The original Nissan Hardbody (D21) pickup truck is an often overlooked player, especially when compared to the Toyota. It’s not fair.
By no means is the original Nissan Hardbody (D21) pickup truck the first from Nissan in the United States. Before that, we had gems like the 1959 Datsun 220 – which was the first Nissan/Datsun trucks to be sold on these shores. On top of that, it was one of the first compact trucks in our market. Over time, the 520, 620, and 720 brought us tough little trucks with lots of innovations.
These trucks offered an extended King Cab, 4×4, and other options some competitors simply couldn’t match. The 1983 Datsun 720 became the first foreign-market compact truck to be made in the United States. Datsun trucks had a reputation for ruggedness and reliability, albeit lacking in power.
Eventually, the “Datsun” name was dropped and, in the mid-1980s, the Nissan Hardbody hit the market. The “Hardbody” name refers to its double-wall bed and overall styling. It was also a very 1980s name to boot.
They sold a lot of Nissan Hardbody pickups
The Nissan Hardbody debuted with similar configurations that the Datsun 720 had, but it was a much more modern and cohesive package. These Hardbody pickup trucks went up against the Mitsubishi Mighty Max, Isuzu P’up, (1st gen) Ford Ranger, Chevrolet S-10, Mazda B2200 and (of course) the Toyota Pickup.
The Hardbody was quipped with a stout little inline four-cylinder or a perky V6. A majority of these trucks were offered with a manual transmission. Options like 4×4 and larger cab configurations were on tap as well. For a time, an extremely popular package was the base model four-cylinder with a rear-wheel-drive setup. It was not only one of the least expensive pickups in this market, it was much less expensive than many economy cars.
This little guy was one of the best selling small pickups in the United States. The Nissan Hardbody pickup’s platform led to the development of the very first Nissan Pathfinder.
In this video, Andre and Kase take you down memory lane and gives us a tour of this under-appreciated small truck.