Micro-Truck: 1970 Daihatsu HiJet

The Daihatsu Hijet is a cab-over microvan/pickup that has been in production in Japan since 1960. The name, when transliterated, is very similar to “Midget”. The brand was not well known in the U.S. until the late 1980s and the company pulled out of this market in 1992 even though worldwide sales of the HiJet today have topped seven million units. We’re told this 1970 edition of the little pickup has been in storage for 30 years and it starts, though we don’t know how well it runs. It has rusty floorboards and would be a candidate for restoration. Located in De Pere, Wisconsin, the HiJet is available here on eBay where the selling dealer has received bids up to just $960 so far.

The third generation of the HiJet, model S37, was built from 1968-72. It has a mid-engine, rear-wheel-drive layout with a 356 cc 2-stroke, water-cooled engine paired with a 4-speed manual transmission. The trucks are quite small, with an overall length of just 118 inches, which is the approximate wheelbase of a 1970s mid-size U.S. car. Changes to the truck from prior generations include rehinging the doors from the front rather than the back. The design was boxier than before and used square headlights in prominent shrouds of a darker color.

We can’t find where there was a steady stream of these trucks imported into the U.S. in 1970 and the use of square headlights here wasn’t yet legal. So how this left-hand-drive pickup came to be isn’t known. The seller says it’s been stored for the past three decades, but that doesn’t necessarily mean in the U.S. the whole time. The HiJet appears to be complete, and the seller says it does start, but we don’t know how close to highway-capable it is and the trucks were only capable of 53 mph without a load.

The box sides fold down to make a flatbed, so even though it’s small, the HiJet is versatile. The body has surface rust, especially in the bed area, and the floorboards are quite rusty. If you pull up the mat in front of the driver’s seat, there are holes present. If you could weld in some new metal, perhaps that would be sufficient, but I’d want to inspect the integrity of the chassis before going too far. Though it’s a rather simple machine, the parts network for a truck like this can’t be huge without ordering from Japan.

We’re told the title is clean and it’s from Wisconsin, but the VIN on the title and the one on the plate disagree with one another. The difference is small but probably enough to create some headaches at the DMV. I don’t know what it would take to get that resolved and that may be one reason why bidding has not been brisk. These micro or “Kei” trucks have begun to get popular, especially in California.

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Comments

  1. Piros1

    In some states they are not legal to license and drive except on secondary roads. In my case only county roads. Not a lot if use unless you have a farm or ranch that you can make use of it on. Better off with a golf cart or side by side. JMHO

  2. John C.

    There is a bunch of these mini trucks in my town, a guy keeps bringing them here from overseas and sells them quick. They are all right hand drive and road worthy in good condition. They seem more ideal for a farm or large company with multiple buildings at one location. He has plenty of parts for them too. But I don’t think they are the same make as the one here being sold.

    Like 2
  3. Car Nut Tacoma

    Sweet looking micro truck. I’ve heard of the Daihatsu Hi-Jet. I saw one later model Hi-Jet in person. They may not be the best for freeway driving, where most people drive above 60 mph, but I can see this being driven around cities and small towns, where the speed limit is up to 40-45 mph.

  4. wuzjeepnowsaab

    Surprised to see a leftie one of these.

  5. Rob L Member

    I have a 1991 Suzuki Carry. These trucks are being imported with certificates of origin under the Federal 25 year EPA NTSA exemption. At 6′ 250# its a little tight however the Kei trucks have a robust 4wd. Mine has a power dump. The little devil is happy about 40 to 45 MPH. In Japan these are used as Farm to City runners. You shift through the 4 speed gearbox very quickly. The 25 year old trucks sell between 4000 and $6000.00. Great big front windshield and in an accident you are the first one on the scene,

    • chrlsful

      that’s it.
      “farm to city runners” not much more.
      (Florist, veg sales, sheep chez, etc).

      Like the ol Harley trike.
      For every automotive Q there is an application answer. Just gotta sensibly match ’em. Off apps R troublesome. Dream’n scheme as much as 1 might~

  6. Austin

    I own an 85. Nothing but problems with it so far. It runs good now but it required a new fuel pump, carburetor rebuild, new plugs wires distributor, new starter, all new vacuum lines. It’s versatile but temperamental. Mine has awd and a locking rear diff. I use it to haul firewood out of the woods because it’s skinny enough to fit between a lot of trees.

    This one should be a hard pass. The one I bought had way less rust and has still needed a ton of work.

  7. Miminite

    These are cool but unsure if they can be licensed in the US. That would need to be verified. Not fast, but nothing a Hayabusa driveline wouldn’t correct. That or find an older Yamaha FJR AE setup with the auto shift. It would make it relatively easy to install vs worrying about a clutch and shifter linkage. Good luck, I like it, but too rusty for me personally, It is nice it’s left hand drive.

  8. grant

    In the US these were used in factories and industrial plants. They weren’t sold for use on public roads in the US. In the mid 90s, I worked at a railcar manufacturing facility in Portland that had a fleet of these, but newer models. Mostly pickups, but one miniature van. They were fun.

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