Dealer Modified: 1979 Datsun 620 4×4 Pickup

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Dealer-installed equipment is nothing new, although it is typically confined to comfort or cosmetic enhancements. This 1979 Datsun 620 Pickup breaks the rules, featuring a four-wheel drive system fitted by the dealer. The vehicle should be a competent off-roader, although the engine upgrades will improve its open-road performance. The seller has listed this cool custom Datsun here on Craigslist in Oregon City, Oregon. They set their price at $18,500, emphasizing that they are firm on that figure.

The 620 joined Datsun’s model range in 1972, remaining on showroom floors until 1979. It was a competent light Pickup, although most owners utilized these vehicles as personal transport rather than as workhorses. This beauty emerged during the final production year, wearing what the seller claims is its original True Blue paint. Its condition is noteworthy, if that is accurate because the paint retains an impressive shine. Close inspection will undoubtedly expose minor flaws and imperfections, but the first impression is positive. The panels are as straight as an arrow, with no significant dings or dents. Rust could be a problem in Datsuns from this era, but this beauty seems to have avoided those issues. The trim is in good condition, and the glass is crystal clear. However, the raised ride height and enormous Mickey Thompson tires suggest there is more to this classic than meets the eye.

Datsun released the 620 with its iconic L16 four-cylinder powerplant under the hood, but the larger L20B became the standard engine from 1975 until 620 production ended. The L20B produced 112hp and 108 ft/lbs of torque, which fed the back wheels via a four-speed manual transmission. A five-speed unit or three-speed automatic were available as factory options. We’ve reached a point where we can assess what makes this little Pickup genuinely unique. The seller upgraded the engine, fitting a Cannon intake, Weber carburetor, and ceramic-coated headers. The improved breathing will undoubtedly unlock extra power, but that is the tip of the iceberg. This little gem retains a five-speed manual transmission, but the power now feeds through a Dana 20 dual-range transfer case. The standard front end has made way for a Dana 30 differential, with the parts sourced from the Jeep catalog. I am typically wary of such modifications because the credentials of the person performing the work are often unknown. However, the seller confirms this is a dealer-modified vehicle, suggesting the work was performed to a high standard. The combination should give this Pickup off-road capabilities that its manufacturer would never have considered. It is disappointing the seller provides no specific information on how this Datsun runs or drives, but the overall presentation suggests it should be a turnkey proposition.

Considering the profound changes below the skin, this Datsun’s interior is remarkably restrained. It retains the factory bench seat, dash, and gauge cluster with a tachometer. Only the transfer case lever provides a hint that this isn’t your average 620 Pickup. The overall condition is pretty respectable for a vehicle of this type and age, with the cracked dash pad the only significant imperfection. A brief online search uncovered reproductions for under $350, so addressing that issue won’t break the bank. The upholstered surfaces are in good order, and the vinyl floor mat is free from significant wear and physical damage.

It will be interesting to gauge your feedback on this 1979 Datsun 620 Pickup and whether you believe the original owner made the right call with the dealer-fitted 4×4 system. A vehicle like this can sometimes be a Frankenstein’s monster, with the whole not meeting the expectations promised by the parts used. Long-term reliability can also be an issue, but that doesn’t appear to be the case with this classic. Is this Datsun a Pickup you might consider adding to your collection, or doesn’t it tick the boxes for you?

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  1. HoA HoAMember

    Datsun never did get the attention Toyota did. Wasn’t price, as both around $5grand, and the “dealer installed” has no credibility with me, and here’s why. I had an older trucker friend( who’s daughter I um, dated) and he bought an early 80s Nissan pickup from the most well respected Nissan dealer in Wis., Rosen Nissan. Right out of the box, on the initial ride home, it had a bad vibration right around 50. He was the grumbly type, took no crap, returned the truck. They had it for a week, got it back, same thing. The service manager said, we tried everything, maybe a new driveshaft. After that, it shook at 55 now, he went back, told Rosen himself, to cram the truck with walnuts. He wanted his money back. Rosen looked at the service manager, who had thrown his arms up, put another driveshaft in it,,,but boss, just do it, and it cured the shaking. 3 driveshafts, nice. These got the reputation of rusting fast, and I believe why they came out with the “Hardbody”,,,that rusted not as fast. I bet death wobble is prominent here. It’s not just for Jeeps, you know.

    Like 10
    • The truth

      You may be correct, I’ve had death wobble in several 4x4s, not just my jeep.

      Like 1
    • Terry

      I have owned many pickups Ford Chevy,many Dodge and Toyota and a Honda. The only one that was junk right from the dealership was a Nissan…

      Like 2
    • Don

      I bought a 1979 620 king cab brand new. I ordered it with white spoked wheels and only slightly wider than stock tires. It had severe death wobble crossing railroad tracks, uneven pavement, etc from the day I took ownership.

      Like 0
  2. Big C

    The perfect truck for those smaller in stature. At first, the Asian manufacturers didn’t get that we were taller then they were.

    Like 5
    • Mike K

      Yup, I have a regular cab 04:Dodge Dakota, and at 5’11” I barely fit, this would be quite tight. I can’t imagine someone over 6′ trying to get into it !

      Like 2
    • The Truth

      I’m 6′ and have no issue fitting in my 80 toyota helix, but then again I’m not as round as I am tall.

      Like 2

    Chevy ,ford ,or Dodge for me. I as 9 years old when pearl Harbor happened

    Like 10
    • HoA HoAMember

      When my late ex-fil was shipping out of the Pacific theater, the stories HE told paled in comparison to what my old man saw in Europe, his last stop was Saipan, and told us of all the Japanese mini pickups, from what I understand, may have been the type 95 lined up as far as he could see, apparently awaiting shipment or military surplus. I remember all the GIs, who were happy to be going home, laughed at them.

      Like 0
      • HoA HoAMember

        Wait, I got that wrong, my dads stories paled in comparison to my fils,,meaning, the Pacific thing was much worse, not that Europe wasn’t, the Asians were brutal fighters.

        Like 1
      • Michael Berkemeier

        So were the Nazis and the Italians, do you guys still hold that against those cars, too? I mean, geez, I’m pretty sure that we annihilated the Japanese after Pearl Harbor…and they learned a valuable lesson. As a matter of fact, that’s when they coined the phrase “FAFO”, if I’m not mistaken.

        These are great trucks.

        Like 0
  4. JustPassinThru

    Rusted fast, that’s an understatement. I’m of the generation that these trucks found love with – I was young when they were new (14 years old when the 620, clean and modern, replaced the 521) and when I later got a used 1979, I found it a joy to drive. Steering, light and precise. Crisp shift linkage. Light clutch. Smooth, eager motor, so different from domestic economy-car engines. The King Cab had the room I needed – this is important for buyers, because the standard cab was a tight fit for most male Americans.

    But. Those things just RUSTED.

    Watching Japan, Incorporated, sort out their automotive products vis-a-vis US expectations, was fascinating. This was the era when Datsun/Nissan was going punch-for-punch against one another, with Detroit cowering in the corner of the ring. Quality was amazing, especially for the price. Design seemed a lot closer to what buyers needed and wanted, than anything from the Big Three.

    But rust protection just wasn’t there.

    Within the small-town DPW I worked for, nearly all the supervisors and straw-bosses bought Japanese. The public-works director had an F10 wagon. The general foreman had a Toyota truck. The heavy-equipment man had a Datsun 620, and the HVAC specialist, a Civic wagon.

    ALL of them dissolved in New York snowbelt road salt inside three years. I mean, big sheets of metal coming off truck beds; the Civic was bought back by Honda to settle with customers’ lawsuits against rust damages. This was shocking compared to domestic makers, even in an age where rust was a problem for THEM.

    I loved that model truck, especially compared to the later Hardbody – with its lackadasical engine, heavy steering, soft handling. But I’d not buy another 620 – because rust never sleeps, and this era of Japanese vehicles had no protection. None.

    Which would preclude any sort of regular use. Such a rig would relegated to car shows and parade duty.

    Like 2
    • JoeNYWF64

      & yet, people kept buying more & more Toyotas & Hondas. Go figure.

      Like 0
  5. Jimmy

    I like the looks and stance of the truck but the interior looks way too cramped for my long legs and seeing these on the road here in northern ILL. After a couple years of a winter salt bath they were nothing but rust and a motor.

    Like 0
  6. 59poncho

    The Dana 30 is better than Datsuns offering utilizing the Z car rear end turned upside down and backwards. Toyotas were much beefier. I have taken Toyotas on the Rubicon trail and would have never tried it with a Datsun.
    With all that said, I love this little gem. Well done!

    Like 0
  7. 19sixty5Member

    I had a 79 620 King Cab 2WD with buckets, 5 speed, and add on AC. Without a doubt the most fun (read abused), reliable, and useful vehicle I’ve ever owned, and I’m at 130 or so I can remember. As previously mentioned by others mechanically they were excellent, it hauled and towed way more than it ever should have and never complained. Living in the DC area at the time, the body and bed succumbed to rust rather rapidly. I hated to get rid of it, and if a clean twin ever came up for sale I would probably have to have it! I miss that truck!

    Like 2
  8. Blu

    I will buy this truck because of the floor mats. Very popular saying in the 70s

    Like 3
  9. benica

    Not at $18K.
    Sellers always want more than something really isn’t worth. It’s about the money. Buyers want to pay the least.
    Won’t sell for for the asking price though….
    The sheet metal is thin tin….easy to dent.
    Good on fuel though.

    Like 0
  10. JoeNYWF64

    Why spend lot more money on RWL tires if you show only the blackwall side here?
    If this had a driver’s air bag, with the close confines in this truck, that would be trouble for the driver if it deployed – unless u were very skinny – maybe.

    Like 0
  11. K. R. V.

    As the owner of a 78 Scout II TERRA truck I can honestly say everything rusted fast in that era, even after I had mine Ziebart rust protection added, in 7 years there was holes everywhere in the body. But I paid exactly twice as much for my Scout as the Toyota and Datsun trucks cost. But I had twice the truck imho! Gas was cheap and times were good, at least till the dam peanut farmer de-regulated the trucking industry and that was the beginning of the end for the American Middle Class!

    Like 2
  12. Jade

    I had this exact same truck right after I got out of high school, it was in perfect condition, but the guy I bought it from went the other way around and lowered it a little. 50 series wheels and wider tires. Back then, mid 90’s, all my buddies had lowered trucks, Chevy luv was popular. But my Datsun always ran better than theirs and it was a good looking little truck! Only problem I had was the timing chain broke and it was a job replacing it! Great little truck, and it would probably be great for mountain trails with this setup!

    Like 0
  13. John B.

    I had a 1984 Nissan 4 x 4 with duel plug in line 4 and a 5 spees trans. Bought it in Pomona right off the floor. Bucket seats and a King Cab. Had it for over 10 years. Off road hard, highway driving on long trips and to work every day. I serviced it well and had a valve job done at 100,000 miles. Slave clutch was replaced along with tires and brakes. That was it. Loved that truck. If I could find it or another one, would get it asap! Gave it to my dad, who gave it to his gardener…

    Like 0
  14. Michael Berkemeier

    Price drop to $17K…this is a nice truck. Couldn’t build it for close to that and it is clean as a pin.

    Like 0

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