The Toyota Hilux is 52 - here's the history behind Japan's iconic pick-up truck

Sanjay · Aug 29, 2020 10:00 AM

The Toyota Hilux is 52 - here's the history behind Japan's iconic pick-up truck 01

Fifty years is more than enough time for a carmaker to introduce a model, facelift it a couple of times, kill it and then bring it back as a crossover or whatever's trendy. Not many can say they 'remained true to the original', but the Toyota Hilux certainly can.

The Toyota Hilux is 52 - here's the history behind Japan's iconic pick-up truck 02

What happened? The market happened.

Cars evolve all the time (see above). It's quite a feat if a carmaker manages to stay true to its original recipe yet continue to improve, and that's pretty much what the Hailak has achieved in 52 years.

Before Toyota Hilux

The Toyota Hilux is 52 - here's the history behind Japan's iconic pick-up truck 03

Interestingly, the Hilux didn't start life as a Toyota - instead, it traces its roots back to the humble Hino Briska. Yes, it's the same wing-badged Hino that makes the big trucks that scare you around Port Klang roads...

The Toyota Hilux is 52 - here's the history behind Japan's iconic pick-up truck 01

Back then, Toyota's Lite Stout went up against the Briska in the small pick-up truck market. In 1966, both entered an agreement to combine their know-how, and Hino was tasked to produce the Briska in their Hamura factory.

The Toyota Hilux is 52 - here's the history behind Japan's iconic pick-up truck 02

Part of the agreement is that Toyota continued to build regular cars, while Hino focused on commercial trucks, which meant that the Briska was sold as a Toyota in 1967.

All it got was a 1.2-litre, four-cylinder engine with 62 PS. Humble beginnings, but the Japanese loved it and 10,000 units were sold within a year.

First generation (N10; 1968-1972)

The Toyota Hilux is 52 - here's the history behind Japan's iconic pick-up truck 03

After brisk sales, Toyota developed their own trucks and slapped on a name you’ll have no prizes for guessing. This is the first Hilux, it's name being a portmeanteau of Hi (High) and Lux (Luxury).

The Toyota Hilux is 52 - here's the history behind Japan's iconic pick-up truck 04

With an engine borrowed from the Toyoace van, the Hilux could ferry three passengers and carry a literal tonne of weight, thanks to its bench seat and a 1,850 mm-long cargo bed.

The Toyota Hilux is 52 - here's the history behind Japan's iconic pick-up truck 05

Pick-up trucks were in great demand elsewhere, and that's how the Hilux ventured overseas too. In 1969, Toyota started exporting it to the United States (its first export market) and the rest, as they say, is history.

Second generation (N20; 1972-1978)

The Toyota Hilux is 52 - here's the history behind Japan's iconic pick-up truck 06

While 'luxury' was part of its name, it clearly wasn't the most luxurious thing around. For this generation, Toyota decided to focus on that aspect and make their pick-up truck a little more comfortable to be with.

The Toyota Hilux is 52 - here's the history behind Japan's iconic pick-up truck 07

For the first time, buyers could opt between a column- or floor-mounted shifter. The former allows buyers to get bench seating that fits three and the latter, separate driver and passenger seats.

The Toyota Hilux is 52 - here's the history behind Japan's iconic pick-up truck 08

American safety standards saw Toyota having to update the Hilux's brakes with a brake booster. More power was available in the form of a 2.0-litre 105 PS engine, fitted on the Highway variant.

The Toyota Hilux is 52 - here's the history behind Japan's iconic pick-up truck 09

Americans couldn't get enough of it, and many of them started converting them into motorhomes. By 1975, Toyota phased out the Hilux name in favour of just calling it the Toyota Truck.

Third generation (N30, N40; 1978-1983)

The Toyota Hilux is 52 - here's the history behind Japan's iconic pick-up truck 10

This generation pretty much shaped the Hilux to what it is today, namely due to the introduction of its four-wheel drive system and four doors. 

The Toyota Hilux is 52 - here's the history behind Japan's iconic pick-up truck 11

Toyota's claim to fame with this generation was 'sedan-like' specifications, equipment and ride comfort. Notable improvements made here were torsion bars replacing coil springs, and front disc brakes being standard on Deluxe variants and above. 

The Toyota Hilux is 52 - here's the history behind Japan's iconic pick-up truck 12

In 1981, the Hilux got its first diesel engine - a 2.2-litre four-cylinder that could churn out 62 PS and 126 Nm of torque.

Fourth generation (N50, N60, N70; 1983-1988)

The Toyota Hilux is 52 - here's the history behind Japan's iconic pick-up truck 13

The Hilux was fast becoming a fan-favourite, and in the 1980s it was beginning to face shifts in the market. Nissan had a V6 Truck, petrol prices were cheap in the US, and customers wanted more power.

The Toyota Hilux is 52 - here's the history behind Japan's iconic pick-up truck 14

So in 1987, Toyota gave ‘Murica the power it needed via a 3.0-litre V6 option, good for 150 PS and 244 Nm. 

The Toyota Hilux is 52 - here's the history behind Japan's iconic pick-up truck 15

This is the generation too that would forever immortalise the Hilux in cinematic history - who could forget its appearance as Marty McFly's truck in Back To The Future?

The Toyota Hilux is 52 - here's the history behind Japan's iconic pick-up truck 16

Along this model's lifecycle, Toyota also started venturing into making SUVs and created the Hilux-based 4Runner, also known as the Hilux Surf in some markets.

Fifth Generation (N80, N90, N100, N110; 1988-1997)

The Toyota Hilux is 52 - here's the history behind Japan's iconic pick-up truck 17

1988 saw the introduction of the fifth-generation Hilux, with a sharper focus on increased power, sturdiness and comfort.

The Toyota Hilux is 52 - here's the history behind Japan's iconic pick-up truck 18

For starters, the Xtracab (long-wheelbase variant introduced a generation earlier) was further extended, and new engines were available including a 3.0-litre diesel inline-four putting out 91 PS and 188 Nm.

The Toyota Hilux is 52 - here's the history behind Japan's iconic pick-up truck 19

First-gen Toyota Tacoma. Notice how it looks 'gentler'.

In 1991, Toyota started making the Hilux at the New United Motor Manufacturing Incorporated (NUMMI) plant in partnership with General Motors. Four years later, America's favourite Japanese truck would be known as the Tacoma.

The Toyota Hilux is 52 - here's the history behind Japan's iconic pick-up truck 20

1996 Tacoma Xtracab 2WD.

Why Tacoma? Simple - it was made to suit the needs of the North American pick-up truck market, where customers tend to use them as personal vehicles and less for commercial, agricultural or off-road use. In a way, one could say it's a gentler Hilux. 

The Toyota Hilux is 52 - here's the history behind Japan's iconic pick-up truck 21

German brand, Japanese reliability? Count me in!

The Hilux made waves in Europe too. So much so that Volkswagen built and marketed it under the VW Taro name from February 1989 to March 1997.

The Toyota Hilux is 52 - here's the history behind Japan's iconic pick-up truck 22

It still runs!

If you’re wondering why it’s so familiar, well, it’s the same Hilux Top Gear tried (and failed) to kill!

Sixth generation (N140, N150, N160, N170; 1997-2005)

The Toyota Hilux is 52 - here's the history behind Japan's iconic pick-up truck 23

The sixth-generation Hilux that was introduced in September 1997 split the model into two lines, a business-use truck line and a personal-use sports pick-up line.

The Toyota Hilux is 52 - here's the history behind Japan's iconic pick-up truck 24

The latter came with extended cabin height and length as well as improved quietness, while the former was a bit more utilitarian.

The Toyota Hilux is 52 - here's the history behind Japan's iconic pick-up truck 25

Looks way more comfortable now.

Built from 1997 to 2005, the sixth generation Hilux was also the last to be sold in Japan. 

Seventh generation (AN10, AN20, AN30; 2005-2015) 

The Toyota Hilux is 52 - here's the history behind Japan's iconic pick-up truck 26

The seventh-generation Hilux was launched in August 2004 and went on sale in more than 140 countries. It's a model that certainly lived up to the the 'Lux' part of its name in more ways than one. 

The Toyota Hilux is 52 - here's the history behind Japan's iconic pick-up truck 27

Not only was it rugged, it's now way more pleasant to be in. Creature comforts in the form of 'Toyota Touch' infotainment system and leather-wrapped steering wheel were available options.

The Toyota Hilux is 52 - here's the history behind Japan's iconic pick-up truck 28

This Hilux was also the first that was not produced in Japan, with most vehicles being assembled in Thailand, South Africa, Argentina, Malaysia, Pakistan and Venezuela for sales in their respective regions. 

Eighth generation (AN120, AN130; 2015-now)

The Toyota Hilux is 52 - here's the history behind Japan's iconic pick-up truck 29

Fast forward to today, and the Hilux has turned out to be quite a status symbol, thanks in part to its reputation and enhanced daily useability with niceties like LED headlights and ADAS equipment. 

The Toyota Hilux is 52 - here's the history behind Japan's iconic pick-up truck 30

2019 saw Toyota winning the Dakar Rally for the first time ever with a Hilux.

It's been quite a winner too, with it being among the best-selling trucks in Australia, Europe and even Malaysia. 

The Toyota Hilux is 52 - here's the history behind Japan's iconic pick-up truck 31

They like it so much, they've even given it the Gazoo Racing treatment.

This generation also saw it returning to Japan in September 2017 to rave reception - orders exceeded over 2,000 units in its first month of sales.

Closer to home, UMW Toyota Motor (UMWT) has opened order books for the new 2020 Toyota Hilux, complete with an updated 204 PS and 500 Nm turbodiesel and Toyota Safety Sense ADAS suite.

What's next for the Hilux?

The Toyota Hilux is 52 - here's the history behind Japan's iconic pick-up truck 32

Over 19 million units have sold since 1968, making it one of the best-selling cars of all time. Toyota struck jackpot with the Hilux, and it'd be interesting to see how things shape up for this nameplate when it reaches one hundred years - a flying Hilux would certainly be very interesting, don't you think?

Sanjay

Writer

With humble beginnings collecting diecast models and spending hours virtually tuning dream cars on the computer, his love of cars has delightfully transformed into a career. Sanjay enjoys how the same passion for cars transcends boundaries and brings people together.

Comments

Up to 20% higher than average trade-in price

2018 Toyota Hilux Double Cab 2.4 MT 4x2

Upgrade

Add your car

Service powered by carsome

Latest Cars