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.
Buy/Drive/Burn doesn’t talk trucks very often, but today’s an exception. Today’s trio are from the very inception of Japanese compact truck offerings in North America. They mostly rusted away long ago, but perhaps you remember them fondly.
Right now, it’s 1972. Let’s go.
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.
The third-generation Toyota Hilux pickup (called the “Toyota Truck” in the United States) was a legend of reliability and frugality well into our current century, and plenty of small motorhomes were built on its sturdy platform. You’ll still see them occasionally today, but the skin-crawling ickiness of tenth-owner RVs tends to mean the end comes quickly when they wear out. Here’s one that took nearly 40 years to reach that point, now residing in The Final Campground: a self-service wrecking yard near Denver.
I just had a chance to see the newest version of the Toyota Hilux out on the road. For those of you who don’t waste your time watching Top Gear, the “Hilux” is the newest variant of The Toyota Truck Formerly Known As The Toyota Truck. Once upon a time, Toyota sold the same compact truck all over the world, although there were minor differences like double-walled beds for the American market and so on. With the arrival of the Toyota Tacoma, we Americans got a compact Toyota truck of our very own. But was this a good thing? And should Toyota make the otaku happy by bringing us the global vehicle?
Come to think of it — is there even a difference between the Hilux and the Tacoma?
The long-awaited battle to retake the northern Iraq city of Mosul — an ISIS stronghold for the past two years — began this morning, with Allied forces supporting the Iraqi Army troops and Kurdish Peshmerga fighters in their quest against the Islamic State.
One player has a heavy presence on both sides of the battle, and it isn’t a person or organization. It’s the Toyota Hilux, the go-to vehicle for terrorists and allies in the war-torn region. So numerous is the do-anything pickup, that the Iraqi ambassador to the U.S. questions how so many Toyotas could find their way into ISIS hands.
Toyota SUVs and pickups are popular with insurgents in overseas conflict zones, so why shouldn’t the U.S. military kick the tires on some?
The U.S. Special Operations Command just placed an order for up to 556 vehicles outfitted for “unconventional warfare” use, most of them Toyota Land Cruisers, Military Aerospace reports.
It’s a well-known fact that Islamic State fighters enjoy using hardy Toyota pickups in their pursuit of cleansing the Middle East of people even slightly different from themselves, but they’ll need to restock after last week.
Recent Allied military advances, including a huge, weeks-long push that liberated the Iraqi city of Fallujah, have ISIS on the run, and the U.S. Air Force’s best aerial hardware just caught a huge number of their vehicles making a break for it.
The results, as Defense Department video of the strike shows, wasn’t pretty — for the insurgents or their trucks.
In Part One of this minitruckin’ history, we covered how the Big 3 provided their dealers with “captive import” minitrucks from Mazda, Isuzu, and Mitsubishi during the Seventies. By 1975 or thereabouts, both GM and Ford were convinced that the small-pickup market was not a fad and began digging their own products out of the parts bin.
The Chevrolet S-10/GMC S-15 was a sort of truck version of the A-body (later G-body) intermediate. While it’s not dimensionally identical to the older sedans, it’s possible to swap much of the running gear between those two vehicles, particularly ahead of the firewall. The Ford Ranger arrived a few months after the S-10, a few inches smaller in most dimensions and looking remarkably ungainly compared to its sleek GM competitor. Those of you who followed the minitrucking hobby in the Nineties will recall that the Ranger was conspicuous by its absence; “domestic” minitruckers were almost exclusively loyal to the S-10/S-15. Part of that was due to the Twin-I-Beam’s reluctance to accept a lowering kit and/or airbags, but much of it was the Ranger’s hokey, hick-ish appearance compared to the S-10.
So what did that mean for the captive import trucks?
Toyotas of the 1970s and 1980s were quite reliable for the era, if you’re just talking about running gear. If you lived in a rust-prone area, though (say, a block from the Pacific Ocean in San Francisco), Toyotas were eaten by the Iron Oxide Monster in a hurry. Here in Denver, where the snow usually doesn’t stick around long enough to warrant the application of road salt and the single-digit humidity dries out pockets of moisture trapped behind body panels before they can cause much harm, you don’t see too many rust horror-shows in junkyards. However, being conveniently located to both the western edge of the Rust Belt and the salty-road mountains means that I do see some interesting approaches to the Rotting Toyota Problem. Here’s a camper-shell-equipped Missouri Hilux (sold as, simply, the “Toyota Truck” in the United States) with some fiberglass-and-body-filler bodywork that may have bought it another year or two on the road.
While 1980s Toyota Land Cruisers show up in self-service wrecking yards every once in a while, you’re more likely to find a Studebaker Avanti than a Toyota 4Runner in such a yard. In fact, in all my years of visiting high-turnover, uniform-priced self-service yards, I can’t recall ever having seen a 4Runner. Well, there’s a first for everything!
Working in the 24 Hours of LeMons Penalty Box, the constant refrain of “Four wheels off” over the radio from the corner workers reporting miscreant drivers gets a little tedious. Hearing “Six wheels off,” however, really livens things up for us. That’s just one of the many benefits of having the Team Apex Vinyl Texas six-wheeled Toyota Hilux in a race.
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