By on May 26, 2015

08 - 1983 Toyota Pickup Junkyard Find - picture courtesy of 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.
19 - 1983 Toyota Pickup Junkyard Find - picture courtesy of Murilee Martin

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).

05 - 1983 Toyota Pickup Junkyard Find - picture courtesy of Murilee Martin

Not even 200,000 miles on the clock.

06 - 1983 Toyota Pickup Junkyard Find - picture courtesy of Murilee Martin

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

21 - 1983 Toyota Pickup Junkyard Find - picture courtesy of Murilee Martin

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?

11 - 1983 Toyota Pickup Junkyard Find - picture courtesy of Murilee Martin

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?

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27 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1983 Toyota Pickup, Adobe Rust Repair Edition...”


  • avatar
    bullnuke

    Ahhhh! Bondo! The reason for carrying a small magnet in your pocket while shopping used cars years ago.

    • 0 avatar

      No magnet needed to find the Bondo in this truck!

      • 0 avatar

        My Uncle Johnny used to Bondo cars all day long — working for Fischer Body at the plant. Apparently a lot of cars got dinged while still on the line.

        “Nothing wrong with Bondo when you know what you’re doing,” he always said.

        I always wondered what a magnet would have told us about the LTD he drove. It might have told us that if you work at the plant you can make sure you get one of the good ones.

        Well, as good as a malaise-era LTD could get, anyway.

        • 0 avatar
          CoreyDL

          I parked next to an old LTD with little floral print flowers on the seats TODAY in the parking garage! It’s the one with the totally square brake lamps. Someone’s dedicated to that thing since it has no rust here in OH.

  • avatar
    Land Ark

    My wife tells me she had a 1980s Toyota Truck extra cab. She drove it during college in Vermont in the late 90s. The way she tells it she had the only non-rusty Toyota of the era that was also a mechanical nightmare. She says oil leaked constantly and eventually developed blow-by which the shop she took it to said it would cost $2k to fix. Once she couldn’t take it anymore she traded it in toward a brand new Ford Escort ZX2. (wah waaah)

    In other cars she owned that make me sad, she also owned a late 70s Datsun 510 prior to the truck. I believe she left that on the side of the road with a “FREE” sign on it.

  • avatar
    Crabspirits

    That’s Evercoat’s #637 fiberglass repair kit sitting there on the front fender.

    …the whole kit.

    Mark’s bare hands were sticky with resin. He threw the wasted brush to the ground, and went to Plan B. He folded the square meter of saturated fiberglass cloth into a tampon, and rammed it into the rust hole. The sticky mess was now becoming intensely hot as it hardened.
    “God…BLESS IT!!!” (shoving intensifies)

    Mark then went back into the house to begin the hour long process of washing his hands.

  • avatar
    -Nate

    Cool links .

    Crab , that was really short .

    -Nate

  • avatar
    greaseyknight

    Good memories, spent several years bombing around in two different ’83 ‘Yota’s. One was a rusted clapped out truck from Denver (I’m from the PNW) and a creampuff that was well cared for. Great trucks, even when clapped out and 30 years old. THe only inherent problem that can’t be readily fixed is the size of the cab, its narrow and not long enough for tall guys.

    Its a deluxe trim level, the order was base, deluxe and SR5. Its interesting that it has a chrome grill, and I’m really surprised that no one has grabbed it yet.

  • avatar
    gearhead77

    My Dad had a ’78 “Toyota Truck” that was bare bones. I still remember the JCPenney AM/FM 8 track added on under the dash. It was red, at one point, but had oxidized severely by the time I could remember it. Dad wasn’t (isn’t) the best at what you’d call preventative maintenance, though he was an aircraft mechanic.

    By 1988, The Western PA tinworm had also gotten to it. Dad traded it on an 88 Ranger Extended cab 2wd with 2.9 V6. Brown with beige bottom, and at about 100k it too eventually succumbed to that dread tinworm.

    I’d love to have one of these basic 2wd Toyotas from the 80’s or 90’s as a runner. But rust has killed them all in the rust belt. If i find the right one, I might use the travel benefits provided by my job to bring one home.

    • 0 avatar

      “Dad wasn’t (isn’t) the best at what you’d call preventative maintenance, though he was an aircraft mechanic.”

      Encouraging news for frequent fliers! ;o)

      • 0 avatar
        gearhead77

        When he was getting paid to fix airplane stuff, he was fine. He’d do any number of repairs on any car we owned and do them well. But the preventative stuff, well, that’s just “a recommendation”. Stubbornness, laziness or blue collar Pittsburgher penny pinching, whatever you’d like to call it.

        It’s something like the contractors house always needs fixed because he’s been working on other peoples stuff all day.

    • 0 avatar
      Sigivald

      Tricky.

      I had a ’94, that I traded in two years ago, with 280kmi on it, and a broken timing chain tensioner and worn transmission.

      It was in pretty good shape for such a vehicle – and people kept leaving notes on it asking if I wanted to buy it.

      I don’t quite understand why, given its age. They’re not *magic*, people, and the mechanical bits do wear out.

      Given that mine was the last year of production, you’d have to be very lucky to find one any earlier with under, oh, 200kmi on it, and not needing more work than it’s worth.

  • avatar
    Detroit-Iron

    Saw the pic and the headline and instantly thought of this sassy Mexican import:

    [hulu id=273955]

  • avatar
    Gedrven

    An 83 would have a 22R, not a 20R. It looks like the timing chain and sprockets are missing, so perhaps the head was in fact removed, discovered to be junk for one reason or another (they’re not known for cracking, but it’s possible), and immediately put back.

    That’s some stunning Bondo-Juitsu!

    I have an 81 4×4 that I restored, and used to have an 86 and a 91. The 2wd ones were great daily drivers, but the early 4wd’s suck gas like a large truck and even loaded down ride like a shopping cart. The first-gen (79-83) cabs are stylish, but have zero sound deadening and terrible aerodynamics, lots of wind noise. That plus the cramped cabin makes them feel like the proverbial penalty box. On the other hand, the interiors are far more durable than just about anything else made at the time or since. A lesser-known but equally important factor in their popularity: ease of working on it. I don’t enjoy driving my 81 very much, at least on pavement, but the whole ownership experience is about as good as it gets.

    • 0 avatar
      dswilly

      I have a 82 4×4 long bed with 220+K on it. I never noticed the MPG being bad, got 23 mpg with it driving form Oregon to KC. Perhaps mine is running lean, it does need a carb rebuild and it had 31″ tires on it. They do ride rough being leafs on all four corners, like a mini lumber truck. Ditto on the cab size, passengers laugh at how narrow it is. I can adjust the outside passenger mirror by hand while driving.

  • avatar
    danio3834

    Oh boy, that looks like a tumor.

  • avatar
    countrypete

    Oi! The “bugger” ad is from New Zealand, not Australia. As a kiwi, we get a bit upset when the Aussies claim our stuff – you know, like Phar Lap, Pavlova, Croded House and Russell Crowe…

  • avatar
    stevelyon

    I grew up in a suburb of Minneapolis. In the late 80s, a buddy of mine had one of these, an ’84. By 1989 it already had big holes in the box. Rumor was that the box was made of a lesser grade of steel than the rest of the truck, but the cab was only a year or two behind in its quest to return to the earth.

    I seem to remember he sold it for $500 or so in about 1993, with 300k miles on it and rust holes big enough to swallow small children. Still ran like a top, though.

    • 0 avatar
      greaseyknight

      Its my understanding that the bed was made in the USA to avoid the chicken tax. Toyota could import the trucks without beds and not pay the tax. IIRC they had a factory in Long Beach that put them together.

      • 0 avatar
        Carlson Fan

        The reason they rotted so fast in places like Mpls. was because of the seam that ran the length of the bed. That’s where the rust started usually after one winter. They also had a single wall bed which is one of the dumbest things ever conceived in PU design. Not unique to Toy. Throw something in the bed and “ball park frank”the body. The double wall, no seam bed in my ’93 was still solid after 11 MN winters although the tail gate was completely rotted out on the bottom. It was the frame on that truck, not the body, that eventually did it in according to my buddy who bought it from me and ran it another 9 years.

  • avatar
    Lorenzo

    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.

  • avatar

    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.

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