Arizona Truck: 1966 Datsun 520 Pickup

Scotty GilbertsonBy Scotty Gilbertson

It’s hard to believe that this 1966 Datsun 520 pickup is even remotely related to the gigantic, monster Nissan Titan pickup that’s being sold today. Of course, if a person needs a big pickup with lots of hauling and towing capacity, safety features, and luxurious appointments this one isn’t going to work. This little jewel in the rough is posted here on craigslist, or here on the CL archive, in Perry, Ohio with an asking price of $4,500.

The seller says that this was purchased “from Arizona, brought to Ohio and refurbished to runnable condition again. RUNS GREAT!” It sure looks like a solid example, given how old it is and the legendarily-thin steel used in these early Japanese vehicles. While being in Arizona usually helps keep most of the major rust issues at bay, the climate isn’t kind to rubber, plastic, and paint. Speaking of Titan-like load capacity.. here’s an old YouTube video showing how tough these little trucks were. I love the square wheel well housings.

This is the one that many lovers and collectors of Japanese trucks, including myself, want – the single-headlight-on-each-side 520. Or, technically this is an L520 for left-hand drive markets such as the US and Canada. There is also a badge on the LF fender reading Datsun 1300 for the 1.3L engine. The Nissan Titan does not have that same engine, believe it or not. In 1967 and the final year of the 520 series trucks, 1968, they had two headlights on each side. The front clip is pretty similar to a Datsun 411 if anyone is thinking that it looks somewhat familiar. Here’s another old YouTube video showing a 1966 Datsun 520 pickup.

Unfortunately, there are no interior photos, hopefully it isn’t totally trashed from the sun and/or rodent damage which is also a concern in the desert southwest. It would have looked like this, but not green.. This little popper is Nissan’s J13, 1.3L inline-four with 67 hp. The seller has done a lot of work on this one, including “Replaced with new brakes, new carburetor, rebuilt starter, rebuilt alternator, replaced complete clutch system, brand new tires, battery, and more..” That’s a good sized list but there’s always more work to do on these old vehicles. Have any of you owned a Datsun 520?

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Comments

  1. Alan

    As classic Datsun’s my first ever car my father bought me was a white 78 120Y or B210 4 Door this was in 1986 I was new driver and remember it was in Ok condition I did some light mods like wider tires the AC was not working also oh it was 4 speed manual of course with 1.2 litre inline 4 engine!




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  2. BarnfindyCollins

    I’ve never owned a Datsun this old but fortunately the local dealer that started out as an Indian and BMW motorcycle dealer had a few of their old ones in the showrooms for customers to enjoy. Southside Datsun /Sunbelt Nissan just changed hands after more than 60 years and the cars are gone now, what a loss. The front of this truck reminds me of an Alfa GTA, I like it.




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  3. Marty

    Cool truck, way too much money.




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    • kenzo

      I thought the same thing Marty. 2500 tops Maybe a bit more with a livable interior.
      I wonder if the hood closes properly?




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  4. Vegaman_Dan

    This is an example of an honest truck. Far more than the plastic of trucks today. Yes, today’s trucks are more reliable mechanically, but they just don’t have the simple honesty and no pretense of these simple steel machines of yesteryear.

    Early Datsun and Toyota pickups keep showing up, but those from the 80’s have largely returned to the earth from where their iron came from.




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  5. Rube Goldberg Member

    In 1966, we never, in our wildest dreams, thought these would ever catch on. We laughed, “you calls that a truck? Where’s the rest of it?” Amazing how we went full circle. ( and if fuel goes way up, we’ll see it again) It’s strange how a small Asian pickup had 6 lug nuts, (while the French had 3), even more than a basic US truck. Neat thing for city, long haul, needs an update. Great find. Again, little steep for what it is, but where you gonna find another?




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    • On and On

      Very true, Rube. When they came out with these my dad was already into small cars, He had owned 2 NSUs and a Fiat. Being a WWII vet he had a stigma against anything made in that country. I understood his point of view, he was on a troop carrier poised to attack Japan when they dropped the bomb. He never spoke of the war, but he once said he was scared, he was 18yo. According to his family he came back from the war a different man. But he loved cars and machinery and really understood the mechanics of any vehicle. I got my drivers license in 1967, and cars were my thing too. I wanted to buy a Datsun 240Z when they first came out, but didn’t out of respect for the guy who taught me how to change oil and set timing. I think that might of been true of many from “the greatest generation” BTW I bought a Fiat 124 instead, still miss that one, and Dad used to love to borrow it.




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      • Rube Goldberg Member

        My old man served in France and Germany. Naturally, nothing from Germany, Italy, or Japan was allowed in his driveway. We did have British and French cars, I even pushed it with Opels , but he never bought a foreign car. I always wanted ( and still do) a VW bug, but to the old man, that was the worst.
        Now my ex-FIL, served in the Philippines, they took a pasting, and he also never spoke of the war, but he did say, when my ex-BIL bought one of these, he remembers all these little pickups lined up in Saipan, even in the 40’s.




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      • Damien Hebert

        So your dad had a problem with buying Japanese cars but not German cars? My dad was also a WW2 Vet and a guard at the war crime trials in Tokyo, he also refused to buy Japanese cars. I bought a used 1971 Datsun PL531 same color as the one in this barn finds ad. He didn’t say anything but he never asked to borrow it. It was a great little truck, I drove it for 10 years until replacing it with an ‘86 1/2 Nissan Hard Body extended cab pickup. Also a great truck!




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      • Damien Hebert

        I meant to say I had a PL521 not 531… fat fingered that…




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  6. Derek

    These older Datsuns are fantastic vehicles, I’ll take one over a Toyota any day, and I’ve had both. I’ve had my ’81 720 pickup for years and I wouldn’t part with it. I just bought a ’79 210 wagon which shows every indication of being as good or better than the truck. This little 520 looks good to me, straight and solid. Wish I had a little more room in my driveway.




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  7. Bret

    My dad always called them ‘toy trucks’




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  8. Beatnik Bedouin

    Neat li’l trucks, if underpowered. It would make a fun restoration or build it into something hot, with an SR20 DET under the hood, four wheel discs, etc..

    One of the few regrets I have was selling my ’73 PL621. It was an amazingly reliable, fun machine to own.




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  9. Paul Hudson

    If we could just buy something that simple again.




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    • Derek

      You can.




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  10. EHide Behind

    Had priveledge of using my in-laws brand new Says in of this year whenever one of my rides was down or to fetch an appliance from nearest city 50 miles away. These and Toyota trucks found a good nice at yime, unlike American “cheap” trucks where you had to add rear view mirrors, bumper and tailgate, spare tire and hubcaps, you got a quality built (overbuilt) dependable hauler with all those US extras at a cost far less than Chevy stripper.I
    n fact the Toyota and Datsun trucks , at US automakers pressure, had a $250 -300 dollar import tarrif, and still sold well.
    So much so they forced the big three to begin building cheap, no quality, but cheaply built mini trucks.
    The 1/ 2 ton rating included passenger weight, but they had very stout frames and springs.
    PLUNK IN LATER 510 1600 MOTOR AND THEY ZIP ALONG NICELY.




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  11. Rex Kahrs

    I guaran-damn-tee you that this truck could out-work all the poser monster trucks that all these posers drive around trying to look like tough guys.

    Those phoneys couldn’t figure out how to change the batteries on the stupid I-phones that they can’t seem to peel their faces off of, let alone actually be tradesmen.




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    • Mountainwoodie

      LOL cracking me up Rex! My father in law had his bowling trophies glued, one on each side , on the top of the front fenders of his ’68 Datsun pickup………I swear to the gods. You just cant make this stuff up. I wanted that truck when he went to the great bowling lane in the sky but he gave it to a granddaughter who Im afraid probably traded it for something I wouldnt approve of……




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  12. Mike

    Love it. 4500 is crazytalk.




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  13. Craig M. Bryda

    A ” Cohort ” of mine had a side business selling firewood, he needed a delivery truck and my ’77. 440 Warlock had a tough time handling even a cord of split wood, we stumbled on someone selling one of these Datsuns for $200. 00 bucks so he bought it added sideboards on the p.u. box and turned that little Datsun loose. It would flat out haul some wood…… Much better then my Dodge.. This was back in the mid 80s.




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  14. MGSteve

    To all those millions of folks driving these huge, double crew cab, 4WD trucks, let me say, that for 95% of them, this truck is all they really need. As evidence I’ll say: I virtually never see anything in the bed of the truck. The 4WD feature is NEVER used, unless they get stuck in the flower beds at the mall. I think I can count on one hand, without using my thumb, the number of times I see one of these huge trucks with more than the driver inside. VERY occasionaly, there might be one passenger. Never anyone in the back seat. A total status symbol/keeping up with the Joneses. What a waste of money, energy and resources.




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    • On and On

      I guess I’m not in the 95% MGSteve, I just got back from the dump in my 4-door AWD pickup with a full load and drove through fresh snow here in Wisconsin. Ya Heh.




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    • Damien Hebert

      Ehh… I’ve owned a lot of trucks over the years ranging from Datsuns and Nissans to full sized 4×4 Dodges, Chevrolet’s and Fords. As much as I fondly remember the little pickups, none of the others can compare to the four door F350 dually Super Duty that I drive today. It is a great rig that can pull or haul anything that I would need to. And at 64 I could care less about keeping up with the Joneses…




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      • On and On

        Yu betcha Damien, my daily driver is in the middle but does a lot of things right. It’s a Honda Ridgeline. Big enough to haul 4 folks, pulls my utility trailer, hauls my pontoon boat to the boat launch. Gets 20mpg on long trips and never breaks. (yet, dang, just jinxed myself)




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    • Jerry Brentnell

      what gits me here he wants$4500 for this stripper truck while I have a 96 dakota 5.9 reg cab 2×4 and a 97 dakota 5.2 5 speed stick reg cab short box 1 owner truck that needs nothing and I can’t get $ 2000 for either of them both licensed and safeted and on the road and a way better truck than this thing any day go figure




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      • FOG

        True for a lot of things in life. But, it’s in the eye of the beholder. Nothing wrong with larger newer vehicles, but people have a personal price just for their own memorable pride.




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      • Ding-A-Trailer

        You have to remember, LOGIC does not apply to the purchase of a collector or special interest car – the decision is solely emotional and the value is psychological, not rational.




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  15. Rex Fox

    In the late 60’s I wanted my dad to get a used truck with a 4 on the floor, but back then, most had 3 on the tree or an automatic. My mom was against it, maybe because of the gas mileage, but one day she came home from the store and told us about a cute truck she saw with a 4 sale sign; a red 66 Datsun with a 4 on the floor. Dad used to let me drive it on dirt roads when hunting for birds and on the beach where we’d load up with sand for the garden. I truly believe he bought this little truck so he and his car crazy young teen kid could do stuff together, and we did. I’ve had 5 Datsun and Nissan trucks since. And I love my dad (also a WWII vet who enlisted the day after Pearl Harbor).




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    • On and On

      Thats a great story and a great memory. It sounds like your dad may still be around to enjoy. I hope so. After they’re gone you remember all the stuff you forgot to tell them. If you know what I mean.




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  16. Bellingham Fred

    My dad bought a ’67 Datsun pickup brand new. The ’68 had just come out, so he got it at an end of model year closeout for about $1800 cash. It was a great truck. He called it his motorized wheelbarrow. I learned to drive in it when I was 14. He was a former drivers ed teacher and we lived in a private real estate community. All the roads were private so as long as we stayed inside the development we were OK. WE put lots of miles on it and it sat for awhile with the engine torn apart before it was sold.




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  17. John

    Very simple basic truck. Those were the days when you could fix just about anything on a vehicle yourself, no power this, power that, sensors for everything like now. The price is somewhat steep but I say it will find a new home.




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  18. Del

    So many comments about a piece of junk




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  19. LAWRENCE

    Like…..and glad it survived the naysayers……




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  20. Rex Kahrs

    Yeah, Nissan never amounted to anything.




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  21. Bring-A-Tailor

    I had a couple of early 1300cc Datsun trucks. At the time the term “Datsun Truck” was just about generic for a small imported truck – Toyota still didn’t really make any inroads and there was nothing from Mazda or Mitsubishi in the mid/late ’60s. The engines were almost a nut for nut copy of BMC but metric of course. The difference is the MG/Austins always leaked, overheated and needed a valve job by 50,000 miles but the Datsuns ran and ran and ran, leaking neither oil nor coolant and the fully synchro transmissions were like from another world to a kid used to Bugeye Sprites and Morris Minors!




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    • jeff steindler

      I wanted to start out with, “….anybody recognize that cylinder head? “, but decided to scan the comments to see if this subject has been covered. ……..I was told that , as part of post–war Japan reconstruction, English ( MG ) engine lines were brought to Japan………or something like that……I owned an imported car repair garage in the 1980s and 90s and one time we removed the cylinder head from an old MGB for some in-remembered resaon…….To our surprise, it had Datsun valves ( the Datsun logo was on the valve faces! )……..Some investigation yielded the above MG / Japan relationship…….Ever since I have always thought an ideal MG / Austin engine would be one of these Japanese-built MG engines: even more reliable with no oil leaks- perfect for my 1967 Mini Cooper S!




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      • FOG

        I remembered a old German machinist using Japanese guides and valves to rebuild a British head back in the late 70’s. It was a lesson in knowing how to take precise measurements, and using something that may have been better to start with.




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  22. Midnightflyer

    Never owned a one or wanted one. Company I worked for bought 2 Couriers in 1971 or so. They were junk. Most uncomfortable thing I ever drove? Motors were no good either.




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  23. FOG

    Interesting post. The comments about being junk, well they were the race track and drag strip staples for running errands for fuel, parts, tools, food, and beer. Have one of my own and couldn’t enjoy the comments more. Everyone from old racers, soldiers, sailors, students, and entrepreneurs had a classic mini truck back then.




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    • FOG

      1968 Datsun 520




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