Nissan Junior

I always find end-of-the-line vehicles interesting…

And with Nissan Juniors both more rare than hen's teeth and decomposing as quickly as summer roadkill, this little truck is one of the few that's both ancient, long-lived, and still in production today. But before I get to that…

In 1956, Nissan introduced what we'd now consider a medium-duty pickup truck, only "medium-duty" in Japan meant a 50 horsepower 1.5-litre 4-cylinder engine—and a rated payload of 1,580 kg (1.75 tons). That seems like quite a lot, of course, but geared for just 90 km/h (56 mph), I can understand that its gearbox ratios were suitably short and aimed at getting the most from the engine.

What is interesting to me is that trucks from just about every country follow a similar trajectory: when private citizens and small businesses are able to do more—and more intense—work, trucks have a tendency to follow suit. As people started, say, building their own buildings, getting into more involved landscaping work, or needing to carry larger loads (because they'd earned more customers), trucks tend to grow to suit.

In Japan, like everywhere else, space-efficient cabover models were rarely owned by private citizens, and the Junior had a cabover called the Junior Caball—but I don't think you needed a secret password to buy one. 

The Junior grew in size as the smaller Nissan truck did, and by the time the company introduced the model you see above, it was 1970 and base models were fitted with a 2.0-litre 4-cylinder engine, had 99 horsepower, and a normally-aspirated 2.2-litre diesel version as well. That motor, believe it or not, was offered in the U.S. by Chrysler Marine. 

Anyway, good luck finding yourself a handsome Nissan Junior, as it was just not a strong seller, and the company restricted the model to Japan and Asia only. For the hip among you, the Junior was also sold as the Nissan Miler, because the company was incapable of figuring out what the hell to name itself, or its cars. The Miler was sold at old Prince dealerships, but it's also a time when Datsun was still around…the company is lucky people knew where to buy its cars at all.

In Asia, the truck was pinched at both ends; first, by the smaller, car-based Nissan trucks getting larger, and the larger trucks getting larger, leading their adoption primarily among companies and contractors.

There was simply no reason to own a medium-duty truck, when kei-sized models were great for private citizens and small businesses and the "larger" car-based utilities were much more comfortable, fuel-efficient, and practical for everyday use. In 1982, the truck was cancelled—and it's a difficult proposition to find a "nice" example these days. 

Unless you live in Iran…