Junkyard Find: 1972 Datsun 521 Pickup

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin
junkyard find 1972 datsun 521 pickup

We saw a Datsun 620 Junkyard Find recently, and now I’ve found an example of the 620’s predecessor: the 520.

I’ve always admired the small Japanese pickups of the late 1960s and early 1970s, but I still wasn’t prepared for the beauty of this instrument cluster. The speedometer has real depth that’s not readily apparent in this photograph. Such simplicity, yet there’s genuine style as well. I may have to go back and buy it.

The good old L engine, the same family that went into 510s, Z cars, and countless other Nissan products from the 1960s through the 1980s. This is the four-cylinder L16.

At some point, this truck’s former owner added skull-themed window film and dice switch knobs.

I’m not sure where this aftermarket fuel tank, seen sitting under the camper shell, came from. Perhaps it was pulled from this truck, or maybe it came from another vehicle in this self-service yard.

These pickups weren’t as prized as their Toyota counterparts, so you don’t see as many of them still chugging along in daily service. Perhaps the L engine wasn’t quite as bulletproof as the Toyota R, but it came close.

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  • Namstrap Namstrap on Jun 02, 2012

    I worked at a Datsun dealership when these trucks were new. We had one like this done up as a tow truck, and it used to haul in full size American pickups. When we did car shows, we'd set up a special ramp in the back of a 521 so we could drive another one up on top of it, just to show it could carry its own weight. I remember the gearing being quite low to allow it to accomplish this stuff.

  • Mccall52 Mccall52 on Jun 02, 2012

    The two door Nissan Pathfinder obviously has DNA from the late 80's Pulsar NX.

  • Jim Bonham Thanks.
  • Luke42 I just bought a 3-row Tesla Model Y.If Toyota made a similar vehicle, I would have bought that instead. I'm former Prius owner, and would have bought a Prius-like EV if it were available.Toyota hasn't tried to compete with the Model Y. GM made the Bolt EUV, and Ford made the Mach-E. Tesla beat them all fair and square, but Toyota didn't even try.[Shrug]
  • RHD Toyota is trying to hedge their bets, and have something for everyone. They also may be farther behind in developing electric vehicles than they care to admit. Japanese corporations sometimes come up with cutting-edge products, such as the Sony Walkman. Large corporations (and not just Japanese corporations) tend to be like GM, though - too many voices just don't get heard, to the long-term detriment of the entity.
  • Randy in rocklin The Japanese can be so smart and yet so dumb. I'm America-Japanese and they really can be dumb sometimes like their masking paranoia.
  • Bunkie The Flying Flea has a fascinating story and served, inadvertently, to broaden the understanding of aircraft design. The crash described in the article is only part of the tale.