Buy/Drive/Burn: Compact Japanese Pickup Trucks From 1992

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis

Our last two Buy/Drive/Burn entries reflected compact truck offerings in 1972 and 1982. We know you all love talkin’ trucks, so we bring you a subsequent entry in the series today. It’s 1992, and you’ve got to buy a compact Japanese truck.

Hope you can bear the 10-percent interest rate on your loan.

We return to the three Japanese manufacturers featured in our first compact truck post today, to see what they had on offer 20 years later.

Mazda B-Series

The fourth-generation B-series was a long-lived vehicle, sold globally between 1986 and 1999. Much more livable than the 1970s design it replaced, it won the favor of car magazines immediately. Three flavors were on offer: Base, SE-5 (sporty), and LX (luxurious). Available from 1986 to 1993, the B was refreshed for 1990 with a new bumper and grille color scheme, plus new wheels. It gradually became more plain, with Eighties tape stripe packages nearly extinct by 1990. Later versions of the B2600 in North America had a larger 2.6-liter inline four. Paired with a five-speed manual, it distributed 121 horses. 1993 was the last time Mazda sold its own truck in North America, as in 1994 it was replaced by a rebadged version of the Ford Ranger.

Toyota Truck

What the rest of the world called the Hi-Lux was known simply as Truck in North America. This fifth generation of Toyota’s long-standing model entered production in the summer of 1988, replacing the short-lived fourth-gen model after five years. For the first time, Xtra Cab versions had enough room behind the front seats for small jump seats, meaning two more people could uncomfortably fit inside. In 1991, Toyota added American production for the Truck at the NUMMI plant in Fremont, California. The same year, the front end of the Truck was revised and gained the new Toyota Sombrero. The largest engine on offer was a 3.0-liter V6 of 150 horsepower. 1994 was the last time America was offered a Hi-Lux, as for 1995 Toyota introduced the America-centric Tacoma as its replacement.

Nissan Hardbody

World markets simply loved the D21 Hardbody. In production since late 1985, it remained so in China through 1999, and in Mexico through 2008. Splitting the truck into two products for the first time, the short-wheelbase “A” was designed in Japan, while the “S” version, the King Cab, was designed in the United States. Nissan produced the Hardbody at its Tennessee plant from the start, and the American market received both Standard and King Cab versions. Trim levels included Base, XE, and SE, and air conditioning as an optional extra on the lower trims through 1994. Hardbody had its first refresh in 1993, carried out in piecemeal fashion: An exterior refresh was accompanied by the original 1986 interior. After this awkward 1992.5 to 1993.5 run, the interior was updated for 1994 models. The largest engine available through 1995 was the VG30E from the Maxima, which was dropped for 1996 as it did not meet OBD-II requirements. For 1998 the Hardbody was replaced by the D22 Frontier.

Three durable trucks, as long as you can keep the rust away. Which one gets a Buy?

[Images: Toyota, Nissan, Mazda]

Corey Lewis
Corey Lewis

Interested in lots of cars and their various historical contexts. Started writing articles for TTAC in late 2016, when my first posts were QOTDs. From there I started a few new series like Rare Rides, Buy/Drive/Burn, Abandoned History, and most recently Rare Rides Icons. Operating from a home base in Cincinnati, Ohio, a relative auto journalist dead zone. Many of my articles are prompted by something I'll see on social media that sparks my interest and causes me to research. Finding articles and information from the early days of the internet and beyond that covers the little details lost to time: trim packages, color and wheel choices, interior fabrics. Beyond those, I'm fascinated by automotive industry experiments, both failures and successes. Lately I've taken an interest in AI, and generating "what if" type images for car models long dead. Reincarnating a modern Toyota Paseo, Lincoln Mark IX, or Isuzu Trooper through a text prompt is fun. Fun to post them on Twitter too, and watch people overreact. To that end, the social media I use most is Twitter, @CoreyLewis86. I also contribute pieces for Forbes Wheels and Forbes Home.

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2 of 26 comments
  • AutoPatriot AutoPatriot on Mar 10, 2020

    This one is simple because I am certainly biased. Drive the Mazda. I'm sure it would be a blast on a trail. The truck is so rare you won't get another chance for sure. Burn that Toyota, mainly to protest the 5th generation compared to the previous Toyota gems. I had a 88 Toyota 4 runner 4x4 5spd. Great truck, but she did eventually burn herself out even without my permission. Buy the Hardbody! Doesn't matter what year. I own a black 96 xe 5spd 2.4l one of these. It's a single cab 2wd "black package" with white alloy 14s. Told you I was biased. My dad bought it brand new, I still have the original sticker window and all the service paperwork, 14k out the door! The only mechanical problem it's ever had in it's 24 years was in 2006 a blown heater core that leaked coolant into the passenger side floorboard. That's it. Seriously. Everything else works perfectly. See why they have such a reputation? Okay full disclosure on this so I feel better about posting this comment\story. I did a very bad thing Ttac long story straight in 2014, the Hardbody ended up sitting off in a side yard at a friend's house. Nothing at all wrong with the truck I just didn't have space, for many months I was good I swear! I would go start her up and drive around the block but over time the Hardbody just ended up sitting for five years. Fast forward 5 years to November 2019 my Almost paid off Civic Coupe, yes manual baby! Got totaled. I looked for months to replace that car in the right price but it was impossible in my location. I decided no car payment for a while if I could drive my truck for a while, before it's too late and it almost was! But that's what I'm here to tell you. The truck sat for 5 years to get her back on the road this is what it took: A new gas tank and fuel filter. - bad idea to leave a full tank of gas. New battery. Spark plugs. No Don't forget oil! Fired right up! Since November I have only done mild very past due normal maintenance(the odometer is at 63k.) like belts,starter, tires and brakes. But that's it. The thing runs just as good as it has since I was a little boy. It's amazing to think it will be an antique here in Tennessee in 9 months. I pass another one of these trucks on the road daily. One of the last vehicles from the 90s still on the road. Buy this truck you won't regret it.

  • Jeff S Jeff S on Mar 10, 2020

    I would not burn any of these trucks. I like them all and I wish you could get a compact truck similar to this.

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