What this country needs is a good mini pickup truck. I think.
Maybe it is just because the huge vehicles stand out, but haven’t pickup trucks and SUV’s just gotten larger and larger? Honestly I don’t know how garages can contain them. Not the garages that are built these days (but that is another rant).
I think the first mini pickup truck that I remember was a Datsun (now called Nisan). Prior to that the standard pickup trucks were the Chevy step side or the Dodge slab side and of course, the Ford F150. These were primarily work trucks that businesses would use. Painters and electricians would use panel trucks (where did they go?) while plumbers, landscapers, and carpenters would use pickup trucks.
With the introduction of the mini pickup truck suddenly you could have the versatility and utility that the “big boys” enjoyed but in a practical package and at a practical price.
These small pickup trucks still exist, but they’ve put on weight and in many ways have lost a lot of their practicality.
Much like when Datsun introduced the 240Z (Fairlady). When the 240Z came to the US it created a well deserved stir. It was light in weight, a two-seater dedicated to the joys of driving with a spirited six cylinder engine and a modern suspension. This contrasted with the English sports cars that still used technology that had not been updated since the 1940’s. The US choices were the Corvette. You can also count Shelby’s cobra roadster, but it was half English, too. The 240Z was relatively cheap and very fast for its time. It handled well and the factory offered suspension parts that turned it into a very competitive racer. All of these qualities captured the hearts and minds of the driving enthusiast.
Then something strange happened. The 240Z became the 260Z, then the 280Z, and finally the 300ZX. The metamorphosis was from a light butterfly that stung like a bee to an overweight monster filled with unnecessary luxury. Much of the same has happened to the mini pickup truck.
I think it has to do with something innate in human behavior. We appreciate the quaint simplicity and utility and then drift right back to the coach potato yearnings. I saw it happen to Cape Cod. People would come to visit the place, drawn by the charm and quaintness. They would love it so much that they would move to the place. In no time they would be frustrated with what quaintness really means and demand malls, and traffic, and sidewalks, and all that it brings with it.
So the simple utilitarin pickup truck is now only found in want ads and used car lots at a premium price because they know you don’t have an alternative.
The time is right to resurrect the mini pickup truck and in a form that says utility and economy, not one that says “I’m almost the big truck you really want”.
It would be great to have a truck that came from the factory with the bed already sprayed with a Rhino liner. It would be a truck with seats that could take some greasy clothes and dirt and dust from weekend chores. It would be a small truck that would carry you, your friend, and your mountain bikes to a new trail a few miles away. It would have a steering wheel that looked like a truck and wouldn’t care if you had gloves on or dirt on your hands. The rear tailgate would help you get things in the back. You could have lots of tie downs for when you carry twenty bales of landscaping straw. It would come in RWD and AWD and maybe a diesel!
But most of all it would be a small pickup truck that would never have pretentions of being a full-sized pickup, nor a luxury SUV. It would be what it was, an economical utility vehicle that you could use for getting that Christmas tree without making a mess of your SUV or car.