Junkyard Find: 1983 Toyota Pickup, Adobe Rust Repair Edition

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin

Toyotas of the 1970s and 1980s were quite reliable for the era, if you’re just talking about running gear. If you lived in a rust-prone area, though (say, a block from the Pacific Ocean in San Francisco), Toyotas were eaten by the Iron Oxide Monster in a hurry. Here in Denver, where the snow usually doesn’t stick around long enough to warrant the application of road salt and the single-digit humidity dries out pockets of moisture trapped behind body panels before they can cause much harm, you don’t see too many rust horror-shows in junkyards. However, being conveniently located to both the western edge of the Rust Belt and the salty-road mountains means that I do see some interesting approaches to the Rotting Toyota Problem. Here’s a camper-shell-equipped Missouri Hilux (sold as, simply, the “Toyota Truck” in the United States) with some fiberglass-and-body-filler bodywork that may have bought it another year or two on the road.

Actually, the shell came from Missouri; there’s no telling where the truck came from (though the shell appears to have been on the truck since it was new-ish).

Not even 200,000 miles on the clock.

Bondo over rust solves the problem in about the same way that painting over termite damage fixes your house.

I keep hearing that 20R heads are worth plenty to the guys who want to swap them onto their 22R off-road trucks and get higher compression, but I never see them removed at junkyards. Urban legend?

Mechanically speaking, this truck probably had a lot of life left in it, but watching shards of your vehicle tumbling behind you in the rear-view mirror while listening to the howl of wind through all the rust holes… well, it gets old.

There are parts of the world, however, where Hilux owners don’t worry about how rusty their trucks might be.

The Australians have always had better Hilux ads than North Americans.

See what I mean?

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 27 comments
  • Lorenzo Lorenzo on May 26, 2015

    I don't know why the snow belt switched from sand to salt and chemicals to keep roads passable. I remember as a kid in Massachusetts, seeing trucks with claws remove the sand from storm drain boxes, to filter and re-use. Only a motorist class-action lawsuit could stop cities from dumping tons of Bonneville Salt Flats, Utah onto their streets. Last year, Boston didn't know where to put all the snow since they weren't allowed to dump it in rivers and bays like the old days. The western Great Lakes had the same problem the year before. So where does the salt and chemicals go when the snow melts? Into storm drains that dump it in rivers and bays.

  • Festiboi Festiboi on May 27, 2015

    This brings back memories. I had a 1978 Toyota Truck that I bought after college in 2002, affectionally named "Ghetto Truck". The panels mismatched in color, he smelt badly, was loud, and was just crude. I had a longer commute and wanted to keep the miles off my then-newer Hyundai Elantra. The truck was owned by a co-worker of my Dad's and he had purchased it for his teenage daughter. She thought it was ugly and refused to drive it, and it sat for years on a property. For $300, we unloaded the truck off him. It needed a new carbuerator, but otherwise, everything worked fine considering the 210k miles on it. I loved that truck and it was full of character. It did smell like exhaust, which has probably taken years off my life, but who cares when you're 20? The truck bed would rattle like the dickens over any bumps with a loud metal-to-metal clunking sound. There was a towel between the battery and the metal hood to prevent a reinactment of 4th of July fireworks. There was absolutely zero sound insulation in the cabin and the metal steering wheel was awful to hold onto in the desert heat. I placed another 30k miles on the truck over the course of 3 1/2 years and have pictures of it in front of the Hollywood Sign and Golden Gate Bridge. Eventually, life changes and too many parts wearing out forced me to sell it for $800 (in running condition) to a neighbor kid. Last time I heard, the truck was in Mexico somewhere. I still look back fondly on that truck, and any Toyota pickup from this era.

  • Wolfwagen What I never see when they talk about electric trucks is how much do these things weigh and how much does that detract from the cargo-carrying capacity?
  • Wolfwagen I dont know how good the Triton is but if they could get it over here around the $25K - $30K They would probably sell like hotcakes. Make a stripped down version for fleet sales would also help
  • 3SpeedAutomatic You mentioned that Mitsubishi cars had lost their character. Many brands are losing that that element as well. GM is giving up on the ICE Camaro and Dodge on the ICE Challenger. There goes the Bad Boy image. Might as well get your teeth pulled and dentures put in place. Would like to see a few EVOs with cherry bomb exhaust and true 4 cylinder BIG blower turbos; 4 wheel drift capacity is mandatory!!🚗🚗🚗
  • Tassos Here in my overseas summer palace, I filled up my tank twice in May, at 68 and 52 euros (a full 90+ liter tank fillup has taken 130-135 Euros in the past, and I am 23 miles from downtown here, while only 1-2 miles in the US)Still, diesel here is MUCH cheaper than gas. Yesterday, I paid 1,488 a liter while gas was at least 1,899 (regular).Multiply by almost 4 for gallons AND by an additional 1.1 for $.
  • 3SpeedAutomatic IIRC, both China and the EU use a standardized charger connection. About time the US & Canada to follow.Would take some of the anxiety out of an EU purchase and accelerate adoption. 🚗🚗🚗