76hp.
Pretty soon, that also became true of the skin itself, too. In 1967, the 510 Bluebird took over with a revised body and IRS. This was followed by the 521 pickup/delivery van in late 1968, which married a 510-ish grille and hood on the previous generation’s cab. Little had really changed, except a new 1.6 litre L-engine became available – an OHC design that Prince had cribbed from Mercedes-Benz, apparently.
The 1600 was chiefly used for export markets – JDM Datsun 521 pickups were usually of the 1300 or 1500 variety. Of course, the 521 kept the old live axle and the 520’s dash; RHD models also kept their 4-speed on the column through to the end of the model’s life in 1972.
The quad-faced 520 inaugurated the “Big D” logo for the truck line. It moved from the grille to the top of the hood for the 521. As logos go, this is really one of the most uninspired, half-arsed, capital-D-for-Duuuhh excuses for a hood ornament that’s ever graced a four-wheeled vehicle. I don’t know why it is that Datsun and Toyota, the behemoths of Japanese carmakers, took decades to figure out branding. It’s not like they didn’t see good examples around them (e.g. Mitsubishi). Datsun did have a sort of upside-down Nike swoosh think going for a time, but they gave it up and just dropped a big D on their cars for a spell. I wonder how many overpaid consultants were needed to come up with this gem.
Anyway, this truck is a thing of beauty (hood logo excepted) and I’m glad to have unearthed its hideout and share it with the CCommunity. May it continue passing the shaken and remain a working truck as long as possible. Cent’anni!
Neighborhood Alley Outtake: Datsun 1600 (521) Li’l Hustler Pickup, and Its Replacement, by PN
The owner seems to be serious about his two-way radio, with the boom mike inside. I’d guess the antenna isn’t weird… the rubber insulation just protects the antenna mount from tall items carried in the bed.
If I’m not mistaken, the tag on the tailgate denotes it as a 1-ton variant Is that correct? I would assume not but then doubt that it’d be legal in Japan to have it denoted different as every utility vehicle like this in Japan has a similar denotation, even little three-wheel delivery trike scooters.
Either way it’s a spectacular find, as the overwhelming majority of utility vehicles in Japan are bought for primarily the utility aspect and hence tend to get used up sooner or later.
That little doublecab with the roll-up tonneau cover is quite the thing too, I’ve never seen or been aware of that before. Quite interesting.
Why do you assume not? In Japan, these were designed to be used for serious hauling, commercial work only. Nobody bought these as a toy hauler like in the US. And I’m sure those stiffer rear springs made for a lovely ride when its empty. 🙂
I guess the leaf springs don’t look beefy enough from what I can see in the last pic but I’m of course no expert. The only thing I saw that had a 1000kg rating when I was wandering around Tokyo last time that wasn’t a small-medium size COE was a mid-size van with a dual rear wheel setup, nothing on the smaller pickup side of things. I shouldn’t have said I assumed not, a better phrasing would have been to just express surprise.
My grandfather had a ’67 520 (U.S. spec) and it had those taillights with the separate round reflectors. Tough little truck.
A friend has a 70 521 to go along with his 76 Celica Liftback and 83 Mazda GLC. I keep telling him to write something but to no avail. I’ll have to do it except for the fact that he lives in the dreaded Santa Clara Valley which is 55-58 miles away for pictures.
Anyway he does have a picture of his 521 doing some serious hauling. He used it as a tug to move a P-3 Orion on Moffett Field ( former NAS for a wing of Orion ASW planes) as the Orion was being restored.
A friend had one of these (a ’68 model?) when I was in my late teens / early 20’s. It was a very willing and tough little vehicle. I have vivid memories of a 36 hour road trip in December 1969 from Halifax NS to Cocoa Beach FL, taking turns driving and sleeping in the canopy-covered rear bed, with constantly playing 8-track tapes of Taj Mahal, Santana, & Buffalo Springfield. ‘Happy camper’ would sum up the trip pretty well. 🙂
I owned a 521, 1600 four-speed. Very tough truck, routinely hauled 3/4 ton gravel loads for a house addition. Old school kingpin front suspension, rear leaves had a big rubber bump stop that doubled as an overload spring. I’m 5′-6″, I drove with the seat against the back of the cab. This had to be a deal-killer for a few buyers.
That is a beauty…great find.
It is quite a find as a relict, however I’m afraid it’s ad desirable as finding a used but well-preserved undergarment from an earlier time – most original, but always better left unseen. I’d have titled this Hard Labour and now, A Rash of Bile.
You see, there’s just a stingy meanness about early Japanese utes that borders on the punishing (and if driven for 50 years, crosses right over that border into torture). They’re just too small, and unlike sitting in, say, the back of a tiddler Corolla or somesuch, it cannot be solved. In that Corolla from ’69, you could put raised knees past the sides of the front seat, feet wedged under it, head tilted a little back to the parcel shelf if needed.
But in these, one alighted and began to breathe a little harder, partly because of incipient and rising claustrophobia, but mainly because the steering wheel is pressed against your ribcage – and that seat has travelled it’s rearward mostest. (Note the steering wheel position in the side interior pic). Legs couldn’t fold sideways much at all, because one side, there was a non-optional door, and the other, an umbrella handbrake (and if a passenger, that passenger). To move along, one then had to negotiate the pedals, whence one’s knees would hit the steering wheel from behind, and then take multiple guesses with a plasticky column wand as to where the four gears might be this time. To stop, one somehow got one’s knee under the wheel again, and locked the rear brakes, every time.
In between, springing modelled on concrete absorbency sent every bump up through the formless, undamped, unpadded vinyl seat-area covering, into one’s spine and made one’s brain into a milkshake.
The labour was not hard. It was sadistic.
Worst of all, the bastards could not be killed, as the above pics attest, making them a continuing tool of trade for miserably-tight-arsed old farmers who weren’t and aren’t fond of ever spending anything on anything. I’m sure there’ll still be some crippling them now, though for them, I reserve a lesser degree of sympathy, it being self-chosen. For every other tradie forced by a boss to commute about in one, it wasn’t.
I will begrudge them a small nod for having, yes, an ok-isness of looks, but it hides a steel-hard character of unrelenting misery beneath.
Did you get column-shifted models like this one down under? The Japanese auto industry basically stopped doing those for left-hand-drive markets, starting with Datsun around 1966/67 so all of these that came to America had either four-on-the-floor or (starting in the early/mid ’70s for the trucks) T-bar automatic. Toyota followed suit a few years later, early Coronas had 3-on-the-tree, their 4-speed floor shift debuted a year later with the hardtop coupe and was applied to the sedan at the midcycle facelift.
I can easily imagine Mr. K (legendary early Datsun USA head Yutaka Katayama) patiently explaining to his superiors back home that yes, American cars mostly had column shifts, but Americans really thought of manual ones as old-fashioned and tightwaddish while “four-on-the-floor” was desirable and sporty, and between that and the latter being the accepted norm in Europe it would save the company money not to have to mirror-image the home market column linkage.
Oh yes, in both the Nissan and Toyota utes there were column changes available into the ’90’s on the tightarse basic ones, and though higher models got floor shifters, I reckon a surprising number were on the column. That’s because these things sold in vast bulk to big fleets for absolute workhorse categories (mines, farms, light deliveries) and might be lucky to get radio, let alone fancy floor gearchangers. Interestingly enough, in these sort of applications, it was absolutely automatic that such vehicles were manuals, something which had to change as less youngsters got manual licences and then increasing societal wealth (and perhaps health and safety from an exhaustion viewpoint) meant higher expectations of working conditions.
I cribbed a bit above: I’ve ridden in, but not actually driven an old 1500 as photographed, but have driven a number of later successors from Nissan and Toyota, and the shifts were all bloody awful. Squeaky, vague, stiff-then-slack-then-stiff-again in each movement, just tiresome. Very irritating, as it needn’t be so. Just ask the French, whose ’60’s/’70’s jobs are quite lovely to operate.
Worst ever was a Nissan 720 five speed (woo-hoo!), non-turbo diesel (oh!). You can’t afford to lose momentum in something so underpowered, but every squeaky resistant search for the next cog constantly did just that.
I greatly doubt anyone in the country misses them.
i have a datsun 1500 j15 bakkie complete but cannot get the front wheel brake shoes and rear v-split cable for the handbrake anywhere for sale also the brake pipe from the back axel to where it enter in the front brake connection in the enjine.now i am thinking of selling it for i have had it resprayed reasonly