Junkyard Find: 1977 Datsun 620 King Cab Truck

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin

The middle 1970s through early 1980s were the Golden Age of small Japanese pickups in the United States, when truck shoppers could choose from various models made by Isuzu, Mazda, Toyota, Mitsubishi, and Nissan. The decade of the 1970s began with Nissan selling the Datsun 521 here and finished just around the time the first Datsun 720s appeared in showrooms, with the workhorse 620 in between and proving a tough competitor for the Toyota Hilux and (Mazda-built) Ford Courier.

This week's Junkyard Find is a much-battered 1977 Datsun 620 King Cab, found in a self-service yard located on the High Plains between Denver and Cheyenne.

The gauges are long gone and the odometer would have been a five-digit unit anyway, so there's no telling how many miles this little truck traversed during its near-half-century on the road. My guess would be in the 300,000-400,000 range.

It's a bit rusty, but very solid by compared to most Malaise Era Datsuns you'll see these days.

The "King Cab" option provided useful (and lockable) storage space behind the seats. You still couldn't fit more than two adult humans in the cab (three if you got the bench seat) with this setup, but at least you didn't have to leave your tools, lunchbox, etc. in the bed when you parked.

This truck weighed just around a ton and would be considered intolerably cramped and underpowered by modern standards (the smallest new Nissan pickup you can buy in North America today is the well-over-two-ton Frontier), but it could haul a surprising amount of cargo and weathered times of fuel shortages quite well.

Every 620 sold in North America came with a four-cylinder L engine, making it a powertrain sibling to the famous Datsun 510 and a first powertrain cousin to the Z-Car.

This one is the 1,952cc L20B, and the folks from Yokohama were kind enough to include the SAE horsepower rating on the firewall tag.

It appears to have spent decades sitting outdoors with no glass, and then someone yanked all the dash hardware. Not worth fixing up, but still an interesting Nissan history lesson for us.

Datsun USA called the 620 the "Lil' Hustler" at various times, though I don't recall ever seeing badges with that name.

Datsun had the best narrator heard on any US-market car commercials during the "WE ARE DRIVEN" era.

Try finding all that King Cab space in any other small pickup!

In Canada, this truck was known as the "Sportruck," choice of the Albertan answer to Clint Eastwood.

For links to better than 2,300 additional Junkyard Finds, be sure to visit the Junkyard Home of the Murilee Martin Lifestyle Brand™.

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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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2 of 9 comments
  • Dukeisduke Dukeisduke on Jul 28, 2022

    If the interior were better, it might be a good candidate for ton axles with lockers and three link suspensions (and a bed shortening), for rock crawling.

  • ToolGuy ToolGuy on Jul 30, 2022

    Automotive Archeology Challenge: Those distinctive marks on the front left fender (think of a small 'paint' roller) - how did they get there? Compare the right front fender, and the tailgate. The yellow is factory paint (from a spray gun); the brown is rust (or is it).

    Why the 'roller' marks??

  • Bd2 Probably too late to do anything about it for the launch, but Kia should plan on doing an extensive refresh of the front fascia (the earlier, the better) as the design looks really ungainly.
  • Namesakeone Since I include SUVs and minivans as trucks, I really cannot think of a brand that is truly truckless. MG maybe?
  • Sobhuza Trooper Subaru, they were almost there with the BRAT. --On a lighter note, where the hell is my Cooper Works Mini truck?
  • Mike Evs do suck, though. I mean, they really do.
  • Steve Biro I don’t care what brand but it needs to be a compact two-door with an ICE, traditional parallel hybrid or both. A manual transmission option would be nice but I don’t expect it - especially with a hybrid. Don’t show me an EV.