Meticulous Revival: 1971 Datsun 521 Pickup

I have always considered it to be a privilege to write for Barn Finds because it gives me the opportunity to combine my passion for writing with my love/passion/obsession with cars. I have had the opportunity to write about some truly incredible vehicles and while this Datsun 521 Pickup is more humble than most, it’s story deserves to be told. Barn Finder Nathan A referred this little Datsun to us, and I extend my thanks to him for that. Listed for sale here on Craigslist, our feature car is located in San Jose, California. Offered for sale with a clean title, you can literally climb in and drive away in this little classic for $15,000.

I guess to be entirely correct this Datsun is less of a barn find and more of a yard find. The story is quite amazing and really well documented by the owner in the ad. The current owner is only the third owner of our little pickup, having bought it in 2015 after it had sat unloved and forgotten in a backyard for more than 10 years. For those from other areas that question the benefits of buying a car that has been advertised as a “California car”, keep it in mind because this little Datsun sat out in the elements for all of those years and is still sporting its original paint. It has never been touched-up or repaired. The timing of the new owner was considered to be fortuitous as this little car was actually about to be sent to the junk yard before the current owner intervened and purchased it.

The current owner is a former ASE Master Automobile Technician, and his attention to detail in returning this truck to the road is not only impressive, but it is also fully documented. You know that you are dealing with someone who is dedicated to their craft when they can not only tell you the date but also the vehicle mileage when they replaced the valve cover oil cap o-ring because it had a slight leak. It is that sort of detail that reflects so well on both the owner and this Datsun. As you can see the current owner has placed great effort in bringing our little pickup back from the dead. That paint gleams remarkably for all of its 47 years. The owner did not perform a restoration. He has done all of the essential work to return this to the state of a well cared for 47 year old pickup.

Under the hood looks exactly how a well maintained 47-year-old vehicle should look. It is not how it came off the showroom floor. It has the look of a car that has been used to fulfill its purpose. Having said that, it all looks fantastically clean under here and is once more in keeping with the attention to detail that the owner has demonstrated throughout the Datsun. Any mechanical work that has been performed appears to have been completed to the highest possible standard. The seller states that wherever possible he has utilized NOS parts, but where there were no longer available he has utilized the best quality parts available.

Once again the interior is like the rest of this pickup. It appears to look exactly how a well maintained 47-year-old vehicle should look. The carpet is not original, but the seller states that the original factory mat still lies underneath it and is in perfect condition. Likewise, the original upholstery is under the seat-cover and the seller also claims that this is in good order. The dash pad is cracked in four places according to the seller, but the cover is over it to reduce the chances of it deteriorating further. Everything else is said to work exactly as it should including the original radio and the lock on the glove compartment.

If you are a person who is considering their first foray into classic car ownership then a Datsun 521 Pickup probably hasn’t been on your radar. Maybe this little beauty could change all of that. It may not be as glamorous as a Z28, a Mustang or a 442, but for me, it is the sheer attention to detail that makes this car stand out so vividly. You read the ad on Craigslist and you have no choice but to decide that it hasn’t been written by a car owner but by an enthusiast with a passion for cars. The unwavering attention to detail just blows me away. If you’ve never considered a Datsun Pickup as a classic car, then maybe now is the time to think about it.

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  1. RoughDiamond Member

    That is an incredible find and the Seller’s documentation regarding the history and work performed on this 1971 Datsun 521 pickup is remarkable. I am presuming that is a factory tonneau cover since it’s in the before and after pictures. I am clueless on whether the price is reasonable.

    • Jon Hellinga

      The price is insane, fantastic pickup though

  2. Miguel Member

    This looks to be another seller trying to set the price for his vehicle.

  3. Steve R

    There was a write up on this truck a month or so ago. I can’t remember what he was asking at that point.

    It’s nice, but I think it’s signifiacanly over priced, he’d be lucky to see $10,000. I also don’t believe the mileage. Cars in the Bay Area age very well, he would know that. If there is no documentation to verify his claim of 47,000 miles, which I’m sure he would have mentioned, it casts doubt on many aspects of his story.

    Steve R

    • Neil
    • Matt

      “I don’t know anything about this particular truck and I don’t know the seller from a hole in the ground, but he’s definitely lying about mileage based on my knowledge of the weather in the Bay Area.”

      Sure thing, man.

  4. Steve Pharr

    Spend years driving one of these. Being 6′-6″ that no doubt contributed to my bad back. Don’t overheat these cars and they are virtually indistructable!

  5. stillrunners

    Thanks Neil and Steve….still trying to sell it….maybe if he wasn’t so cheap using non-paying sites he could sell it. Maybe Hemming’s or lower the price ?

  6. leiniedude leiniedude Member

    Think of what you could have for 15K. That is a joke to me.

  7. hatofpork

    Nice truck but 15k seems a little optimistic..

  8. Metoo

    Had one of these when I lived in alaska. Put heavy duty shocks and 8 ply tires on it. I used it to haul firewood. Great truck. Never failed me.

  9. Kenneth Carney

    Note to the seller: You rarely ever get your investment in time, labor, and money
    out of a used car. That being said, you
    have a really nice truck there, just not 15K
    worth of nice. 8K is all I’d offer him for this truck–even though I like it. Good luck
    pal, you’ll be keeping this one a while longer.

  10. Joe Backer

    Barnfinds should be shot for just putting this back up again. for some motard seller looking for a retard price. Shame. Shame. Shame.

  11. Howard A

    Now, now, we all know people in California, with their 4 digit rentals, live in a different world than the rest of us,(although, Colorado is getting there, it seems) and judging by the “Caldwell Banker” sign, might be in trouble as it is. This is no more $15,000 dollar vehicle than the “Rombly Rambler” or this blue Rambler American coming up. $5g’s tops for these. We can’t blame BF’s, I think the world is melting down, and people are panicking trying to sell their classic vehicles for a fortune, just like the ones on TV. I just can’t imagine how long this foolishness can go on,,, $15,000 dollar toys, more than I make on SS for a year. You see how it leaves us out?

  12. Dantheman

    In 1974 I bought one of these (same color) for $650.00 from a dealer.
    The sheet metal is amazingly thin.
    The seat was also uncomfortable.
    But it was a good truck.

  13. Wrong Way

    If I had to pick between this and that ford, I would choose this one! It’s more classic than that ford will ever be! Nice truck!

  14. GlenK

    I owned a 72 the 510, and it was nice but I don’t consider it to be a gotta relive my youth days. They were work trucks and not particularly comfortable.

  15. Joe

    I had one of those – maybe a couple of yrs. newer. Automatic. It was the slowest vehicle I ever owned, and I’ve owned well over 100.

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