By on October 23, 2017

1981 Toyota Truck in California wrecking yard, RH front view - ©2017 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars
The third-generation Toyota Hilux, sold in the United States as the Toyota Truck or Toyota Pickup (remember, this is the extremely un-frivolous company that, even today, sells a luxury sedan called the LS), achieved legend status very early in its career. An 800,000-mile example will be equally comfortable hauling a dozen or two Taliban fighters through the wilds of North Waziristan or a ton of discarded bicycles and box-springs through the streets of San Jose.

Here’s one of the latter occupation, spotted last spring in a self-service yard in the heart of Silicon Valley.

1981 Toyota Truck in California wrecking yard, flyer - ©2017 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars
Because this truck hauled scrap in the San Francisco Bay Area, the entrepreneur driving it included the word “green” in his flyers.

1981 Toyota Truck in California wrecking yard, cage - ©2017 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars
It sports a sturdy, well-made cargo cage, enabling no-doubt-precarious loads-O-junk to be piled high while making its rounds.

1981 Toyota Truck in California wrecking yard, speedometer - ©2017 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars
I’m guessing about the 800,000-mile part, because the odometer only goes up to 99,999.9 miles before turning over. Maybe the ol’ Toyota has 184,999 miles, maybe it has 984,999 miles.

1981 Toyota Truck in California wrecking yard, automatic gearshift - ©2017 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars
The automatic transmission was a very unusual option in these trucks, or for any small pickup during the Malaise Era.

1981 Toyota Truck in California wrecking yard, mirror ornament - ©2017 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars
The baby shoe and rosary hanging from the rear-view mirror suggests that the operator of this truck was a Catholic family man.

1981 Toyota Truck in California wrecking yard, voltmeter - ©2017 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars
Unusually, the standard-size 2-1/16″ voltmeter hadn’t been grabbed yet when I photographed this truck. I have several stockpiled, mostly VDOs, so I left this one in the yard.

1981 Toyota Truck in California wrecking yard, engine compartment - ©2017 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars
Someone had snatched up the 20R engine, though; you’d think that a lower-mile donor, such as a Celica of the same era, would have been a better bet to have a lot of life left.

1981 Toyota Truck in California wrecking yard, tailgate - ©2017 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars
Washers, dryers, whatever!


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27 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1981 Toyota Pickup, Scrap Hunter Edition...”


  • avatar
    namesakeone

    I wonder if it will go to the same recycling business as some of the washers, dryers, whatever it hauled.

  • avatar
    dividebytube

    My parents bought a 1984 Nissan 4X2 truck with an automatic. When the drive shaft got bent a few years later (don’t ask!), it was a real pain to find a junkyard replacement.

  • avatar
    CaptainObvious

    My guess is that the engine-taker believed the the odometer and thought they were getting a low-mileage engine.

    Just a guess though.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    Anyone old enough to have grown up with odometers that turned over at 100k, would remember that once the odometer turned over that one of the digits, generally the one on the far left, but sometimes the one on the far right would become slightly ‘offset’.

    On this example both are, signifying possibly that it had turned over more than once?

    • 0 avatar
      JimC2

      I’ve never heard that- but I can believe it. (I’m not trying to contradict you at all.)

      I do remember the 1/10ths digit on the “big” odometer. My first car had one of those but it didn’t have a trip odometer. No trip odometer plus “I want to track my gas mileage” OCD was fun. Pepperidge Farms remembers.

      I (not so fondly) remember the 55mph dot for U.S. market speedometer faces. This truck was probably featured in a magazine road test with “0-50mph” acceleration stats. I (not so fondly) remember those, too.

      • 0 avatar
        Arthur Dailey

        Contradictions and corrections are always welcome. I have learned considerably from the B&B.

        Regarding the odometer becoming slightly offset, I was taught that by 2 different sources. The first was the guy who owned a very large bodyshop/autowreckers, that worked closely with the Toronto Police. When I got my first ‘learners permit’ The Old Man took me there so that I could tour the place and see first hand some of the autos that were being stored/had been towed there that had been involved in fatality/serious personal injury accidents. Many still had physical evidence of the injuries/damage to the passengers.

        The other was an old European mechanic who ran a service station where I worked during high school.

        All the numbers on the odometer lined up, during the first go round. The 2nd (or in very rare instances) the 3rd time around, one or more became offset/out of alignment with the others. As per the picture of the Toyota in this article, the first and last digit are both ‘off’.

        • 0 avatar
          mikey

          @Arthur…I do remember that quite well…Of course back in the day, rolling the odo back 40 -50K miles was common practice..Up to about 1970 it was simple…Moving up to the 80’s one needed to carefully remove & replace a plastic seal… Okay, if you knew what you were doing..If you it screwed it up the all the numbers wouldn’t align.

    • 0 avatar
      CaptainObvious

      I am old enough to remember that – but always thought the offset was just that – an offset.

      I just thought it was attributable to the odometer being a mechanical unit – and not a very accurate or precise one at that.

      • 0 avatar
        Vulpine

        To be a little more specific for those who might not have seen these before, the ‘offset’ is where one or the other (perhaps more than one) would pop fractionally away from the rest of the reel, causing a 1/16th inch gaps (more or less) between the numbers. Others would ‘miss’ a tooth on each cycle (up to a point?) to cause the number to be misaligned, such as shown here. In either case, the intent was to show in excess of 100K miles (kilometers in other nations) when the average car rarely achieved that mileage. I won’t be surprised when we start seeing yet another digit added to the odometer, but by then it will be digital, not mechanical.

        • 0 avatar
          PrincipalDan

          Now I’m going to go look at the odometer on my 50 year old Mustang. Even having been in the same family it’s whole life the title just says “exceeds mechanical limits” for miles. Nobody can remember how many times it’s been around.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      In this case it certainly looks like the first digit is dead on where it is supposed to be while the others are just starting to turn. On many ODOs it takes until the the 1 is showing until the digit on the left of it has fully turned.

      • 0 avatar
        golden2husky

        That was my experience as well with all the cars that I drove past 200K. They would eventually line up in the end…

        Can’t imagine there would be a mechanical odometer with that feature built in, not in this cost cutting era. I think it would be cheaper to have added an extra digit.

    • 0 avatar

      I’ve had direct experience with that myself, Arthur. On my 84 Charger when I rolled over the first 100K the far left digit didn’t quite roll all the way up (or down – whichever it was). The second 100K brought it more inline to where it was offset just a smidge. The 3rd 100K brought it even again.

  • avatar
    pwrwrench

    When this truck was new they were known as “Mini” trucks. A truck that looks similar to the one in the photos comes through my area on trash pick up days. Metal is left out for them.
    That’s a hard job. Most scrap metal is steel and sells for about 2 cents a pound. Aluminum and copper go for much more, but there’s usually a lot of work involved. A washing machine, refrigerator, or A/C unit will usually have electric motors with copper winding and aluminum parts. However it needs to be disassembled.
    A trip to the scrap yard with that truck overloaded, unless a lot of aluminum, copper, and brass is found, will get about $80-100. Not much left after filling up the gas tank.

    • 0 avatar
      psychoboy

      I can’t guess at Cali scrap prices, but we’ve been around $115/ton for basic ‘steel’ (which is anything that a magnet will stick to) over the scales.

      If you stripped your average white goods down, meth-head style, you can make quite a bit more (clean copper and aluminum pay well, ‘melt’ aluminum pays better than steel, but not as good as clean does), but I’ve been getting about $80-100 out of a Nissan Hardbody bed load. This truck could easily double what I can haul, and a 15 gallon tank of 87 might take $40 to fill around here. It’s not glamorous work, but if you spend $40 and 6 hours of load/unload to make $200, you can put food on the table. If you cull and strip your intake for the good stuff, you could probably turn that $200 into $300 or so.

  • avatar
    Prove Your Humanity 2+9=?

    I kind of wonder what the story is behind the passenger door, which has been enthusiastically and thoroughly kicked in.

  • avatar

    I can only imagine how overloaded this truck looked on an average hauling day. That rack looks well made and from steel so That alone was cutting in to payload. If it’s like scrappers around here it was likely on its bumps stops much of the time.

    • 0 avatar
      psychoboy

      Once you are on the bumpstops, your payload goes up to infinity.

      really, tho, if he’s dealing mostly in white goods, there’s a density limit. white goods are basically metal boxes of air, and he’s probably not crushing them before they go in the truck.

  • avatar
    Roberto Esponja

    For some reason, I’m thinking this vehicle would be perfect for a Crabspirits or CoreyDL tale…

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    That auxiliary gauge cluster would work well in a
    Japanese resto mod of the era.
    It’s not surprising someone took the 20R motor. They’re quite indestructible.

  • avatar
    jh26036

    I am interested in that 1st gen Explorer next to it. You should take some pics of that.

  • avatar
    JMII

    Why not drive that extra mile to reach X85,000?

    Mini trucks like this were all the rage when I was in HS in the 80s. Mostly Mazda B2200 lowered on tiny wheels and covered in various graphics with neon under them and two 12″ subwoofers behind the seats. My buddies all had them because back then trucks where the cheapest vehicles on the lot. They were bullet proof, got good mileage and the insurance was low too. While they were slow they were still RWD thus were ideal for tearing up your ex-girlfriend’s front yard.

    • 0 avatar
      Vulpine

      Never saw any of that customizing when I was driving my Mitsubishi Sport Truck in Denver. People were using them as trucks and daily drivers, there.

      • 0 avatar
        Big Al From 'Murica

        Any High School lot in the early to mid 90s would have all manner of minitrucks scraping the pavement. Favorites were the Toyota and the boxy S-10. I had an 88 Ranger. The styling of that truck, the Twin I Beam and my being broke meant it remained stock with the exception of an Alpine Cassette Deck that had Guns N Roses Appetite for Destruction stuck in it. I miss that truck.

        • 0 avatar
          Vulpine

          My Mitsi had an SSB CB radio under the dash with a 100″ whip antenna clipped to the passenger-side rain rail. Everything else was factory stock. Then again, I bought the thing brand new, too.

  • avatar
    Guitar man

    A massive heavy cage at the back, thrashy 3 speed auto and the mighty 4Y engine with 45 kW of raw power – watch out for neck sprain !

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