Curbside Classic: 1991 Nissan Sunny B122 Pickup – Keep Those Flares, They’ll Come Back In Style

Fashion and cars have a lot in common. A lot of fashion trends get recycled every 20 years or so. Flared trousers were in back in 1970-75, and they came back in the ‘90s. The punks of the late ‘70s took the ‘50s bikers/rockers look and turned it up to 11. Likewise, cars that were made for long stretches also saw their popularity increase after a couple of decades: the Beetle, the Mini, the 2CV… Did Nissan try to do this (subconsciously?) with the Sunny B-series pickup?

I chanced upon this nice Sunny pickup on a week-end visit to Mandalay a while ago. But I could have taken a picture of one here in Yangon, or in Bangkok, Sydney, Auckland, Quito, Jakarta, Johannesburg or Tokyo – these things are still pretty much everywhere.

These were based on the Nissan Sunny B110 (also marketed as Datsun 1200), which was launched in 1970 as a two-door and four-door saloon, a station wagon and a coupé. This 2nd generation Sunny was produced until mid-1973, when the B210 superseded it.

The original Sunny pickups were the B120 series, launched in 1971 and built by Nissan subsidiary Aichi Machine Industry. They outlasted their saloon equivalent by a remarkable amount of time. As far as I can make out, they kept the B110 RWD chassis and its 1.2 litre engine pretty much as it was for the pickup version, though the suspension may have been a bit beefed up. The Japanese market Nissan Sunny pickups were updated with a plastic grille and a new dash (the B121 series) in 1978, though some markets kept the B120 as was for some years beyond that.

By late 1989, the time had come to update the old girl once more. The headlights became square, the front wheels got fancy new disc brakes and the engine was updated to pass new Japanese emissions standards. This was the B122, and the Aichi Machine factory in Nagoya churned these out for another five years in Japan. In March 1994, production finally came to a halt – in Asia, but not in other continents. In Ecuador, production of the “Datsun 1200 Camioneta”, as it was still known, continued until 1999.

And in South Africa, the B120 had become something of an icon. The South African version, which had a 1.4 litre engine and its own series number (B140) since 1982, carried on being made at the Rosslyn plant until 2007. The locals loved it so much they gave it a nickname: Bakkie, which just means “pickup”, but I guess the Sunny had become THE archetypal pickup.

The Sunny pickup was sold in most countries around the world, with the notable exception of North America. Our example was most likely imported from Japan, as most cars are in Myanmar. This is a “normal wheelbase” model, which harks back directly to the 1970 saloon. There was a LWB/“longbed” version (only available in Japan and New Zealand) that was about 30cm longer at the rear.

At the age of about 25, this pickup is barely run-in. I should think it will keep on trucking for another decade at the very least. Nothing much in terms of electronics or anything to go wrong that couldn’t be mended with a rock and a screwdriver. I botched the interior pics as I usually do, so here’s one from a 1988 pickup off the web. Pretty sure the one I saw had a (mostly) black/grey dash and steering wheel.

The metal-framed fabric top and the crude tubular bumper/step plate are quintessentially Burmese additions. This pickup is clearly not being used for passenger transport, but a lot of them are. You can squeeze about ten to twelve adult Burmese in these (some hanging out standing on the rear “bumper”) without difficulty.

Even with the ugly plastic grille, the square lights and the Mickey Mouse mirrors, this thing still has a fair bit of style… Not unlike the Mini / 2CV / bell bottoms we started this post with, by the time it went out of production in Japan, it must have looked like the ultimate classic, like a blue collar Toyota Century.

Other Sunnys available in 1991: JDM notchback saloon (above) and UK-spec hatchback (below).

What I find a little perplexing though is Nissan’s use of the Sunny nameplate. Just think: in 1991, you could get three very different Nissan Sunnys. The Japanese / North American Sunny B13 (a.k.a Sentra), the European Sunny N14 (a.k.a Pulsar) and the RWD Sunny pickup in Japan and South Africa. Guess the world really was a Sunnier place back then…