Junkyard Find: 1972 Datsun 521 Pickup

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin

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.

Murilee Martin
Murilee Martin

Murilee Martin is the pen name of Phil Greden, a writer who has lived in Minnesota, California, Georgia and (now) Colorado. He has toiled at copywriting, technical writing, junkmail writing, fiction writing and now automotive writing. He has owned many terrible vehicles and some good ones. He spends a great deal of time in self-service junkyards. These days, he writes for publications including Autoweek, Autoblog, Hagerty, The Truth About Cars and Capital One.

More by Murilee Martin

Join the conversation
2 of 25 comments
  • 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.

  • Patrick McCall Patrick McCall on Jun 02, 2012

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

  • Kars This article was about Ford not Tesla - you are clearly confused.
  • Ollicat Those are individual charging stations vs entire gas stations that have 8 - 16 pumps. And gas stations take 3 minutes to fill vs 30 min to hours for a charging station. And gas pumps are much more likely to be working vs charging statins. Nice try with more propaganda though.
  • Richard Poore Sure, as the article itself notes (hence my ire) California has mandated that all new vehicles sold in state be EV by 2035. They require EV or hybrid by 2026. Since the author admits to this mandate it seems that the article title is clickbait... was really hoping that there was some sort of changes in the CA position since the state is sorely behind on where they need to be with charging stations for this sort of requirement.
  • VoGhost When will Audi eliminate the fake, oversized grills that impede aerodynamics?