The automotive fetish I’m least likely to indulge in is my love of compact pickups. My need to tear through corners, occasionally carry passengers and save gas keeps me from taking the plunge.
That said, I have a love of Japanese compact pickups. I like that they are more functional in appearance and less isolated than their sedan counterparts and the Nissan Hardbody, in particular, has always appealed to me. Their underdog reputation, versus the all-conquering Tacoma, strong powertrains and sleek looks all play a part in my preference, and I feel they don’t get the respect they deserve.
Of course, when it comes to obscurity, the Nissan can’t match the Mazda B-series or Mitsubishi Mighty Max, at least not in this country.
And then there’s always the Isuzu trucks, the last generation of which we got as the Chevy Colorado and GMC Canyon. Of all the most recent compact trucks, these were my favorites, despite being panned by critics (they’re not always right, you know).
I’d like to know if our readers favor any of these more obscure models, or if they prefer the more traditional choices or even the larger models, like the ever-popular F-series. Anyone here have a favorite pickup or a least-loved model? Do you prefer a four-cylinder or V6? Japanese or American? Share your thoughts.
The Back to the Future Toytoa Hilux. Might not be the smoothest but it goes anywhere and is very easy to repair.
+1 for Back to the Future Toyota.
Always had thing for those.
Specially all black and mean looking like that one.
I’ve seen this Top Gear UK video, and I totally agree. You can damage the body of the truck, but it’s difficult to destroy the engine. I’ve driven two Toyota trucks, and they’re virtually indestructible. I want my next truck to be a Toyota pickup truck. This time, I want mine with a turbo diesel under the hood. 🙂
Absolutely! Any small Toyota truck up until about 2000 was OK in my book. The BTTF one is probably my very favorite, though!
Yes. Any Toyota HiLux truck, and the first generation Toyota Tacoma. After that the Tacoma became a bit too big and bit too expensive.
Yep, The new Toyota Tacomas are just flat ugly with their bull dog faces and weird bulging fenders. Bring back the good old Toyota trucks from the 70s-90s.
+!. When I saw Back to the Future when I was ten, that was the first time I saw the truck that I still want, all these years later. F the DeLorean with the 85 mph speedometer
I’ve always liked the previous generation compacts from GM. The most interesting was the Izuzu i350. It was the last Izuzu in America and was powered by the next to last 5-banger (VW being the final holdout)
Volvo still has a 5-cylinder in their S60.
As does Audi in the TT-RS
Yes; sadly Audi discontinued the TT RS for 2014.
+1 Love those Comanches!
I’d love to find a clean Comanche.
I have a 1994 Isuzu Pickup. Very nice looking truck, and pretty comfortable. It’s an absolute strippo; no power anything. Drives like a farm implement.
I have driven similar vintage Mazda and Nissan pickups and they both drive better than the Isuzu.
We had a 1993 Isuzu pickup we used for security patrol. You’re exactly right as it drove like a farm implement, Stick, no a/c, no radio, & no power steering, which was especially fun when most of the time we never got around 20 mph driving around warehouses and shining spotlights on doors. On the main complex road we would wind her out to 50, but she shook so bad that most of the time we kept her at 35. Suprised it lasted 150,000 miles with minimal maintenance performed by minimum wage forklift jockeys/mechanics. Of course we were minimum wage security guards beating the hell out of them. As a side note, imagine if the powers-that-be at the time exactly paid somewhat of half of a decent wage to both the wanna be mechanics and rent-a-cops how much more efficient their operation would be, both in quality of work and condition of equipment.
I had a 75 LUV. Farm implement is a great description of Isuzu trucks.
+1!!! The Comanche will always be my favorite of ‘normal’ compact trucks. I like the Dakota V8 models as well, and all ’70s/very early 80s Japanese minis have a certain style that I like.
If the Scrambler counts then that takes the prize.
I’ve always loved the Jeep Comanche pickup truck. I’ve never understood why Jeep discontinued it when they did. I love the Jeep XJ Cherokee, but to have a pickup truck version would’ve been awesome! 🙂
Leon, that baby looks to be in GREAT shape!
I don’t know much about these, and only ever knew of one person with one, but I do know that I like their looks and that 4.0 six.
Edit: that’s in reference to the Commanche, reply isn’t working right evidently.
Oh hell, forgot about those! Love them.
Oops, misreplied LOL! Meant to reply to the Jeep Comanche pic.
Is this yours and is it for sale in the east half of the us by any chance? 🙂
Dodge Dakota, but only the first & second generation, 2nd gen was nearly full size, Imho. I’ve owned a first and still have the second gen… with 207k miles on it!
+1 I have always liked the first gen Dakota. And had a special interest in the Dakota Convertible at the time. There was also the Shelby Dakota with the 5.2 L V-8 (175 hp and 270 ft·lb of torque) that inspired the Syclone and Lightning.
Now THATS a neat rig! I remember when these were out…a guy had a 4×4 in cobalt blue that I wanted in the worst way.
another Dakota vote. The only compact pickup that came with a factory V8 and when the 230 HP 318 Magnum Dakotas came out in 1992, more than a few 5.0 Mustang owners got their feelings hurt by a good ol’ boy pickup. Then the 360 Dakota R/Ts came out. Very cool trucks. Hard to beat them for longevity too but I also respect the longevity of the 2.3L Rangers and Toyota compacts though.
My Scout II Cab Top would disagree with that statement as would the Explorer Sport Trac and 09-12 Colorado.
I like those LWB front screen only Internationals. Came that close to one a few years ago, but after having persuaded my GF that she didn’t really need a Jeep, the hypocrisy would have banished me to the couch. For a long time.
I really liked the Ranger. On paper they were never all that great, and I never thought they were the best looking, but in the real world they were rugged and comfortable.
The Mazda B-series were actually quite popular in the mid to late 80s, at least in my area of Minnesota. I wouldn’t call them obscure at all. I liked these.
My least favorite were the S-10s. Every one I rode in or drove was a disappointment. Liked the 4.3 but everything else was crude and cheap.
Never cared for the Toyotas. Great quality but typically had weak performance.
Yes, the Mazda B-series sold quite well in the 1980s, attaining almost 20% of the import pickup market share by 1984. I saw more of the 86-93 versions than I did the concurrent Nissan models, but perhaps it was different in other parts of the country – I spent my first 31 years in Pennsylvania.
I’ve owned two of these now – a 1988 B2200 SE-5 2WD and a 1992 B2600i LE-5 4×4.
My favorite compact pickup, though, is of course the REPU.
The Mazda has the nicest manual transmission of any mini truck too.
Agreed, I have had several small trucks in my lifetime and my old 88 B2200 (Regular cab, bright red with white wagon wheels) is still my favorite. After I bought it, I went to a local junk yard and replaced the bench seat with Mazda bucket seats. The truck was dead reliable and even hauled 1000lbs of quick set concrete 45 miles to my new house. Since then, I has a 97 Ranger (second favorite), 92 S10 (sold to my brother who still has it 250k mileage), and my current 2001 Sonoma (reliable, but my least favorite).
I still peruse CL for the diamond in the rough B series, but it is getting harder to fins one in th East (rust being the biggest issue)
It is almost impossible. My first car was an 88 B2200 SE-5 Cab Plus that finally would not pass inspection after the cab mounts rusted away from the frame circa 2008.
I couldn’t really find another decent one (I lived in PA) until I moved to California in 2013. Within two months of moving here, I found a decent – not show quality, but then I don’t have a two car garage right now – 92 B2600i LE-5 Cab Plus 4×4.
When I was growing up, my stepdad had a 1978 Toyota Hilux (Pickup) truck. It had a 2.2 litre 20R 4 cylinder gasoline engine and a 5 spd. manual shifting transmission. Now there’s something you don’t see on most compact trucks! We used it for lots of things, work, play, personal transportation, etc. It wasn’t fancy or pretty, but it was comfortable, and it got the job done, and done reliably. By the time I got to drive it, it was pretty well worn, but still had plenty of life left in it. I miss driving it. I’d buy another one if one were for sale. Who needs a Toyota Tundra, when a smaller truck is just as capable.
“Who needs a Toyota Tundra, when a smaller truck is just as capable”
That can only be true if your specific needs are very modest. Modern full sized trucks have mostly killed off the compact market due to offering so much more space, comfort, and capability with little tradeoff in cost and economy. Compacts just don’t make as much sense as they used to.
+1 bjillion for the hilux/pickup.
And, no, they are not as fully capable as a large truck. Especially a large truck of recent vintage.
I own an old Toyota 4×4 that has hauled over a ton, a couple of times, in the bed. Moreover, it has towed close to 6000 lbs for over 1000 miles. Not bad–except that I was going 35 up moderate grades and running at 5500 rpms.
My job often requires driving 4×4 pickups over distance, hauling stuff, and occasionally towing A LOT of weight. Not sure about the Tundra’s capacity, but towing a 14000 lb load over a few mountains would probably not be fun; it would kill an old Hilux. A diesel F250? No problem.
All that said, I do recognize that the Hilux/Pickup gets so much attention, compared to contemporary compacts, that people want to rebel a little–it’s kinda like rooting for the Yankees. Fine, but you are wrong. In my (correct) opinion, a more durable, utilitarian, and fun rig has not been built (the auto tranny models are just miserable in this regard). I wouldn’t trade it for any other model of compact truck. Ever. No way.
There is no “wrong” answer, this is opinion. I don’t like the old Toyota pickups/HiLux because they didn’t do anything particularly well except for their reliability. They were cramped, rusty, choppy riding, and had weak performance compared to their peers.
To some people, reliability is everything. That’s fine, reliability is important, but it’s just one of many factors that go into forming an opinion.
I agree with you, reliability is imperative in any vehicle. But so is utility, and that’s what I like about these old trucks. While a Tundra may be a good truck for bigger, heavier jobs, not everyone needs such a big truck for every job. I know I wouldn’t.
The Hilux compact truck may not be as capable as an F250/F350, but I guess it depends on what the job is that you want done. I’ve used my stepfather’s 1978 Toyota to carry rocks from Woodenville, Washington to Kirkland, Washington. Although its gross payload was small by comparison to say, the Ford F150, it proved itself a capable truck.
I have to laugh a little at the “towing 14000 lb load” argument. What tiny a percentage of big pickups on the road actually pull or haul anything of consequence? True compact trucks, as the old Hilux, did get twice the gas mileage of a typical full-size (in the 1980’s). Many reasons, legislated, and consumer taste driven, have made a true compact unavailable today.
I currently have a 1st gen Tundra, because it is the right tool for the job (eight foot slide-in camper, 4×8 building materials and occasional medium towing). Unfortunately, it still is a little overpowered for its mission and gets poor city fuel economy.
Have they “killed off” the compact truck market? I don’t think so. The Toyota Tacoma is still on the market. Not everyone needs a full-sized truck. Sometimes a compact truck is all one needs.
The only one I ever spent any time in was the 1980 or 81 Datsun King Cab 4×4 that my father bought new. Bright red, fat tape stripes everywhere and a big rollbar (oops – I mean “light bar”) behind the cab. Theoretically, he bought it to plow snow in the country, but he could not help buying the hot sexy one instead of a plain jane strippo like I would have picked out. I want one of those.
Maybe I was used to Dad’s King Cab, but the Hardbody pickup never did much for me.
Does an early Scout count? Or a Willys Jeep pickup? Sorry, trying to order off the menu, I guess.
Looks like the one I had. My friends gave me such a hard time about the “4 ex 4” (phonetically) stickers that I finally peeled them off.
Well a Scout II is my compact pickup and I certainly prefer it over most compact pickups though a Ranger with its modern amenities certainly is more modern and has more amenities but can’t handle being loaded down with a ton of gravel nearly as well.
My father traded in one of my parents’ Hondas for a Mazda B2300. Although it had no power stearing and stick shift, it was very comfortable for him with his 6’3″ frame. Definitely the best of the three small pickups he has owned, and one on which I shared driver training duties with my 1987 Crown Victoria. It was felt that I needed to learn stick and automatic driving, and powerless steering technique, too. I’m glad I did as I’m comfortable with both (though I clearly preferred my car and its sleddy successors).
8 years and 100K later, himself in worse physical condition, Dad bought a 1st generation (2000) Toyota Tacoma, with ps but still stick. Not nearly as comfortable or stable. He hated it. So did I. Not a fan of the larger second generation Tacoma he replaced it with several years after that, either.
Far and away the Chevrolet S-10.
I’ve owned several and have not been disappointed by the truck itself…what others may have done to them before I got hold of them – that’s a different story.
The one I bought new – an ’85 2wd regular cab longbed with V6/4speed – would’ve benefitted from the 4.3 but it would be ’88 before they were dropped into an S-10. And in an era in which GM designed and built a lot of crap – basically anything that wasn’t a B or G body or a truck – they got this one right. It drove and felt solid. There were a couple of issues but the dealer worked them out in a speedy and courteous manner.
My brother-in-law got over 300K out of his ’86 S-15 extended cab 2wd…
Was your 85 tbi or carbed? I think tbi came out mid year.
I’ve owned a Ranger and a 720 Nissan/Datsun (dual badged) and recently bought a Toyota T100. The “T” was a bust in the US but so far seems like a very nice size … roomy cab and more than 48″ between wheel wells for all those plywood/sheetrock trips to Home Depot. I got an auto, but would have really liked a 5 speed.
My sister had a ’92 Ranger long bed with the 2.3 and five-speed. I squeezed nearly 28 mpg out of a tank, but it was a long, painful process. A V6 in this pickup would have helped to some degree.
The only other compact trucks I have driven are the Colorado (ho-hum) and a Mazda B2000. The Mazda had a really slick shifter but I simply could not get excited about it.
At one time, I did some window shopping between a Ranger and an F-150. The price and EPA ratings difference was quite modest; factoring in the differences in capability, the F-150 was the only way to go.
This shouldn’t be too surprising as Mazda used the same transmissions in the RX-7, B-series, and Miata. 🙂
I did not know that, but it makes complete sense.
1st gen Hilux, with the turn signals out on the fenders.
I haven’t seen those in ages, and I’m from Seattle.
Yeah, I’ve only seen one in Portland recently. There’s gotta be at least one in Seattle though.
My sentimental favorite.
Sweet looking VW truck. I’ve always liked rear-engined Volkswagens.
I saw a nice VW Doka Syncro (Vanagon era pickup with double cab and drop-side bed) in Tahoe this weekend.
I love the drop sides on those.
A long time GM guy, I was impressed when I went to work for a company doing medical deliveries. They had Rangers, 4.0 v-6s, and a 2011 I drove was recently retired at 287,000+ miles.
It would still run off and leave the sluggish Tacoma Pre-Runner V-6s they got for replacement as the Rangers were being phased out.
I still have my S10; the Cavalier engine is slow and crude but as long as it lasts thats the most important to me. Otherwise, I find the S10 is reasonably comfortable. A couple of years after I got the S10, at work I was assigned a new 2004 Ranger which I found to be surprisingly good (better than the ’02 models we had). My S10 wasn’t as appealing after driving this new Ranger.
I still have fond memories of the 1974 Ford Couriers we had at work, they were fun and fit me like a glove.
At this point, I suppose the only possibility of being offered a new compact truck comes from those auto companies that market car based mini trucks like we had with the Dodge Rampage or Volkswagen pickups. At only 3K miles a year now I don’t expect to replace the S10 for a while, so I hope that Fiat (Strada), GM (Chevrolet Montana) or someone else will step up and give me a choice when I’m ready.
S-10 regular cab 4.3 V-6 with the sportside bed.
Here’s my 79 cents worth. 1979 Toyota 4 X 4 pickup… no frills, just the basics. Served me very well, including commutes to Boston, sun, rain, sleet, traffic and best of all snow.
I was the third owner, the first who off road raced it and rolled it twice. You would never know it had been rolled. SOLID.
I got great pleasure legally parking on the streets of Boston after major snow storms where no one else could… on top of five to six foot piles of snow where there used to be a legitimate parking spot. Never got a ticket.
I forgot it had only about 90 hp. Did very well on 128.
Lost interest when Toyota went to independent front suspension.
When I had it I had repainted it a much brighter yellow than the original. It really stood out. (bare with me). Then I sold it. I was in Indiana for eight years. Moved back to NH near were I had lived prior. About three months after returning I was in the downtown of my new town. I almost drove off the road. There parked downtown was my old bright yellow friend. It was nice to see it was still doing what it was built for.
Great beast. Fond “reliable” memories.
Have owned the following in the following order:
1961 Ford Econoline pickup
1959 Volkswagen pickup
1974 Ford Courier (Mazda)
1979 Datsun 620
1983 Datsun 720
1988 Toyota lwb, DRW (still have it)
1985 Nissan 720
1986 Nissan D21 (still have it)
The Toyota hands down the best. Build quality tops. UTTERLY reliable.
Nissan engines more fun to drive. (transmissions weak, hardware poor)
All were 2wd.
Number 1 and 2 on the list were driven coast to coast. Any of the others, Courier excluded, would have been preferable for those trips!
I’m partial to the very first S-10s (1982-1985). The ’82 and ’83 “Federal Emission” units’ only electronic component was the HEI module in the distributor, making them very easy to keep running.
I bought my ’83 Extended Cab base model S10 for $450 at a Birmingham impound auction somewhere between 1998-99 with an assumed 189K miles. It was wrecked pretty hard in the front but above the frame. It eventually returned to its original white, one junkyard part at a time.
I’ve piled around 125K hard miles on it in the last fifteen years but its 2bbl 2.8 and slushy 700R4 are still hanging in there as of yesterday — it will likely outlast me. The below picture was taken a year or two ago after a 600 mile journey — those tires had over 60K on them and had never been rotated.
I always thought the 1st-gen S10 was a good looking truck and the early ones had a very attractive dash layout. So much can be done to these by bolting on or swapping out factory GM parts — I love diddling with mine and have been waiting for a major drivetrain failure for the last several years to justify an interesting drivetrain swap.
78 ranchero with t bird front end.
This is a hard one. Normally I would nominate the 1992ish Holden (Isuzu) Space Cab dropped on black steelie cheesecutters, but as you have specified ‘compact’ I’m going to take the UNACD (United Nations Automobile Category Definitions), Section 4 (US Fords), paragraph 35B (Compacts) and nominate the Aussie Falcon Ute. Even in its final XC form, this is a true beaut.
+1 make mine 302 & 4speed, beute
We had a 1979 Toyota long-bed. It was our workhorse through most of the 1990s. four cylinders, auto; it once had working A/C, but we finally gave up on it because it just wouldn’t hold on to refrigerant. It was painted pumpkin orange, from the factory. It had the classic 1970s cracking dashboard, too. The seat was classic pickup truck bench seat in shredded vinyl, covered with a succession of seat covers. Finally, in 2001, it started leaking in too many places.
We replaced it with a 2000 Ranger XLT extended cab. We’re still driving it, and it still works. The driver’s seat foam is well flattened now, so it’s not so comfortable, but the 3.0L V-6 goes, and the auto transmission goes, and the A/C works very, very well. Wish it got better gas mileage (about 16-17 in the city), but it still works.
Well, for me that’s an easy question. That would be “Li’l Truck”: our 1988 Toyota Pickup…171,000+ miles, faithful and stalwart…currently in the final (please?) stages of getting a “Complete Makeover”…hopefully she’ll be finished by the end of this month.
Project began on Nov 19th, 2012…in honor of both my late sweetheart (who bought Li’l Truck when it was two years old, in 1990), as well as Li’l Truck’s 25th birthday (rolled off the line in Japan in November 1987).
My sweetie, Char, and I always said that “When things settle down, we’ll get Li’l Truck all gussied up.” Well, things never settled down, and I lost my darlin’ on July 15, 2012, to ovarian cancer.
After a few months, I started to think about doing what we’d always talked about with Li’l Truck, and started the process by taking her to Rising Sun (an old-Austin Japanese auto repair shop) on Nov. 19.
Char’s favorite color was Turquoise, and specifically, that one shade of Turquoise that Ford used in 1959, called “Indian Turquoise.” My idea for Li’l Truck’s final “look” would be a small “classic truck”…chrome everything that could be chrome, and little chrome baby moons over that turquoise. After a year of good and not so good progress (and a relationship with a body shop that was less than ideal), we’re nearer to the finish line.
All that is left are a few details, one of which will be to custom fit the chrome baby moon hubcaps onto those notoriously not-for-hubcaps original wheels (powder-coated a slightly darker Turquoise).
Here’s a link to a website I started for the project. Til today, I hadn’t officially updated it since last summer, due to body shop shenanigans, but she is being coddled back into shape at Rising Sun, and will hopefully be done soon.
Twelve pages of text and photos. Y’all enjoy.
photo links fixed, so last page should show up now!
Sorry to hear of Char’s passing…we have two things in common, my youngest sister died of Ovarian cancer almost 6 years ago, she was only 37…she lived in Atlanta, though she lived quite awhile in Austin, as I still do.
Very nice truck…I don’t have one, but my best friend’s wife had a really basic 1979 Toyota pickup, I think with this same engine…4 speed, no A/C (a bit easier back when the traffic wasn’t so bad in Austin in the 80’s and early 90’s). It was geared so high that I think he told me that he averaged only about 13MPG with it…but they used it mostly for chores, they lived in Manor and had horses, but they later got a Ramcharger to tow their horse trailer.
And sorry to hear that horrible disease took your sister, as well. I never knew what a devastatingly vicious type of cancer Ovarian was, until it up-ended our world.
Li’l Truck didn’t have AC either. I don’t know how we managed using it as our main vehicle for so many years. One of the things I really am just looking forward to is rolling the windows up and pressing that little button marked “AC” next the the vent and heater controls for the first time.
As for gas mileage, she always used to get around 24MPG when we drove her regularly. But those last few years we barely drove her at all, one year she’d only gone 44 miles since the last inspection when we went to get the new sticker.
I’m looking forward to some nice drives out in the Hill Country soon.
shout outs to australia and south africa. though i prefer the sedan version i actually own.
That also came in a longer wheelbase as the Roadstar in NZ there was a Mazda ute of similar size based on the 60s RWD Familiar we had em in govt fleet for a while.
Putting the compact back into compact pickups! I’ve also seen a similar Toyota Publica ute (its in the Cohort).
That’s a cute little beast.
I’m on my 3rd Toyota since 1989. 1st truck was an ’89 4×4 truck (they didn’t call them Tacoma’s yet) xtra cab 5 speed, 2.4 22RE commuted 90 miles each day to work until I got a company car.I drove it for 14 years and 275,000 miles. 3 sets of tires, 1 set of brakes,1 exhaust system, 1 starter, 2 batteries and regular tuneups. Put it in the yard with a for sale sign when I bought a used 2000 Pre-Runner with 2,7 and automatic. That ’89 will always be the truck that I remember fondly. Nothing stopped it, and I can’t tell you how many cars that the truck pulled out of the ditch in the winter. It was unstoppable and never let me down. It was built in Japan and it was built well!The 2000 Pre-Runner was a mistake. 2.7, automatic, 2 wheel drive and rode like a lumber wagon.Horrible mileage! Kept that until 2007 and went shopping for a new Tacoma. The salesman said he could put me into a Tundra for the same money as a Tacoma. It was late august and I think the initial sales spike for the new model was worn down. $24,000 and I got 2 wheel drive, double cab with 4.7. Nice truck, but between it and the Pre-Runner, it was obvious that Toyota started cutting cost and cheapening their trucks. Neither compares to the ’89.
’64 Corvair Rampside
Either I missed it, or no-one mentioned the VW Rabbit Pickup (diesel, of course!):
That’s one of my old favorites, too. The diesel, that is.
I still see the occasional VW pickup around Seattle. Often it’s being driven by a young guy who has lowered it and spiffed it up. I even photographed a diesel that had a canopy and was being used as a work truck recently. Always liked them but I preferred the Japanese minis.
I have fond memories of an ’82 S-10 2wd long bed with 2.8 and 4 speed that an old girlfriend had. I remember it being fun to drive and pretty comfortable (to a 20 year old).
At a former job we had an ’84 Nissan/Datsun 720 2wd short bed with dual plug ‘Z’ motor and 5 speed. Motor was bulletproof, but the bed rusted badly, and it was generally really cheap feeling. Not a comfortable vehicle for anything more than in town runs.
Currently I have an ’06 Tacoma double cab short (5.5′) bed Prerunner. This truck is a pretty good compromise with a real back seat an enough bed for most things. Thought about the 6.5′ bed, but the double cab ends up with a really long wheelbase in that configuration. This truck will cruise at 80 comfortably, seats 4-5, has excellent power when needed and gets 19-20mpg in town. You really can’t fault that overall. The Prerunner Off Road TRD suspension is rubbery and bouncy, but still smoother overall than any of the other small pickups I have driven, due likely to longer wheelbase and better shocks, I think. I would rate the overall quality a ‘B+’. It doesn’t have the initial quality of 1990s Toyotas–you can see some cheap plastic and other materials here and there. Cool feature is the locking rear differential which I used just the other day when I was getting stuck in the mud after some hard rain.
These are good trucks, and yes, Toyota has cheapened out the interiors but in real terms the sticker prices are much lower than they were in their heyday from like 1983-1993. A loaded SR-5 4WD extra cab ran a good $30,000 in Canada in 1990. Lots of bushmen drove them since they were so tough.
The new once still have strong mechanicals.
Toyota Hilux, no question!
1986-1993 Mazda B2000/2200/2600. They had a distinctive style and also drove more like small cars than small trucks. Interiors were also very car-like and comfortable. Their mechanicals were more robust than their bodies which rusted away like so many other Japanese cars from that era. The extended cabs with the longer wheelbase drove especially nice.
What I’ve never liked is about compact trucks in the USA is the diesel engine option was severely limited at best. Diesel may not be for everyone, but I believe that if a diesel engine were offered here in the states, people will buy. I know I would. 🙂
Small trucks are all over South Central, they are as common as lamp posts, Astros, and Villagers. My ex. neighbor has a 4 Cylinder 86 Hardbody he bought new and since he does not like the newer trucks nor can afford a newer vehicle he holds on to his. The truck has so many miles on it from driving several times to Florida and up to Maine Quite an amazing feat for living in the rust belt, but due to the rarity of his truck it is getting harder and harder to find parts. I actually drove them around at least one weekend because the Hardbody was being worked on and the parts had to come from some Sunbelt State.
My other favorite small trucks are the Hilux for the cool name and durability, the early 1990s Isuzu P’up with very nice looks, and the 1st gen (including the facelifted one) Dakota. The paint is so crappy on many of those I get a good chuckle at seeing all the variations and their owner’s attempt to fix the problem. The fact there was a convertible Dakota is pretty cool as well. Oh wait, I forgot about the Comanche, another cool less than full sized truck.
I had a ’92 Nissan King Cab that I bought when it was a year old. It had been the parts runner for the Nissan dealer I bought it from, and was fairly basic – 4 cylinder, 5 speed and the factory AM/FM cassette. I kept it for 2 1/2 years and got plenty of use out of it. I enjoyed driving it, and the only mechanical problem I had was replacing the rear end after 4 months. That could have had something to do with its previous life as a parts runner. Luckily it was covered under warranty, and I put over 60 000 km on it before I sold it. A lot of those kilometres were racked up visiting my girlfriend (now wife) who lived a few hours away at the time. Once we moved in together, we realized that we didn’t really need two vehicles, and since her car (a 1990 Dodge Shadow) was paid for, we decided to sell the truck. I still miss having a truck, and I like to drive my father-in-law’s pickup once in a while. Maybe one day I’ll buy another one. I wouldn’t mind an old Toyota pickup to cruise the back roads around the cottage.
Vw Amarok all the way! Best looking ute/pick up by far. 2.0L diesel is an amazing engine too.
I like the looks of the Amarok, and think it could sell here. Especially with a diesel! However, I suspect it would cost a bit more than the low end of full-sized pick-ups. In other words, it would be good, but wouldn’t end up being as cheap as some would hope it to be.
Price-value ratio says Ranger.
By a mile.
What I’ve always liked about pickup trucks is that 95% of them are rear-wheel drive or 4wd. Anyone who would make a front-wheel drive pickup truck should have their head examined.
I had (and miss) a 1994 Ranger 2.3L/5-spd regular cab short bed. Pretty much my commuter for a number of years. Never had any problems with that one. Current commuter is a 2005 Dakota quad cab 4.7L. All freeway commute, it gets about 19-20 mpg. It replaced the Ranger due to towing needs (and more seating). I like the Dakota, but it’s been a little less reliable than my Ranger. I’ve kinda been “window shopping” for a new (or newish) Nissan Frontier. But I don’t imagine a purchase any time soon.
To much love for the Ford courier. No power steering with a four speed transmission on a 1.8 but that little thing still takes me and my quad to the sand dunes. Much love for my little white courier pickup truck. The styling of this truck is second to none.
A real classic and choc’o’block on Vancouver Island when I was a kid. Owners nursed them for amazing mileage, but rust got them all. I saw the last ones circa 1990.
I have had a lot of trucks etc for work. They all had their place. Contractors I hired almost everything over the time I was involved in air conditioning. This list took me well past that.
1974 Mazda 4 cyl 4 speed stick B series
1980 Dodge Ram 50 (possibly best economy) a company truck.
1981 Datsun King Cab, 4 cyl 3sp auto went over 300k miles
1979 Datsun King Cab 4 cyl , 5 speed man Gave away at 250+k miles
1987 Nissan hardbody, 4 cyl 5 speed died at 330k miles
2002 Saturn Vue, 4 cyl 5 speed Threw timing chain at 185k
1991 S10 long bed, 4.3, 700r4 sent to college with granddaughter
1995 Toyota 4Runner 3.0, 5 speed manual learning about this one now.
I liked them all. The S10 was the toughest. The Saturn Vue and the 87 Nissan were the most fun to drive. The Vue was most versatile and induced me to buy another SUV. The tailgate type rear door is not as good for work on the 4Runner. Otherwise it’s great and I have high hopes. The 4wd has already saved my bacon.
The only loser in the group was the Saturn Vue and it was wonderful between expensive (and frequent repairs). If it didn’t break so often it would be hard to speak badly about towing capacity plus almost 30mpg on the highway. I think a 4 cylinder with stick is the sweet spot. I think Saturn had it worked out by 2004 but I won’t buy another one.
You could put me back in any of them and I would be happy. I would be even happier if I could design a vehicle with the strong points of each.
It’s unforgivable that the Corvair pickup truck and van were discontinued. Yes, Chevrolet, Ford, and Dodge, were offering conventional vans and trucks with the engine in front, under the driver and passenger’s seat. But I would’ve thought that Chevrolet should’ve kept the Corvair van and trucks for those who need them, or want them.
The problem was that too few people wanted them and even fewer needed a pickup or van that didn’t do pick up and van stuff very well.
What does that mean, didn’t do pickup and van stuff very well?
Chevrolet builds that absolutely fantastic FWD pickup right now. I’d call it the Cruze-amino. Problem is, they don’t sell it in the US – only Mexico, Brazil, and South Africa.
A front-wheel drive pickup truck?
I was under the impression that the last Isuzu’s were derived from the Colorado/Canyon, not the other way around. GM developed their own line starting with the S-10/15 in what, 1982? And then eventually renamed them Colorado/Canyon around which time Isuzu offered a version of it as the Hombre. Only the original small Chevy’s in the 70’s were Isuzu-derived. Am I incorrect?
No, you are correct.
Bring back the compact pickup truck. Don’t discontinue it! Full-sized trucks are fine if you have a 25 ft. travel trailer, or a camper, but not everyone needs that big a vehicle, nor would I think everyone wants a truck that’s that big.
The Mazda B-Series from the late 80s-early 90s were really nice trucks, although I only drove company trucks. The only compact trucks i actually owned were Ford Rangers which certainly got the job done.
Tough to pick one “favorite”. Having owned 9 pickups, and working them hard, over the last 30 years as a landscaper. Started with a ’80 F-150 std cab long bed, 300-6 w/ a 3-spd (prior owner replaced the original 3-spd OD). Just a basic work truck without AC. But what a truck! I hauled over 2 tons in that truck several times (with landfill tickets for proof), and hauled a ton and a half regularly. But it was a Ford… nickel and dimed me to death, but it was my first, so a soft spot for it remains. Bought at 85K, driven to junkyard at 127K. Next was the ’83 Toyota 3/4 ton long bed; 2.2 w/ a 5-spd. When they said 3/4 ton, they meant it. Kind of a let down after the under-rated Ford 1/2 ton, but what dependability! Had to get used to the reduced ground clearance, tin can body, peeling paint, and go-cart feel, but a good experience, until the head gasket blew. Bought at 77K, towed to junkyard at 175K. Then came the ’83 Isuzu P’up long bed; 1.9 w/ a 5-spd. A luxury LS w/ tu-tone, and cloth buckets. A good looking truck, and it rode decently, too. But, man it was slow; 77 mph top end on level ground interstate. Honestly, the secondary on the carb was stuck from sitting on the dealer lot for over a year, but it kept me out of trouble. It ran very smooth, but the valve train had a noisy clatter, several people thought it was a diesel. Another dependable jap truck until someone violated my right-of-way. Bought at 88K, towed to junkyard at 141K. All these trucks suffered from ownership by young, dumb, and testosterone laden kid. Then came the first vehicle I ever owned longer than 2 years, an ’86 Mazda B2000 short bed; 2.0 w/ a, you guessed it, 5-spd. Great truck, good power, hard to find fault with, except I was in a bind, and settled for the short bed. It had bad valve guide seals though, really didn’t use oil and didn’t smoke, unless the motor was cold and the outside temperature was below 50 degrees; then it smoked a cloud you literally could not see through; once warmed up, not a puff. Quite funny, actually. Bought w/ 86K, traded w/ 206K. Next was the ’93 Dakota LE long bed w/ a 318-V8 auto. A veritable hot rod, but the gas mileage stunk! Didn’t have it long, just too expensive for me at the time. Can’t recall the mileage, but it never got over 50K before I found a sucker to assume the payments. Back to a ’95 Isuzu P’up again. Short bed, those long bed jap trucks are hard to find. This was a bare bones work truck (the Dakota spooked me); think it was a 2.4? w/ a, yes, 5-spd. The best jap truck yet. I will say, every jap truck had crappy sheet metal, none got particularly great gas mileage, and all suffered from leaky rear main seals; but were extremely reliable. Just being an extra quart of oil with you. Bought with 85K, still running like a champ when sold at 210K (did need a new tranny). Last truck I will EVER own without AC, I’m getting too old to do without here in Florida. Now I step up to a ’00 Silverado 1500, 4.3 V6 auto. Plain jane std cab long bed. Man, it was like driving a Cadillac after 15 years of whiny tin can rice burners. I was worried about Detroit reliability, but I was pleasantly surprised, until a slung rod bearing at 127K, but I bought it w/ 45K, and pulled a 2 ton trailer on a daily basis, so my mechanic told me to blame the guy in the mirror. Now I had already bought a 2nd truck, the exact same thing, but with a blue oval on it, for comparison purposes. A ’00 F-150 std cab long bed w/ a 4.2 V6 auto. Another nickel and dime ordeal. Bought w/ 82K, sold that POS at 102K. I always wanted a “man’s truck”, so I got plain jane ’01 F-250 std cab, 5.4 V8 auto. Just too much truck, rode like a brick, no storage pockets, a seat you could slide from one side to the other on, and just a little too high step in (no sissy step boards for me). A pre-historic beast with air bags. A much better quality build than the F-150 I will say. Bought w/ 141K, outta here with 151K. My next, and current ride, a ’03 Silverado 1500 extended cab short bed, a LS w / power everything and a 4.8 V8 auto. Now that I’m older, and I’m not literally destroying them anymore, I find that I’m the last person alive that likes std cab and 8 foot bed trucks. They’re hard to sell, and don’t hold value; especially with the manly roll-up windows. So I let myself get talked into the current truck for resale reasons. Bought with 86K, and no plans to sell anytime soon w/ 162K. Should’ve got a std cab long bed after all. I feel kinda sissy without the 8 foot bed and with a back seat, but times are a changin’, I guess. But it has been a spectacular truck! It will tow almost anything, short of a house; just a great truck! Could probably sell it right now for 3/4’s of what I paid for it, with twice the miles. I sold the business, and it’s just a commuter ride now to the car lot; it could possibly live to be very old.
In my opinion, a full-size 1/2 ton truck is the way to go, it’ll do almost anything; but I can’t understand a less than 6 foot bed and a crew cab, a “poser” truck. Those mini-trucks can’t haul pallets, can’t stop a trailer safely, and don’t get all that much better gas mileage. Great drivetrains, lousy bodies. My dream truck? A bare bones T-100 std cab long bed, with a 4 cylinder & a 5-spd. Or maybe a 2014 Silverado 1500 WT std cab long bed w/ a 5.3 V8 (only 1 mpg worse than the 4.3 V6, with loads more power and a 9800 pound tow rating. They don’t make ’em like they used to. They make them better! But why so they have to cost $25,000?
I agree that with today’s choices a half-ton is the way to go. Compacts still have their place, but economy and price is no longer a major factor.
But I don’t agree that a crew cab is a “poser” truck. They tow just as much, you can fit a pallet in them, and with the tailgate dropped you have about 8′ of bed length. The key is that they can also haul your entire family. They are like a swiss army knife, doing just about everything. They are not the best choice for people who need a dedicated work truck, and many people may buy them who don’t need trucks to begin with, but that doesn’t make them poser trucks.
When I was growing up, we had several choices of compact trucks. We had the Toyota Pickup truck (Hilux in most markets). We had the Datsun/Nissan truck. We had the Isuzu P’up, and we had Mitsubishi Mighty Max. We still had full-sized trucks, but we also had compact trucks as well, which I think is good to have both available. At least you have the option of either should customers need one.
“I find that I’m the last person alive that likes std cab and 8 foot bed trucks.”
No, there’s at least two of us…
Oh I like 8′ regular cabs, I’d just never buy one because they aren’t as flexible as a daily driver. Maybe when then kids move out.
A friend’s parents bought him a new Datsun pickup in 1969, with an Okanagan box on the back – a really tough little beast. It carried us on a very memorable road trip from Halifax, NS to Cocoa Beach, FL that Christmas (I-95 was still incomplete in parts of Maine and the Carolinas). There were no mechanical issues at all, and the seven 8-track tapes we had with us are still seared into my brain.
A regular cab Datsun of about 1973. Got to use one more than a few times back in the day. Was easy to drive and great fun with a stick. Got me sold on 4-cylinder vehicles with a stick, after mostly driving big cars with V-8s.
Also, the old Dodge D-50 (made by Mitsubishi) of the late 1970s. The Dodge Rampage (and Plymouth Scamp). Always wanted one of those, and still do. The first and second gen. Dakota were just the right size. Also, the Jeep Comanche. Still kinda tempted to find a good one.
The Jeep Comanche has a good sized bed and the 4.0 six is dependable and smooth, with good aftermarket support. The 4 wheel drive Comanche is sought out by off roaders. I believe you can upgrade the interior of the Comanche pickup using later model Cherokee parts. You don’t often see the Jeep Comanche as Chrysler cancelled it due to market overlap with the Dakota. It is a unitized “frame”.
I’m quite partial to Valiants especially with Hemi 6 and this would qualify as a compact as the US sedan does
+1 good colour too.
One of my teachers had an Austin ute. This colour too. Not my fave, but worth the mention.
Its twin is not far from me dead of course but intact and really rare nowdays
Looking at it in profile it becomes my fave variant after the 3 litre.
A Peugeot 504 Dangel 4×4. In french Park Ranger-guise. This was the vehicle I dreamt to have when I was a child.
I just picked this one up. I hope it lives up to it’s reputation!
1992 2.6L 4×4
That would be the truck I’d get today too. Let us know how you like it.
Our 1996 Ford Ranger XLT, no contest!. Owned that truck for over 6 years. 4 cylinder stick, A/C, PS, PB, sliding back glass, standard cab, short wheelbase. Red, of course! Tonneau cover for the bed.
If my 1984 Dodge Rampage had been as reliable as my 1992 Toyota short-bed — or if the Toyota and looked and handled like the Rampage — I’d still be a compact-truck driver.
But they didn’t so now I tow a utility trailer.
Dodge Ram 50. I loved that truck.
20R powered 75 Toyota Hilux. Will haul 2000 lbs all day long, and has ALWAYS started for me. Most reliable vehicle I have ever owned. Sure, it’s needing new paint for the third time now, but as soon as it warms up, she’ll get a new coat. Bone simple to work on, a semi-trained monkey can do it ( and I qualify).
My stepdad had a 77 Toyota Hilux pickup truck when I was a boy. It was powered by a 2.2 litre 20R engine that would do anything a big truck could do. Although it wasn’t a diesel engine, it had the torque of a diesel engine. 90hp and 122ft-lbs of torque. Not much by today’s standards, but for a compact truck, quite impressive. If you need a bigger truck, buy a Tundra or its predecessor, the T100. But if you need a small pickup with a good engine, you can’t do better than a Toyota Hilux. I’d buy another one. 🙂
I’ll take a post-’98 Ranger thank you. Wouldn’t touch a Toyota with a 100m cattleprod with the frame rot they get around here. First gen Dakota would be my second choice.
If I were buying one, I’d go Tacoma – never seen a line of trucks that hold their value quite as well. But I’ll forever be a little partial to the Ford Ranger. I learned to drive stick shift on a regular cab 2WD green 1994 5-speed.
A Volkswagen T2 pick-up with a double cab. Lots of great youth memories, dating back to the early seventies. It was light blue, a color you saw a lot on T1 and T2 vans and pick-ups.
I also have an irrational love for Jeep’s Forward Control trucks.
I always had a thing for the Rangers, ranging from the first extended cab 4X4 to base model. For work, I had a ’96 base with a stick and vinyl seats and 680,000 miles that would not die, no matter how much abuse it got in stop and go traffic between two low-paid courier drivers 21 hours a day. We had a base 2000 Ranger with over 210,000 original miles with little maintenance until the damn new guy didn’t like the fact that it didn’t have a/c and proceeded to run it down the highway for 20 miles in 4th gear on a 100 degree day (allegedly). I also liked the Dakotas too, even though my brother-in-law has one as a second vehicle that has nickle and dimed him for over 3 years, has always shifted hard, and keeps rusting out, no matter how much bondo he puts in to it.
Owned an 89 Ranger STX Supercab, 2.9 V6 and 5 speed. Nice truck, a favorite. Currently own a 2006 Colorado Crew Cab Z71 with the inline 5. A nice contrast, these 2 trucks. The Colorado has a much nicer ride and feel compared to the front twin traction beam suspension. The Ford had a nicer feeling interior with better plastics compared to the Chevy. Both are winners. Also had a soft spot for the 93 and 94 Ranger STX 4X4. I must be the only one who like the large billboard style side stripe treatment of that truck.
Special mention to the Comanche. Probably the best looking American small pickup.
My aunt and uncle had a Datsun PL521 1600 pickup truck.
My best friend bought a Mitsubishi Mighty Max new and I was genuinely impressed with the quality of the truck and the refinement of the engine. It lasted a long time.
The Isuzu Hombre is pretty cool, but I LOVE the Nissan Pickup.
I really liked my ’85 Nissan regular cab. Had the 2.4 liter 4 and a 5 speed. It was a fun little truck. Wish I still had it. My neighbor has a Mazda B2000. Not sure the year, 1986-ish. Those trucks got rave reviews when they came out and I wouldn’t mind having one now.
I’ve found S-10’s and Rangers to be very durable. The advantage they have over the Japanese trucks is the more wide availability of parts. The old Iron duke S-10’s were simple, cheap and dependable. the 96 and later 4.3 motors were bulletproof and very powerful if you were used to a 4 cylinder. My daily driver is a 4.3 S-10 with 361,000 miles on it and going strong. It is a std cab with a 7 foot 2 inch bed. I’m looking at possibly getting a colorado with 4 cylinder 4wd and a manual transmission. the S-10 ZR2 is also a very sweet ride,
Had a 1982 Mazada B2000 Sundowner Sport. What a nifty, tough little truck. It was slooooow as hell, but it rode comfortably and it had a pair of one of the most comfortable bucket seats I ever sat in. The seats with the courdury fabric. I drove my little B2000 for 12 years racking up 180,000 miles.