Vintage Adventure: 1981 Toyota Pickup 4×4 Deluxe Is Bring a Trailer’s Top Pick

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  • The third-generation Toyota Pickup popularised compact off-road pickups by becoming the first to provide four-wheel drive straight out of the factory.
  • The factory graphics displayed here are an early iteration of the iconic Toyota striped racing livery that was eventually featured on trucks driven by Ivan Stewart.
  • This vehicle is showroom fresh, but it’s not original, so you won’t feel bad about using it outdoors.

1981 Toyota Pickup 4×4:Although it started producing entertaining, affordable, and renownedly sturdy tiny pickups in America in 1964, Toyota didn’t discover its current small transporter formula until the release of the third generation of Toyota Pickup in 1979. The four-wheel-drive Toyota Pickup made its debut that spring on dealer lots and, shortly after, on dunes and dirt trails. Now it could genuinely transport you to the kind of isolated mountaintops and deserts that were frequently featured in 1970s minitruck advertisements, and once there, it could keep up with Jeep CJ-7s. Customers adored it, and the current Tacoma is built on the same recipe.

This 1981 Toyota Pickup 4×4 Deluxe, offered for auction online on Bring a Trailer, an affiliate of Hearst Autos like Car and Driver, is reminiscent in many ways of this early generation of Toyota off-road trucks.

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The striking paint job is an early rendition of what would eventually become Toyota’s well-known striped racing livery, and it was probably created by Rollin “Molly” Sanders, a longstanding Toyota graphic design consultant who also contributed to the creation of the Lexus “L” emblem. Sanders created unique paint jobs for vintage 1981 Toyota Pickup 4×4 in the 1970s, including a couple of Yamaha advertising partnerships known as the “Yamahaulers.” Toyota offered two color options for these stripes on its 1981 and 1982 Sport Trucks: red or blue with orange and yellow accents.

The stripes became the company’s racing livery in 1983, and Ivan “Ironman” Stewart’s off-road accomplishments would make the scheme synonymous with Toyota Pickups for all time. Stewart’s first Toyota racers were third-generation vehicles, albeit there aren’t many photos from that era.

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To develop the third-generation pickup (the original Hilux moniker was discontinued in the United States after 1976), the 1981 Toyota Pickup 4×4 undertook extensive research, which included carefully observing dealer and customer feedback over an authorized four-wheel drive upgrade of the previous vehicle, a rare Toyota Wolverine from 1977 to 1978. Dealers, such as Downey’s 1981 Toyota Pickup 4×4 in California, snapped up the Wolverines at the fastest rate of production. Undoubtedly, the design of the third-generation truck, headed by seasoned Toyota engineer Minoru Oya, was greatly impacted by this unofficial test.

Another factor was the enormous American appetite for Japan’s tiny trucks. Upon arrival, the third-generation truck had a significantly larger-feeling cab and felt more fitted for American tastes than any previous Toyota truck. While still simple, the materials used in the cabin have been greatly upgraded, adding more sound-deadening and luxury features found in passenger cars, like intermittent wipers. The pickup’s 2.2-liter 20R four-cylinder engine produced 90 horsepower in the early generations; but, in 1980, the truck was upgraded to a 2.4-liter 22R, which powers our BaT pick.

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It was undoubtedly aided by its new look and roomy cabin to hold off an early rival, the 1981 Toyota Pickup 4×4 Chevy LUV (formerly the Isuzu Faster). When Car and Driver tested the two in 1979, they discovered that although the Chevy’s cabin was quite small, the LUV’s independent front suspension provided a significantly softer ride than the Toyota’s solid axles and leaf springs. The same might be said about Subaru’s BRAT, which debuted in 1977. Although the 1981 Toyota Pickup 4×4 was roomier and more like a proper truck, the BRAT was more pleasant to drive on the road. Toyota also didn’t think twice to highlight the four-wheel-drive pickup’s ancestry to the Land Cruiser.

Renowned for their durability, these trucks served as affordable four-wheelers and rudimentary modes of transportation for many years, but high-quality models now fetch high prices.

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With a new bed, some new paint, and many other upgraded pieces from SR5 and Deluxe trims, this truck isn’t entirely original, but it also hasn’t been completely restored or restomodged either. It’s the best of both worlds in many respects. You may achieve the vintage aesthetic without feeling overly self-conscious about becoming dirty.

“1981 Toyota Pickup 4×4  Review on Youtube”

Also read: Bridging Past and Present: All Audi Cars Through the Years 2024
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