Sitting For 20 Years: 1965 Datsun L320

It’s hard to believe that there were small, basic pickups like this at one time. I think that it’s time for a small pickup to be made again and I don’t mean a $35,000 small pickup, I mean a cheap, small pickup like this 1965 Datsun L320. Or, maybe not just like this, but one similar in size and features. This little hauler can be found here on eBay in Mesa, Arizona. There is an unmet $2,500 opening bid and a $10,000 buy it now price on this example. Thanks to Ikey H. for submitting this tip!

I really like small pickups like this. It doesn’t have to be a Japanese truck, give me a first-generation Ford Ranger, that’s a good size, too. After that, things got so bloated and rounded and puffy, I guess like most of us do in our old age. Now, I see a “small” pickup in a parking lot and it’s about the size of what a full-size pickup used to be. I looked up the price of a Toyota Tacoma recently and was surprised that it was almost $40,000. Hopefully someone, anyone, will offer a small, inexpensive, basic pickup again someday.

This is the last year for Datsun’s L320 truck and they were a bit ancient compared to the 520 that came out in mid-1965. I prefer the look of the L520 but that’s just me, this box “design”, such that it is, always threw me off a bit. Unless, of course, it’s the NL320 with integrated bed, that would be the ultimate, one of the best looking small trucks of all time, in my opinion. This example “is in the beginning stages of a restoration project. The frame and chassis has been pressure washed and lightly painted So its like a cleaned up version of a barn find”, according to the seller.

The seller says that this Datsun has “been sitting for 20 years or so” and “all the usual stuff needs to be checked like brakes, master cylinders, hoses, wiring, gaskets, etc.” The interior is a work in progress even though the body appears to be in good condition. The bed seems like it’s in good condition but without seeing it in person it’s anyone’s guess. It appears to have been painted and really painted, as in painted over gaskets and wires and things like that. This one doesn’t appear to have the optional 4-speed floor shifter which would have been nice, that was new for the 1965 model year.

And, more white paint over things in the engine compartment, too. That’s really unfortunate that someone has tried to pretty-up this truck, hopefully not cover up but spray it to make it look good. It’s always nice to see a vehicle in original condition to be able to tell what you’re in for. When they’ve been painted with a spray can or uncareful masking, it’s hard to tell. The engine is Nissan’s E-1, 1.2L inline-four with around 60 hp. It “starts and runs” according to the seller. This could be a great starting point for a nice restoration, it looks pretty solid under that fresh paint. Do any of you miss small, inexpensive pickups?

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  1. geomechs geomechs Member

    These trucks will probably always have their following. They’re relatively reliable and fairly easy to work on. However, I made the mistake of buying a small pickup back in ’71 and I’ll never go down that road again. To this day it is by FAR the worst vehicle I’ve ever owned. I traded my ’69 Chevelle 300 almost straight across for the truck. I thought: Hmmm, could use an extra truck on the farm. I also have a job off the farm but I can still register the truck as a farm vehicle so I can burn the cheaper farm gas and still drive back and forth to work. If I have to justify farm business, I buy parts for the farm equipment all the time. Biggest mistake I made in my life (until my first marriage).

  2. Miguel

    I hope the seller has the turn signal lenses. They are going to be impossible to find.

    • Andy

      Who knows what could be done with 3D printing these days? I have a feeling that cheap, always-available plastic parts are just around the corner. And if the originals were glass, well, a 60hp pickup truck can use weight savings wherever it can find it.

    • Andy

      Repops are actually available from a couple of sources, believe it or not.

  3. edh

    Hyundai will eventually bring an affordable pickup to market and eat everyone’s lunch.

    • Mister319

      They are probably going to release one for 2019, it’s called the Santa Cruz.

  4. Little Cars

    Forget the lenses, what about the whole front bumper? What’s with those mismatched mirrors? For $10k BIN? Only in California. I think it is humorous the seller uses the phrase “basically a cleaned up barn find” which explains when the carb and gas tank will need freshening. Oh wait, I pay $10k for it, and I still have to do work to make it drive onto a trailer. No way.

  5. Andy

    My two 4 cylinder, 5 speed, 2WD Toyota pickups were two of the best vehicles I ever owned, each with one bench seat and standard cab. They were much newer/bigger/more powerful than this Datsun, but still very economical and could hold a Triumph 750 with the gate up. A little while ago I googled “least expensive new pickups” and was stunned to see they all have back seats! I’m only 51 and I feel like I’ve lived too long.

    • ThisGuy

      Right double cab and half a bed.

  6. Marc Tyler

    The truck pictured is actually a 1964model year truck.
    I have a ’65 320 (round turn signal lenses in a wide grille) and, I would certainly prefer it to ny domestic product of the same vintage.
    Bone simple, rather cramped, but actually handles better than most mid 60s US passenger cars. If you’re not in a hurry, It’s a nice way to go.

    • Scotty Gilbertson Scotty Gilbertson Staff

      That’s what I thought, Marc, I should have mentioned that. Thanks for the info.

  7. Andy

    Judging by the grille, this is actually a 1964 model year truck. It may have originally been titled in 65.

  8. boxdin

    A 1972-3 620 pickup would be so much more comfortable, faster just a better truck overall yet still an old import truck.

  9. canadainmarkseh Member

    It’s cute but also kind of useless I could probably carry it around in the back of my dodge 3/4 ton also a standard cab. I’ve herd that with fords decision to drop all cars except the mustang that there are plans to bring the ranger back, they are one of the few fords I’d ever consider owning.

    • Marc

      Far from useless, in fact, very handy! Built a 2 story porch, and carried all the lumber and roofing in my ’65 320 (more than one trip, obviously) ;)

      I’m worried the Ranger will suffer from the same bloat as the Tacoma, and the Frontier

  10. Little Cars

    Here is how the guys at Nissan corporate are showing off the early trucks. In the bed of their new ones! LOL Kind of plays into everyone’s comments about how big pickups have gotten.

  11. Andrew Minney

    Looks to be Morris Oxford/Cowley based like the Indian Hindustan cars still going today!

  12. Wayne

    Yes, but I hear that the new “Ranger” will be a mid-size like the Canyon/Colorado. Still too big and expensive. But with governmental regulations (crash and emissions) it is very hard to keep it small and still provide “load carrying capability”. At least that is the argument I heard from GM engineers a few years ago. Even a small (Australian term) Ute on a front wheel drive platform would be acceptable to me. (Plymouth Scamp/Dodge Rampage style????) I currently have a diesel Rabbit pickup that works just fine in most cases. The interior is a little cramped which the Scamp/Rampage addressed. And it is incredibly slow. (which a gas engine would address) I seriously considered buying a new Rampage when they were available and thought the bed could have been about 6-10″ longer. Where the Rabbit bed is about the right length. With the “stretched” wheelbase on the Rabbit the front wheel drive/traction loaded “problem”has never been an issue. If you overload/improperly load a rear wheel drive truck you don’t have a traction issue, but you sure can have a steering issue!
    Maybe, we should start (Jaimie are you listening?) a forum/request/demand website to feature the driving public’s feelings in regards to it’s wants, needs and desires. John Power started with only a few contacts in the industry (I know, as I was part of a 3 hour conversation with him before JD Power and Associates was actually a business.) With enough voices from the real driving world (not the ones that tell vehicle manufacturers what they want to hear or what their own in-house “researchers” want them to hear) Maybe there could actually be some “real, meaningful, workable input made. It could be set up into categories like Small trucks, full size trucks, small cars, etc.

    • Bill

      I found a 1995 XE-V6 5 speed king cab with 143,000 miles right, it’s rough inside and out but it’s the perfect size for this 62 yr old, hauls butt even with the ac on, great power ban.
      Just wish I could buy a brand new one.
      Bill in Florida

  13. Mickey Dorsey

    I fully agree that we need a small pickup like the earlier Ford Ranger and Chevy S10. I was excited to hear Ford was bringing back the Ranger until I saw how big it is (same size as my 2003 F150), and how much it costs. Any one who is brave enough to make a small pickup for less than $20K will sell a bundle of them IMHO. Meanwhile I’ll drive my Daihatsu Midget II.

  14. Kobus de Wet

    A small car based pickup like a Ford Bantam, Dodge Scamp or Nissan 1400 pickup would sell like hotcake , especially amongst DIY home owners who need something small just to pick things up and get rid of garden refuse ,etc. What to do ??

  15. Doug

    The slightly later trucks -65-66 ? were great, back in their day. They were rated for 1000 Kilos ( over 1 ton ). Not comfortable when unloaded !!
    It would be virtually impossible to sell a truck like this one in today’s world, due to various governmental regulations as well as safety concerns. I would love to see something about the size of an extended cab 1985 Toyota pickup, or the first gen extended cab S-10. That would give enough room for several bags of groceries, or other items where they could be ( relatively ) secured inside the cab while running errands, and still allow a passenger. Where Subaru blew it with the Baja was by making it a 4 door with too small a cargo area. If they had built it as a 2 door with the cab extending back only as far as the front edge of the rear seat in the Baja, and made the cargo box big enough to load a washing machine, it would have been a much more useful vehicle. Offering a power retracting rear window like the American station wagons or “Breezeway ” Mercury sedans would have been the icing on the cake for me.

  16. ctmphrs Member

    I think you are all wrong. If the majority of people wanted small trucks, they would be out there. Look at the trucks you see now. Most people buy the biggest truck they can get.If people wanted small trucks the Courier and Luv would have sold a lot better and they would still make that size truck.

  17. stillrunners stillrunners Member

    Neat… salvage friend just restored one.

  18. Wayne

    ctmphrs, I feel that you are out of touch. The reason you see larger pick-ups, is because that is all that’s available or the need for high GVWR. I have a GMC 2500 HD to pull my large trailers. Or price wise it makes sense. If an intermediate costs $40,000 and gets 22 MPG and a full size costs $42,000 and gets 21 MPG. What are you going to pick? GM has had a difficult time selling the Canyon/Colorado except the diesel, which gets great fuel economy. They can’t build enough of the diesel because there is actually VALUE there!) I fix up old Ford Rangers to sell to help cover my race car habit. I do give people a good value but the fact that it has taken a week at the longest (the normal is about 3 days) to sell one speaks tons. Every single person has said the same thing. They want a small economical dependable pick-up. And I usually have people waiting in line for my next one because of the pent up demand from their neighbors and family. Now I understand that some of that demand/desire may be regional in nature. (I am in Northern Nevada) but the group here on Barn Finds is from all over the world. I can’t believe that it would not sell by the hundreds of thousands. Under $20,000 and a reliable pick-up would be a huge winner. I hope the comment about Hyundai is accurate. They now make excellent vehicles. (not so over 30 years ago) If I was not up to my eyeballs in Rangers I would be first in line to buy one.

  19. MGSteve

    I could well be wrong about this, but I’m 99% positive, that when visiting Costa Rica, about 3 years ago, there were a ton of Hyundai small pick up trucks running around. Exactly what I think some of us still want. They were the size of a Nissan, Toyota, Mitsubishi trucks of the 80’s . . . up until 2004 (in the case of Toyota). They were single cab . . . no extended cab, no crew cab. A normal size bed. Perfect. I don’t need a full, double cab, 4wd, to do basic work, a little hauling, etc. Frankly, I doubt that 95% of the people driving these behemoths need them either. I can count the number of times I see more than the driver in one of these 5 passenger “trucks”.

  20. sluggo

    this PU is overly priced for its condition, however these early mini trucks tend to be in demand and money makers, Lot of people flipping them because the demand and prices are high.
    I too believe there is tremendous demand for small economical trucks but the tariffs, safety stds and import issues are barriers, I know some farmers who have grey marketed in some interesting little trucks.
    I had a 68 Datsun PU for a while, But I have a 73 620 I built from a 79 king cab and the 73. The 79 really isnt a lot more room, but is handy, but still has enough room in the back to haul motorcycles. I Think the Datsuns are better because the parts interchange from a wide range of years & models and I can make them run forever. (L20B head on a Z24 block) But if you want to flip vintage small trucks the gold standards are the Toyotas,, mid 70s to 84? If you are lonely put up an ad on Craigslist for a cherry and inexpensive Toyota and make sure your number is in the ad. Phone will be ringing off the hook, Had some guys get in a fistfight in my driveway over the last one I had, Didnt have to haggle at all, And the fight was over who was leaving with it. I had 6 people in line behind them. The one bad thing about Toyotas is that like Fords they did weird things with parts, you have to knw what month they are made, Last one I worked on had multiple problems replacing the clutch as I had to keep exchanging parts to fit. I worked on a few early Rangers, and same issue with their cars, You have weird parts interchange issues but are solid little rigs.
    The reason Chevyy Luvs didnt sell well was wrong timing. Plus Isuuzu/Chevy cut corners. But prices for all these vintage mini trucks are climbing,

  21. Little Cars

    @Sluggo. Not sure what part of the country you are in, but there is just as ravenous following for early Nissan products, maybe because they built the trucks here beginning in the 1980s. When I bought my 83 Datsun/Nissan 720 with air and deluxe trim, I would have people crowding around it in parking lots wanting to offer cash for it. It was a beater for sure with the Z24 engine and oarlocks on the bed instead of smooth hardbody sides. When I traded it in on a Honda, the lot manager said he already had a list of guys who would be bidding on it. This was 2013. Back in 1990, I traded a 1983 Ford Ranger at a new car dealership and the same thing occurred. The manager told me there was a list of ppl waiting to buy them. If you can keep the tin worm at bay, an old Datsun will give you decades of utility, and you shouldn’t lose your shirt when it does come time to sell.

  22. MGSteve

    Sluggo–I hear that. After 23 years of faithful service (replaced one head gasket . . . that’s it, other than normal maintenance) in my 83 Toyota (simple “single” cab, normal bed), I upgraded to the last of the small, “simple”, single cab Toyotas, which was the ’04 model. Bought it used (in ’16, of course!) a perfect truck for what I think most of need: enough power, enough bed, AC, AM/FM, PS . . . I’m SPOILED! Anyway, when I sold the ’83 Toyota, it had 330,000+ miles on it. There was a badly patched hole in the roof of the cab. Still ran well, but little things (dome light, radio display) were beyond repair. I paid 1400 for that truck. I put it on CL for 1,000. Within 30 minutes, I had two guys almost fist fighting over it, and they started a bidding war, which stopped at 1200. So, for 23 years of faithful, reliable, perfect service, it cost me $200. Doubt that is going to happen with these mammoth trucks of today.

  23. Mickey Dorsey

    What a stupid decision by Ford to create a Ranger that is almost as big as the F150, costs almost as much, and gets the same gas mileage! This little truck has generated more comments on BF than most vehicles. I agree with comments above in predicting a short life for the new Ranger and the firing of whoever made that decision. Anybody know who to write to at Ford? As usual, the Japanese know our market better than we do and I’m waiting for them to beat us to it.

  24. MGSteve

    Well, afraid I can not agree with the comment that the Japanese finally got it right. Have you seen the Toyota Tundra and the Nissan Titan (model name alone should tell you all you need to know). These trucks are every bit as big as the Fords, Dodge/Ram and Chevys. Japan: show me some real leadership and bring BACK the basic 2wd, “normal” (I hate to say small) single cab trucks that made you both (and Mitsubishi and . . . ) a metric ton of $$$$$$$$$$$. Let’s get Hyundai to bring in their truck.

  25. Top Jimmy

    There are times it gets to me the misinformation given when describing details of some of the rarer metal that is shown here (and even more so…..Jalopnik!) Until Nissan had a manager dedicated to U.S. sales everything sold as a Nissan product, just 20 years after WW II and under the constraints of the Marshall Act (we gave our technology to Japan and Germany to rebuild their economies) “Datsuns” we’re quite a lot like Crosleys or Austin Minis. It took 3 complete model generations of both pickups and sports cars for Nissan to understand the American marketplace and even after, clear into the 1980s to understand how to “Americanize” their product line (Heavier metals and less goofy styling). The implied “chicken tax” is why those truck boxes are so darn thin and ugly and for the same reasons, we will never again see an affordable foreign pickup. Oh how I miss my 1980 Chevy LUV I paid 5 and a half for new!

  26. geomechs geomechs Member

    It is highly unlikely that anyone is going to come out with a small truck like this again. With all the emission controls and safety equipment the trucks had to bloat just to accommodate that stuff. Then there’s the cost of production; I don’t care where you’re building it, the wholesale cost isn’t going to be much lower to build a small truck compared to a full-sized one. And they’ve all got to have the same equipment. Now a lot of people complain about the price of a new one. The manufacturers have to continue to make some margin of profit or they’ll be forced to close up. Every year there are increases to the inputs, then the makers have to add in warranty payouts, campaign changes, and, yes, even lawsuits (kind of like your typical insurance rate increases). By the time they’re through, they’ve got as much stuck in the smaller truck as the big one. And the mileage isn’t much better. I know many people who, upon becoming empty-nesters, decided to downsize their homes. One guy told me that his downsized (read: cheaper?) home is going to cost him 15% more than if he’d just stayed where he was…

  27. Little Cars

    Another shot of the early Datsun pickup being carried by the current Nissan Titan. Shot from the rear. The Nissan Heritage Collection travels around the country and in parades to promote their products old and new. If they felt like small trucks were the way to go they would have started building them again.

  28. MGSteve

    You place a lot more credibility on the automotive company’s corporate decision making than perhaps is justified. Let’s see: Edsel, Vega . . . . need I go on?

    • geomechs geomechs Member

      I don’t wish to get into an argument with you, Steve, but the Japanese attitude was to watch the American and European markets from a distance and make decisions based on the mistakes of others. Now, the Edsel wasn’t a bad car; it came out during a recession and just wasn’t well accepted. However, I know/knew of several who bought them and were completely satisfied. The Vega had some oil consumption problems but it turned out to be fairly tough; I saw several of them hit 200K miles and counting. I might add that when the Japanese made a blunder, no one knew about it because they were quick to get it out of sight. However, some did get through and didn’t fare out at all. Remember the Crown? A six-banger that wiped out camshafts, and an anemic automatic that was prone to leaks. It sold as poorly as the Edsel, and the powers that be shut that one down–quickly. I worked in the service department of a GM dealer for 11 years. Yes, when you entered our shop, it was usually full of broken GM vehicles. However, I found myself conversing with the Toyota and Nissan service departments and anytime I entered one of those, it was full of broken Toyotas and Nissans. After 47 years (and counting) in the repair business I’ve learned one very important thing: No one designed their cars to fail…

  29. Mickey Dorsey

    Yes, the Japanese and Korean cars and trucks are just as big as their American counterparts. But they are smart enough to create a legal class of vehicles called the “kei” class. Google it. We have legislated ourselves into a corner where it’s impossible to build what we want. The only solution is to find and buy and repair or restore an older vehicle that does the job and nothing more. Sadly, most Americans are ego maniacs and would not be caught dead in anything that implied that they could not afford anything better. Americans are spoiled rotten by cheap gas, high wages, big roads, etc. But the cramped cities of Asia are no different than the Urban cities in America. And every vehicle does not have to be a tank. We need a class of “commuter vehicles” that are legal on roads with less than 60mph speed limits, not burdened with all the no fail systems, carry 2 people, and get 80mpg. Look what’s happening to Elio for trying to do that!

  30. Wayne

    geomechs, you have a good point. But to take it a step further. Toyota had terrible problems cylinder head with their V6 engines in the late ’80s and early 90s. (Mostly with valve seat failure). They took the issue honestly, repaired the vehicles with no hassles and extended the warranty on the engines. If it had been any of the big 3 automakers they would have stuck the owner with the problem as soon as the warranty ran out. Case in point, try and find a Ford Taurus cheap. (Under $1,000 dollars) In 90% of the cases the transmission has failed. This issue started in the mid-80s when the cars came out and still is an issue today. They have never attempted to take care of those owners. Ford’s 3.0 V6 that is used in the Escape and Mazda Tribute has the same issues that Toyota had with their V6 and has never even made a hint of taking responsibility. I know, I had one with the issue. I have been a service or parts manager for several dealerships over my 50 years in the car business. All of the dealerships were multi-line. So I have a veried experience level with many brands. (GM, AMC, Honda, Volvo, BMW, Mazda, Toyota, Ford, Chrysler, VW, Porsche, Renault, etc) The one with the worst corporate conscience is Ford. ( I even tossed the guy that wrote the warranty manual out of my dealership and never even had any repercussions as he knew I was right!) Followed by Chrysler and then Mazda. In many cases the manufacturer will still make money on a warranty repair as they stick it to the dealership on the labor allowance and the price markup. Toyota has turned around to follow Ford and the others. Toyota and Honda take parts markup to a whole new stratosphere. I switched to commercial vehicle sales and found a whole new layer of craziness. The entire industry is fixated on greed. ( which is part of our current culture ) Toyota in the 70s, 80s and mid 90s was thinking a long haul business model. Now they are just like the others in the fastest way to make a buck. Not the best way to make a customer happy. Crash requirements are the largest hurdle to make a small truck. ( sorry, I got off the wagon for a minute) But $200 to $300 ( cost wise in production ) costs several hundreds of thousands in actual crash testing and tooling a real “new” product. They would do it if they stopped listening to the “experts” and listen to the driving public and prior history.

  31. boxdin

    I’m amazed at how toyota recalls every truck they ever made under the pretense of the “spare tire separating” when actually the frame is rusting away. One guy at one of the toyota truck fan sites said he couldn’t wait to get his check from toyota so he could go out and buy another one.

    • geomechs geomechs Member

      One thing that has bothered me for years in regard to recalls is the way the media spins it. It seems like it’s politically incorrect to implicate the builder of an import whenever there’s a recall, but if it’s a domestic car, they describe it down to the stains on the seatcovers and all but take it down to the names of the people who worked the assembly line. I remember years ago with the Ford Explorer and Firestone scandal. For the better part of a year, if there was an accident and an Explorer was involved, then it HAD to be the Explorer blowing a tire. I recall a freeway accident about that time that was caused when the driver of an import SUV made a lane change. His steering locked up and he veered right across six lanes causing a multiple car pileup with numerous injuries and two deaths. An Explorer was one of the victims so the media conveniently blamed the entire crash on the Explorer. The manufacturer of the import SUV, knowing it was in the wrong, sent its, lawyers with suitcases full of money to the victims and families of the victims, making them multi-millionaires overnight. But the widow of the Explorer driver told them (and the media) to get the story straight: It was NOT the fault of her husband or his vehicle, and she justifiably demanded a retraction. The official retraction: ‘The driver of an import SUV ALLEGEDLY lost control of his vehicle while making a lane change.’ Ok, I’m off my soapbox. Coffee break is over and it’s back to work…

      • leiniedude leiniedude Member

        Thanks Geomechs. Good to hear the real news. Take care, Mike.

      • Saul

        “It seems like it’s politically incorrect to implicate the builder of an import whenever there’s a recall.” ??? Oh kay…

        I think the people behind the Toyota Prius throttle issue and the VW diesel issue would beg to differ. Plenty of coverage for these fellas. Not to mention the head of Nissan misleading on his net worth. Of course, Toyota, VW and Nissan are not imported cars any more either.

      • geomechs geomechs Member

        Saul, the situation might be balancing itself a little more as time goes on, but it wasn’t always that way. I remember the news talking about a non-specific recall to Hondas and the Honda people went ballistic over it; nothing more said on that. The locking steering column happened in the middle of the Ford/Firestone debacle; nothing said about the import (and I know of 2 more–one was our parts manager–that locked up without warning) after that but the media had a field day with Ford for the better part of a year. Delphi ignition switches and the fires and other safety issues: the exact SAME switch was used by no less than NINE car and truck makers. Why was GM the ONLY one singled out and blamed?The FIRST time–in over 40 years of being a mechanic–I heard of a detailed import recall was the Prius issue. Now for the VW diesel: They’re ALL doing it; VW was the one that got CAUGHT. I shudder to think what the media storm would’ve been if it had been GM or Ford that got caught. As one engine builder put it: ‘They’re expecting the exhaust going out to be cleaner than the air going in; they don’t want engines anymore; they want air scrubbers!’


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