Sports Pickup: 1965 Datsun 1200

1965 Datsun NL-320

Update 10/6/2015 – This cool little Datsun has been relisted with a slightly decreased asking price (only $5 cheaper). Special thanks to Robert for the update!

From 5/14/2015 – Here’s something you don’t see everyday. It’s a 1965 Datsun NL-320 Sports Pickup. That’s right, Datsun themselves called it a sports pickup! When most trucks were big and burly, Datsun took a gamble on something smaller and more agile. It could only haul half a ton, but it was much more efficient than larger trucks. I’m guessing that it was a lot more fun to hurl around the corners too. My father sure loved his old Datsun truck he had for many years and I doubt it was because of the bland styling or limited towing capacity. So, if you too can appreciated this whole sports truck concept, take a look at this one here on craigslist. It’s located in Laramie, Wyoming and the seller is asking $4,000.

Ute body

Apparently these little trucks are fairly rare. Some sources claim that only around 1,000 of this model were ever produced. I haven’t found any hard evidence to back that up, but honestly I don’t remember having ever seen one around. Other models had a separate bed, but the NL-320 featured a one piece “ute” style body. It’s never going to be a serious work truck in the this guise, but it is a handsome and unique design that’s guaranteed to get a few head scratches.

Datsun NL-320 interior

The seller claims that this Datsun is all original with the exception of the wheels. I’m no 320 expert, so I can’t give my opinion there, but other than a few bruises here and there, it doesn’t look too bad. The interior looks decent and I love that simple dash design. I’m not sure about the color combos in there, but it’s supposedly factory. In keeping with the sports pickup theme, this one is equipped with a 4-speed on the column. Later trucks came with floor mounted shifters so that would a tempting upgrade.

Datsun 1200

There isn’t a lot of “sport” going on under the hood. That little four cylinder only put out 60 horses when new so it’s not going to get you anywhere fast today. Still, part of the sports car experience is being able to rev the living daylights out of an engine without getting into too much trouble. When compared to American offerings at the time, I’m sure the driving experience provided by this little unibody truck was a revelation.

NL-320 model guide

Datsun still hadn’t made their big break into the US market though, so that revelation may not have been the same for everyone. Most people stuck with their tried and true V8-powered workhorses, but there was a small group of people who appreciated these little Datsuns for what they were. It’s probably safe to say that their little experience influenced truck design for years to come. Nissan has since become a major player in the truck market and still offers a four-cylinder equipped model. I just checked and it looks like you can even get it with a five-speed manual! Now, if we could just convince them to build another sports pickup!

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Comments

  1. mike

    My dad has 2 of these

    • Steve N

      I have one with rear end damage which broke both cool tail lights. If anyone knows of a set around I could really use them.

    • Andrew Galt

      I am looking for a 1964 Datsun unibody truck. Know of any?

  2. geomechs geomechs Member

    Up until the late 60s the only place I saw something like this was in a magazine. Anti-Japanese sentiment was still in full force when this truck came out and you didn’t dare show your face in anything that wasn’t American. In ’71 I came home with a new Toyota pickup; I wasn’t all that welcome. Strangely enough we had four Japanese families living in our town and none of that prejudice landed on them.

  3. John b

    Cute truck- seen them on the internet. Maybe one or two for sale in the past. Rare bird as they say. I have a ’72 Datusn 521 pick-up stored away. Im looking for the original style wheels if anybody has them out there…

  4. DT

    These had the backwards H patern on the shifter because they were built from the English blueprints,The body design came from a sedan and wagon,that they then made into a “sport truck” ,I almost died in one of these,they are very small,especialy compared to a school bus,dont ask,This one is in good shape

  5. Jarod Rose

    I would buy this in a heart beat if it was close by. The oddity of it makes it worth every penny.

  6. Karl

    I saw one of these years ago, but it was the separate-bed model (I guess that was the “work” model instead of sport). I was helping my father hunt parts for a car he was repairing, and it was in a tow yard behind a little gas station in Laplace, LA. It was a tiny little thing–it would have made a Falcon Ranchero look like a Super Duty. Although a neat little runabout, I can well believe that you would be as safe in it as a fly in a beer can lying on the highway. Interstate travel not recommended!

  7. recar

    I’ ve had a half-dozen 80-87 Datsun/Nissans – all good. Currently it’s an 84 King-cab with125 thou k. and every option but air [incl power windows and an automagic tran!] I love it, and I’d love it more [and my wife would ride in it] if it didn’t smell so much like a wet dog in the cab.

    • Alan (Michigan)

      Well then, dry your fur off before you climb in! (heh… sorry, could not resist!)

  8. Greg Childs

    I’m the owner of Datsun320.com and a Datsun collector – and I own an NL320 just like this one. A couple minor corrections:

    “It’s never going to be a serious work truck in the this guise”
    Actually, it’s a 1-ton truck, believe it or not. Underneath the stylish exterior and delicate appearance is a pretty beefy frame, a 4-speed manual, and a 4.88 gear ratio.

    “Later trucks came with floor mounted shifters so that would a tempting upgrade.”
    The last of the 320 series got floor-mount shifters, but one doesn’t simply make a meaningless conversion for convenience – especially not to a vehicle this rare.

    The seller claims this is a ’65 model, but the grille and front markers (and column shift) say otherwise. It’s more likely a leftover ’63 titled as a ’65 (not uncommon at all).

    These trucks were VERY popular with Japanese workers living near the CA coast in the 60’s. Many were purchased by landowners for their gardeners / groundskeepers (who I’m sure had seen the inside of an internment camp during WWII and who were NOT interested in driving a big Ford/Chevy).

    Interestingly, many were never registered for road use until later. Mine was brought in through Portland, delivered to the Bay Area, and not registered until the late 70’s, for example.

    The price on this one is VERY attractive – It appears to be stock, complete and relatively unmolested. Restoration is reasonably easy, and parts are more available than you’d think (the Datsun 320 forum mentioned above is a fantastic resource). I hope the buyer will pop in and enter it in our 320 database – we’re amassing a registry of ALL remaining 320s in order to establish their collectibility.

    Thanks, and best of luck to the seller – Wish it was closer to sunny AZ!

    • Scotty G

      That’s great info, Greg, thanks! I just drove through Laramie and it would have been hard to pass this up if I would have known about it. $4,000 was an absolute steal, someone got a killer deal.

    • Jim

      I bought one of the 1 ton 320’s in 1972. Sold in in 74 when I got a larger VW truck. The guy who bought it off me was still driving it in 2006. Things I remember about the truck.
      !. Unbelievable ability to haul. I know I overloaded it many times even though it was a one ton truck.
      2. Small cab made for snug fit for anyone over 5’6″.
      3. 1000 CC engine, no smog control devices, positive ground.
      4. 4 speed on the column.

      I still have friends ask me about about my little red truck 40 years later.

  9. dj

    It’s already gone. Someone got a neat truck.

  10. Robert Member

    It is still listed here: http://fortcollins.craigslist.org/cto/5216791554.html
    for anyone that may wish to purchase at the $3,995. I don’t know if it is still available?

    Cheers,

    Robert

  11. Patrick McC.

    Looks like the Volkswagen squareback to pickup conversions. I really like this!

  12. Robert Member

    The VW conversion is cool!

    There is a phone number with the ad here: http://fortcollins.craigslist.org/cto/5216791554.html if anyone wishes to call about the Datsun.

  13. Cattoo CattooButt Member

    I knew this woman who scored a 1969 Dataun pickup looking very much like the ones shown here. I told her if she ever was going to sell it I would buy it on the spot. Made her promise to call me firsts and then she broke her promise to me and she sold it for $300. $300!! I pulled my hair out.

  14. George

    CattoButt
    What she did was rude, but well within her right because a promise is not enforceable unless it was backed by consideration. A friend of my Dad’s promised to sell him his 24 unit upscale apartments. I told both of them that they needed to sign a right of first refusal bound by reasonable consideration. The owner said his word was his bond and there was no need. I pointed out the problems attendant should he die before it went to escrow. My Dad would not hold his water but continued to “plan” how he was going to put his signature on the project. It was not too long thereafter that a little effeminate 60’s year old man sowed up at the property telling tenants that he had purchased the property. Dad confronted the seller and asked what the hell was going on, to which the seller said that he did not think my DAD could afford to buy it. The jackbutt sold it for $10K down–I could have afforded it and I just had just graduated a few months prior. Dad fumed for years after that. How the owner had screwed him over–and he had–but he had been warned and it turned out just like a shake hand agreement usually does. He got burned.

    If a person promises to sell you something at some later date, and that person won’t sign a “contract” setting out the agreement, the person is lying to you and your trying not to tick him off so he won’t renig on the promise, is a waste of your time. I told Dad’s nemesis that if he refused to sign then he lacked credibility. He still blew hard about his word being his bond and Dad was left without portfolio.

    And as for her promise to call you–a woman’s promise is good until she grows tired of the man. So I can tell you how to avoid disappointment with a woman’s broken promises, but that does not mean I would be less vulnerable than you. I can’t keep my head when dealing with women either. Damned the defiant. George

  15. joe tali

    Just doing a bit of reading here in ontario canada got 14 inches of snow in the last two days i have a 1965 320 for sale check out kijiji ontario classic car section and punch in datsun cheers nieghbors to the south. wish i could drive to florida today.

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