Curbside Classic: Toyota Lo-Lux Pickup – The Minimalist Edition

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(first posted 6/29/2014)

Old Toyota Hi-Lux pickups are one of the most ubiquitous “Eugene-mobiles”; there are scads of them everywhere, like the one that just moved into one of my rentals, and this one, of the very first generation. But I’ve never snagged one of the very rare Lo-Lux versions, something Toyota cooked up and imported only to California during the nasty 1974 recession. I’ve read about them, but this is my first time actually catching one  in the wild. They are very rare, as it really didn’t catch on; seems like Toyota went a bit overboard with the minimalist approach.

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Yes, the Lolux was stripped down to just the most bare essentials for driving in California’s mild climate. I hear they sold best in the beach communities. Since hand signals were still legal in CA back then, there were no tail lights or brake lights. And the lack of doors made giving hand signals very easy.

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This Lolux driver is cheating a bit though, carrying some clip-on tail lights. It probably is a bit safer for night driving that way, but he makes sure to stash them during the day, so as not to destroy the purity of the Lolux minimalist concept.

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The passenger compartment follows the theme quite diligently, although a wooden park bench or two milking stools would really have been more suitable yet. It least it has a roof, so as to keep one’s life possessions dry. Live lightly, get rid of all the useless junk! One duffel bag-full is all anyone really needs in this world, or deserves. Maybe Toyota was targeting the nascent “Voluntary Simplicity” movement? That would explain why it’s in Eugene. Or maybe it was targeted at Anarchists, in which case it really would be their official vehicle, if they indulged in such things. Maybe one of them is cheating, like an Amish keeping a car.

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Just the essentials here that are necessary to start and keep this truck on the straight and narrow of life. Even the gas pedal has been slimmed down to a bent rod.

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Out back, the bed is just a pallet strapped on with…a few wraps of black tape. But be assured, that’s an all-American pallet, so as to make sure the Lu-Lux didn’t get hit with the “Chicken tax”. Now that would have defeated the purpose.

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Toyota didn’t skimp in terms of the engine, though. The full 20R engine was included, after experiments with a version missing two of its pistons and connecting rods just didn’t run quite well enough, even for minimalist standards. I hear performance is quite brisk, given how light these are. An air cleaner? A hi-luxury. Hydraulic brake lines? Oh come on; the mechanical hand brake on the rear wheels is quite sufficient, for diligent minimalist drivers in a light vehicle like this. But Toyota saw fit to install the hydraulic brake master cylinder, in case some wuss-ass jurisdictions had a problem with the hand brake. But the lines were strictly optional.

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Finding a genuine Lo-Lux was the highlight of my week, and not surprisingly, I found it in Eugene’s very hip Whitaker neighborhood. But just a few days later, I saw it again, quite a ways out north, off River Road…this thing still gets around, hand brake and all. Well, it is a Toyota. And there’s not much to brake, or break.