Curbside Classic: 1977 Datsun King Cab Pickup (620) – Yes, We Have Long Legs In America

(first posted 2/18/2012)     Datsun pioneered the little Japanese truck in America; more correctly, they built their business on it. In the early sixties, their cars weren’t exactly quite ready for US prime-time, given the competition. But there wasn’t any for their little trucks, toy-like though they were (early Datsun pickup history here). Datsun held the top sales spot for years, until Toyota finally edged them out. And although they grew with each generation, they were always cramped in the cab, until 1977, when Datsun unveiled their grandiosely-named King Cab. Now standard cabs are relegated to parts delivery trucks, and even then, they’re probably roomier than this King Cab.  Progress.

The Model 320, which appeared in 1961, was Datsun’s foot hold in the US market, almost exclusively on the West Coast. Cute, but cramped.

Next up, the Model 520 (1965) really got the ball rolling, especially when it was endowed with the 96 hp L16 SOHC engine from the 510. Lil’ Hustler indeed. But still Lil’.

The Model 620 (1972) may have added another inch or two to the cab, but not enough to avoid sitting upright, and cramped, for those of us above the six foot elevation. Time to take a king-sized step forward, especially with Toyota breathing down their necks.

Thus the King Cab, which graced the vertically-endowed in 1977. But pay not attention to that ad; that man is obviously a midget.

The American laid-back driving (and living) style quickly took up all that extra space, as this example makes clear. Might as well ride like a proper king. Explains why each subsequent generation of extended-cab small trucks got longer and longer.

Which gives me a perfect reason to show you a recent find, a Space Cab Isuzu truck. Was/is it the biggest extended-cab mini-truck? Who will take the time to do the research necessary to verify that (or not). If it wasn’t so late, I would.

But who can argue with that picture window (although a close-up proves that to be an illusion). Maybe the the Space Cab is too.

This was a better-than average find, in good shape and those delicious seventies graphics.

Nissan Leaf, anyone?

The venerable L20 SOHC four powered millions of these Datsuns. A rugged little lump, and very happy to be woken up with some tuning. Plug and play compatible with lots of Nissan engines.

The Toyota pickups seem to have the edge in ultimate longevity, but that may be as much in folks determined to perpetuate their reputation as anything. I see plenty of these old Datsuns still hustling too. Or was the Toyota really significantly better? Hmm.

Datsun may have gotten the jump in the extended cab race, but obviously everyone else piled in soon enough. It’s fun to knock the king out of his throne. Or his Cab.