Junkyard Find: 1981 Toyota Pickup, Scrap Hunter Edition

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin

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.

Because this truck hauled scrap in the San Francisco Bay Area, the entrepreneur driving it included the word “green” in his flyers.

It sports a sturdy, well-made cargo cage, enabling no-doubt-precarious loads-O-junk to be piled high while making its rounds.

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.

The automatic transmission was a very unusual option in these trucks, or for any small pickup during the Malaise Era.

The baby shoe and rosary hanging from the rear-view mirror suggests that the operator of this truck was a Catholic family man.

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.

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.

Washers, dryers, whatever!

Toyota trucks, built with Toyota quality!

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.

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  • JMII JMII on Oct 23, 2017

    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.

    • See 2 previous
    • Vulpine Vulpine on Oct 24, 2017

      @Art Vandelay 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.

  • Guitar man Guitar man on Oct 24, 2017

    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 !

  • Analoggrotto Anyone who has spent more than 15 minutes around a mustang owner would know this will be in insta-hit.
  • FreedMike Interesting time capsule.
  • 6-speed Pomodoro I had summer and winter tires for a car years ago. What a pain in the butt. You've permanently got a stack of tires hogging space in the garage and you've got to swap them yourself twice a year, because you can't fit a spare set of tires in a sportscar to pay someone else to swap 'em.I'd rather just put DWS06's on everything. But I haven't had a sportscar in 8 years, so maybe that's a terrible idea.
  • ShitHead It kicked on one time for me when a car abruptly turned into my lane. Worked as advertised. I was already about to lean into the brake as I was into the horn.
  • Theflyersfan I look at that front and I have to believe that BMW and Genesis designers look at that and go "wow...that's a little much." Rest of the car looks really good - they nailed the evolution of the previous design quite well. They didn't have to reinvent the wheel - when people want a Mustang, I don't think they are going to cross-shop because they know what they want.