Junkyard Find: 1978 Toyota Truck

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin
junkyard find 1978 toyota truck
The Toyota Hilux pickup truck first hit the streets in 1968, shoving aside flimsier trucks based on the Corona and Crown within a few years. While the Hilux (or “Hylux”) name got a bit of marketing use by Toyota in North America, this truck was known here as, simply, the Truck. I found this well-worn-but-unrusted ’78 in a Denver self-service yard last month.
How many miles are on it? Plenty. Toyota felt confident enough to go to six-digit odometers (or perhaps just became willing to throw some yen at an extra reel in the mechanism) soon after 1978, but this could be indicating 626,569.7 miles as easily as 126,569.7 miles (the wear on the seats and pedals rules out the possibility of 26,569.7 miles).
These trucks were small, efficient, and got their power from an engine family that earned a reputation for sturdiness rivaled only by the likes of the Chrysler Slant-6 and certain Soviet agricultural engines making 20 horses per liter of displacement.
The 2.2-liter 20R in this Truck made 90 rumbling, grumbling, low-revving horses when it was new. Perhaps the 20R didn’t quite fit the sporty image of the Celicas in which it was installed, but it was perfect for the Truck.
Most of the second-gen Trucks came with four- or five-speed manual gearboxes, even in the United States, but this one has the luxurious three-speed automatic (sadly, the Toyoglide two-speed didn’t go in this generation of Hilux).
Speaking of luxury, check out these wire wheels!
The homemade plywood desk atop the split-bench armrest suggests long-term use as a delivery vehicle; delivery drivers need to do a lot of paperwork while performing their appointed rounds.
These trucks held their value for many decades, but the used-truck market is now saturated with cheap big pickups equipped with air conditioning and menacing road presence; I’m seeing a spike in 1970s and 1980s Trucks in wrecking yards in recent years.
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2 of 22 comments
  • TNJed TNJed on Feb 15, 2019

    The quintessential crazy old man truck: an old and/or obscure compact pickup with a camper top, tons of miles, and homemade customization. Just needs to be plastered with political bumper stickers (left or right not important, just lots of them), and the more random crap in the bed, the better.

  • IHateCars IHateCars on Feb 19, 2019

    This would make an awesome Pizza Planet delivery truck....looks like it was already yellow at some point in its life, just strip off the blue paint.

  • SCE to AUX I like the concept, but $6k just gets you started. I'd have to outsource the bodywork, which is a real problem on a project like this.Still, the result would be a fun vehicle that reflects what many people want today - a small unbloated utility truck.
  • TheDoctorIsOut Try and keep it as light and focused as it always has been and as analog as possible. For those who can appreciate it (and fit into it) there’s still something special about a car that can be driven at 90% of its potential for most of the daily drive.
  • SCE to AUX Let it die with dignity - no electrification. That would kill the spirit of the original.Mazda needs to think about survival and market share, not tinker with a niche car with waning sales, or dying on Wankel Hill.Maybe their body and paint engineers could help Tesla once Mazda folds.
  • Lou_BC H-E-L-L-C-A-T
  • EBFlex "EBFlex speaks more truth."It's sometimes a burden being right all the time.