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Clash of the Titans: 1973 Toyota Hilux Pickup

061616 Barn Finds - 1973 Toyota Hilux - 1

Here’s a nice little truck: a 1973 Toyota Hilux Pickup. It’s in Redwood City, California and is listed on eBay with a current bid price of just over $1,300, but of course the reserve isn’t met. These RN20 models were nicknamed “ロケハイ”, RokeHi, for Rocket Hilux, and they had exterior updates and a more comfortable interior than the previous generation trucks had. It’s almost a Chevy vs. Ford vs. Dodge thing, but with Japanese pickups instead: I can’t make up my mind if I like the Toyota or Datsun pickup offerings from this era better. Or maybe I like the Mazda better. What about you?

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This is a second-generation Hilux, made from 1972 to 1978, but North America didn’t get them until 1973. The seller says that this truck is in “excellent condition”; thoughts? I would say maybe very good condition for a truck with a big dent right there in this photo, and some rust showing up here and there. It looks like it’s been repainted to me. I think that grille piece should be a silver-gray color? I could be wrong, I’ve seen it painted body color and painted silver-gray.

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Now, it looks like it’s in excellent condition from this angle! That’s one nice, excellent bumper. The seller says that the bed has no damage, hardly ever used.” I see some rust underneath the bed and for a 43-year old white truck to look this great, especially one with 130,000 miles on it, I still think that it’s been repainted. Not that it’s a bad thing if it has been, but there’s no mention of it at all. The seller says that there is “an exhaust manifold leak and the odometer stopped working recently”, so the listed 130,000 miles may be give or take.

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The interior looks pretty nice, but there are a couple of power-suckers in this photo, and I know that you see them both. Most of these trucks came with a 4-speed manual, which would have been great in this one rather than the somewhat rare automatic seen here. Also, the air-conditioning added to the load on the engine. But, for a California vehicle, that AC has to be a nice option to have. The seller mentions that the “interior, dash, headliner are all in great shape for the truck’s age. The seats both have small rips. The floor mat, headliner, and door panels look like new.”

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This is Toyota’s 18RC, 2.0L inline-four cylinder with just under 100 hp. The seller says that this truck “runs, shifts, brakes and drives great.” I’m a pretty big fan of both Toyota and Datsun, maybe Toyota a little more so. But, when it comes to pickups, it’s a tough one for me, I may lean towards the design of the Datsun from this era, I think it was a much nicer design. What about you, when it comes to 1970s Japanese pickups, is it Toyota or Datsun? Or, maybe Mazda?..


  1. Leon

    Not original mirrors. What’s the bracket on left fender above Hilux emblem ??

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    • Carl

      It’s most likely for a support strut. They probably had a cab-over camper at some point. You can see a haphazard repair job after the other bracket was removed on the right fender.

      Like 0
  2. geomechs geomechs Member

    By 1973 Toyota built a pretty good truck. The designers obviously worked very hard because it wasn’t always that way. If you’ll indulge me I’ll tell you a (true) tale of a ’71 model that I once had:

    Every time I see the name, Hilux, I bristle. I had a ’71 which I bought new. To this day it IS the worst vehicle I ever owned. Of course I can’t blame everything on the vehicle; my brains fell out prior to my buying it. You see, I had a ’69 Chevelle 300 which I loved as much as life itself. But I saw the new ‘compact’ pickup at the local fair and thought: wow, that would work out perfect for me; I could drive it back and forth to work (10 miles one way) each day and use it on the farm; I could use the farm gas (no tax) and it would be SO economical. So I sold my car, and bought the truck (that kind of terminology is more than flattering). First thing I realized is that it would NOT run on low octane farm fuel; PREMIUM, ONLY, and it detonated on that. Shortly after I got it the temperature dropped down to 20 below. No block heater (installed one right away) and it would NOT start below zero unless it WAS plugged in (at work we didn’t have provisions for plugging vehicles in so I had to run out during the day and start it). No effective heater; you kept (2) tiny peek holes in the windshield at best while your feet froze. On the positive side, it could go through snow as well as the average 4×4; I had (2) old John Deere 5020 cylinder heads in the bed for traction (200 lbs each), and thus you could not STOP that truck (but the heads left permanent dents on the bed floor–actually the entire floor was nothing but ski jumps in less than six months). All that and the reception by my community of a Japanese vehicle; you’d have thought that everyone in town fought in the South Pacific because I got no end of negative comments the entire year and a half that I owned it (strange that there were few negative comments about Japanese bikes). Then a local contractor took a shine to it and bought it off me to use as a ‘gopher’ truck. I must have gotten most of the bugs out of it by then because he drove it regularly for the next 15 (or so) years. It still sits in his (widow’s) backyard. The bed has almost rusted away. Now here’s the funny part: every time I drive past I stop and look at it and have to keep suppressing thoughts of buying it back and restoring it (stand at attention, cock pistol, point at head).

    Like 0
    • jaygryph

      Well, if you need parts I have a barn full of them for these trucks.

      Like 0
      • Keith Noriega

        Do you still have parts for Toyota trucks?

        Like 0
  3. Ben T Spanner

    I had a new 1978. I was looking at used trucks and the dealer made me a very good deal as the 1979 restyled trucks were coming. Selling a 1978 got the dealer a new scarce 1979 which would sell for sticker plus add on stripes etc. Per a sticker the bed was made in Long Beach. The truck was imported without a bed to avoid the so called chicken tax. I believe they made the bed out of old 55 gallon drums that had contained acid, and they didn’t bother to rinse them out.

    The underside of the bed rusted quickly, this screwed up the ground for the rear lights. Same thing happened to my friend’s 1977 or 1976. At least his was brown which hid some of the rust. Mine was white. When mine was about three years old, I noticed rust bubbles in the A pillars. I painted the sides of the bed, for the second time and sold it. It still brought a nice price, since the cost of new small pickups had risen.

    Like 0
  4. jaygryph

    I have a barn full of these things. Most of them are the later 78’s, which have a slightly longer cab behind the seats, different pillar vents, the better 20R, and a restyled grill, among other changes.

    I really like the darn things, you can still buy them cheap.

    I have what looks identical to this pickup in the barn, same color, same interior, same in every way except for no AC on mine. Have debated selling it off, or putting it together.

    If someone wants to buy three trucks, and a gazelle kit car powered by toyota drivetrain, and a truckloads of parts for them, get ahold of me jaygryph at gmail dot com.

    Like 2

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