Toyota 50th Anniversary: A Brief History of Toyota Trucks

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Today, October 31st 2007, Toyota Motor Sales celebrates exactly 50 years in the U.S. Since 1957, Toyota has grown from a small importer of vehicles to what will most likely be the largest auto manufacturer in the world. In short, Toyota is a success story. Being that we’re all fans of trucks here, we thought it might be fun to briefly review the history of Toyota trucks in the U.S.

First up, the 1963 Toyota LandCruiser truck. Available in small numbers for only four years in the U.S. market (1963-67), these are highly sought-after collector’s items.

Toyota LandCruiser Pickup Truck

Next, we have the Toyota Stout. Available in 1964, this was the obvious predecessor to 1969’s Toyota HiLux. The HiLux was the first Toyota truck to reach measurable sales and commercial success.

Toyota Stout pickup truck
The Stout

Toyota Hi-Lux pickup truck
The Hi-Lux.

The “HiLux” name, as groovy as it is, was dropped from Toyota trucks in 1975. From that point forward, the small Toyota truck was simply known as the “Toyota Pickup”. The HiLux/Toyota Pickup developed rather quickly. In 1975, the SR5 package was first made available. In 1979, Toyota first began offering a four-wheel-drive model. In 1983, Toyota offered an “Xtra Cab” Toyota Pickup that was extremely popular. Toyota trucks began to come in their own in the 80’s, reaching top cultural status as evidenced by their various pop-culture references (who could forget the Toyota truck from Back To The Future?).

1983 Toyota Pickup truck
1983 Toyota Pickup

Back To the Future Toyota Truck
Michael J. Fox drives the Toyota truck owned by his character.

In 1993, Toyota introduced their first full-size truck, the T100. While many critics found the T100 supremely lacking, there are a lot of loyal Toyota fans who will argue this was one of the best Toyota trucks ever built.

Toyota T100 full size pickup truck

In 1995, the “Toyota Pickup” finally got a name of its own, the Tacoma. Known as the “Taco” by off-road enthusiasts everywhere, the Tacoma is easily Toyota’s largest commercial success in the US truck market.

1995 Toyota Tacoma pickup truck

In 1999, Toyota released their next attempt at a full-size, the 2000 Tundra. This new full-size truck featured a powerful V8, as well as a larger frame, interior, and greater hauling and towing capabilities. When this model debuted, it was Motor Trend’s “Truck of The Year”.

2000 Toyota Tundra pickup truck

In 2004, Toyota released a completely redesigned Tacoma that rivaled the Tundra in terms of size and power, while still honoring Toyota’s compact pickup roots in terms of economy and off-road performance.

2004 Toyota Tacoma pickup truck

Finally, in 2007, Toyota released the 2nd generation Tundra. This truck silenced all the critics that said Toyota’s full-size trucks were really only 7/8th size, as well as offering the most powerful engine in the marketplace.

2007 Toyota Tundra

We all know how the rest of this story goes…

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  1. Forest says:

    Hello I am arguing with a friend about the Tundra. I know I had a tundra back in 86 but it was a small truck, he say they did not come out till 2000 and were first called the t1. Plus I spoke with a guy who was driving a 87 toyota Tundra, just the other day. And also can anyone please tell me why Toyota choose to discontinue making small pickups?

  2. Mickey says:

    I thought the Tacoma was a small truck. If it was a single cab.

  3. Forest – Toyota sold a “one-ton” version of their pickup in the 80’s…I remember them having a handful of commercial cab-and-chassis pickups running around with dual rear wheels too. However, I’m not aware of any previous Toyota pickups bearing the name “Tundra,” but I’m not the right person to ask…

  4. Kelly R says:

    I was wondering when the last year Toyota made Tundra’s in a manual transmission. When it comes to full size trucks, I prefer a stick shift over an automatic and I was bummed to learn that Toyota no longer has a five or six speed manual transmission as an option when I was looking at the 2009 and 2010 models. Yes I know manual transmissions are becoming obsolete but there are still some of us who like to drive them. Thanks!

  5. Jason says:

    Kelly – The stick shift is going to be like the rotary telephone very, very soon. Except for a handful of sports cars and economy cars, it’s likely you’ll never see one in a new vehicle again. This isn’t really because the stick shift isn’t popular or even because it’s not effective…it’s because of our goofy fuel economy and emissions rules and regs. Automatics test much better than sticks (for a lot of reasons), and combined with the lazyness of the average car owner, sticks are going away.
    As for the Tundra, Toyota never actually produced one with a manual transmission. The T100 was available with a stick shift, however.

  6. eileen j says:

    pie is soooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo good in the toyata tundra yayayayayaygyayayatat

  7. Al B says:

    Can anyone at Toyota explain why all their trucks need to be full-sized? I don’t need to drive a truck that has tires the size of my front door. I’d like to see (and would happily buy) a small pick-up with enough power to haul handyman-sized loads, pull small trailers and still have good economy. Toyota legendary quality and economy in a small pick-up would be (re)start of something big.

  8. Jason says:

    Al B – It’s a good question. The answer is that small trucks don’t sell well enough to warrant production. Ford’s Ranger, for example, is the smallest truck you can buy right now and it’s being discontinued.

    I’ve been told that Scion might debut a small truck based on a car platform, but I’ll believe it when I see it (or when I get a better tip).

  9. Kyle says:

    I wish that they would just make the 79 thru 88 Pickups again. Great little trucks

  10. Jason (Admin) says:

    Kyle – I hear you. If it wasn’t for all the safety and fuel economy and emissions rules, I’d guess we’d still be driving the 79-88 pickup. It’s very, very similar to the Hilux that Toyota sells everywhere else in the world.

  11. Floyd says:

    USA Market Names
    1964-68 Stout
    1969-72 Hilux
    1973-95.5 Truck (several generations)
    1993-98 T100 (slightly bigger V6 only)
    1995.5-current Tacoma (2 generations)
    ????-94 Truck 1 Ton SRW and DRW, also Cab&Chassis, RV
    2000-current Tundra (2 generations)

  12. Floyd says:

    I am a proud owner of one of the last 1992 Japanese built Trucks, BTW.

  13. Jason (Admin) says:

    Floyd – Thanks for the list! and thanks for commenting.

  14. pop says:

    i have a 1982 toyota picup with a disel engin runs great body is a little rusty but could be fixed up 20500 miles does anyone know what it is worth

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