Top JDM Trucks – Our Ultimate Picks
This JDM truck guide covers everything you need to know whether you’re looking to buy or simply a fan of what Japan’s rare truck market offers.
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Doing good and thorough research on a car or truck is the way to go in our opinion. There is a vast number of models out there. Especially trucks.
But, when it comes to Japanese mini truck models here in the United States, also known as JDM trucks, finding one can be a daunting task.
This is mainly because JDM models are right-hand-drive (RHD), so you’ll you have to import them into the US as an import buy yourself, or a specialist importer.
If you wish to go down the specialist importer route, first, you have to communicate with JDM importers and see more about what they have in their inventory, and then with the exporters sort out the paperwork.
This process can be a real pain that can take months, or even years to find the perfect truck. So, in these situations, patience is the key if you really want to purchase and import a Japanese Domestic Market truck.
We’ll be providing more in-depth information regarding imports at the end of the article.
First, we are going to share our list of best JDM trucks with you, including both pickup trucks and also some of the Kei truck options that are very popular among JDM enthusiasts.
Best JDM Trucks – Our Top 10 Picks
It’s worth worth noting is that we#re only including JDM models in this guid.
So, you will not see the Tacoma, Tundra, Nissan Frontier, Titan, and other models that are sold here in the USA and Canada.
Another thing worth noting is that we will include light trucks, as well as Kei trucks. So, no heavy trucks either.
Now, let’s cover the top JDM trucks.
1. Toyota Stout Second Generation (1960 – 1978)
Now let’s start our list of best JDM trucks with something really special.
This is the Toyota Stout, which is probably one of the most American-looking JDM pickup trucks on our list.
The Stout’s timeless looks have put this truck on the legendary list. This truck basically wrote the history in the 1960s when it was introduced, and went on to enjoy a 19-year production stint, where it was then replaced by the third generation.
What is worth noting is that this truck was built for the Japanese domestic market. As well as in South Africa for the African market. So, this model also came with a rare left hand drive option.
Overall, the Stout became famous for its quad headlamp design, utilizing dual headlights on both sides.
The model competed with other Japanese mini truck models like the ones that we are going to cover next.
What is worth noting is that this truck came with the legendary Type R engine. The Type R is a family of inline-4 engines that have shown to be extremely reliable.
Believe it or not, some of these trucks are still alive and kicking in the African countries where they were mass imported. Now let’s move on to the next JDM trucks.
2. Nissan Sunny Truck (1971 – 1989)
Another legendary truck on our JDM tucks list is the Nissan Sunny truck.
The Sunny truck basically was a car-truck, something like a Japanese Ranchero or El Camino.
So, they took the Nissan Sunny, also known as the Datsun 1200 for export markets. And created a multi-purpose vehicle from it.
The Datsun 1200 was everywhere in the US in the early ‘70s with more than 133,000 units imported. But the Nissan Sunny was nowhere to be seen. So, why was that?
Well, this was partly because of a law called a Chicken Tax. This tax was invented because of the chicken war between France and Germany on the one side and the US on the other side.
This was an American way to protect their manufacturers of light-duty pickup trucks like Ford, Dodge, Chevy, and GMC. So, they invented the Chicken Tax.
This was a 25% tariff on light-duty pickup trucks imported into the US. At first, this tax was for chicken. But then became a tax for trucks as well.
So, the Sunny was doomed to fail in the US market after this 25% increase because nobody would buy it at that high price. So, it was never imported here.
Nevertheless, the Sunny was produced in really high numbers. And is very known for the A12 engines. These were tiny 1.2L engines that produced about 58 horsepower, but they were very reliable. Also, there was an option for a manual, as well as automatic transmission.
It’s also worth noting that this was one of the first models to implement a MacPherson suspension that is still widely used nowadays.
Now let’s move to the next JDM trucks.
3. Mazda B-Series (1965 - 1977)
Now let’s cover something really cool on our best JDM trucks list. And when it comes to the level of coolness, the Mazda B-Series ranks up there with the best.
Especially the second generation of the B-Series produced between 1965 and 1977. This model was also produced in the US and was known under the name Ford Courier and then this model became the Ford Ranger.However, the JDM model is somewhat special.
It might carry the same engines and transmissions as the Ford Courier, but what is most important is that this model is a genuine JDM product made for the Japanese domestic market.
In the JDM market, this model was known as the Mazda Proceed or Mazda 1500/1600/1800, depending on the engine type, since there were engines starting from 1.5L and up to 1.8L in displacement.
What is even more special is that the B-Series got the Wankel engine. That’s right, this pickup truck for the US market came with the 13B 1.3L two-rotor engine, and the truck was sold with the Wankel between 1974 and 1977.
So, if you want to get yourself a rotary model in the US, you can. There are more than 15,000 units sold in the US with this engine.
But if you are into proper JDM B-Series, you will only be able to get one with the inline engines because, for the JDM market, only these engines were available.
4. Suzuki Carry Truck
Now that we covered the mini-trucks, let’s move on to Kei JDM trucks and learn more about the best Kei truck out there.
And the Suzuki Carry is probably on the top of the list of every JDM car enthusiast out there. We will not focus on a specific model of the Carry since all of the models are somewhat special.
But our personal favorites are the fourth, fifth, and sixth generation of the Carry. These were the trucks produced between 1969 and 1979. We chose these models because they carry the most sentiment among the car community.
What is worth noting is that these cars were extremely mass-produced across Asia. They were sold in millions, and they still are, since there are countless more generations released from this Kei truck.
What is interesting about these trucks is that they are basically van conversions. The front cab is taken from a van and they slapped a bed in the rear and got a pickup truck.
The Carry is extremely versatile in extremely populated countries with narrow roads. There is not a lot of space to pass through, which makes these trucks a true lifesaver.
In the US, for example, these trucks would not make it, since here the demand for big trucks is much higher than in other parts of the world.
Now, let’s move on to the next on our list of best JDM trucks.
5. Subaru Sambar
Another Kei truck that we want to add to our list of best JDM trucks is the Subaru Sambar.
The Sambar is another very popular cab-over truck produced by Subaru from 1961 to 2012. From 2012, this model is made by Daihatsu.
Similar to the Carry truck that we covered previously, the Sambar is derived from a van platform. As of today, it is produced in a total of six generations.
But, when it comes to the sentiment, probably the third and fourth generations carry the most sentiment among buyers. These models were produced between 1973 and 1990.
As we noted, the model was also available in the US at some point as the Subaru 500/500 Jet Electra-van, and this a crazy story.
The model was imported during the 1970s and 1980s by a company known as Jet Industries.
This company converted these trucks into electric. So, we can say that we had electric cars, and we weren’t even aware of them!
The converted Sambar models were equipped with a 20-horsepower General Electric motor.
Other models that they converted were the Ford Courier/Mazda B-Series pickups that we previously covered.
Now let’s move on to the next on our list of best JDM trucks.
6. Honda Acty (1977 – 1988)
Another on our list of Kei JDM trucks is the Honda Acty. The Honda Acty is another very popular model in the JDM and other Asian markets.
For our purpose, we are only interested in the first generation of the Acty that was introduced in 1977 and was produced until 1998 when it was replaced.
This model came with a tiny engine. Only 2-cylinders. In a total of 545cc, and the engine was in the Honda E-series lineup.
Engines that saw a lot of use in the Civic and other Honda models from that era. The model produced about 38hp and 40 lb-ft of torque, and it had a top speed of 71 mph.
This model was exported to the United Kingdom and Australia, but never in the US market. Therefore, this is a proper JDM truck that only came as a right hand drive.
7. Daihatsu Hijet
The last Kei truck on our JDM trucks list is the Daihatsu Hijet. The Hijet is one of the best-looking Kei trucks in our opinion.
The Hijet was introduced in 1960 and is produced until the present day. Similar to other Kei trucks, the chassis is borrowed from a microvan.
When it comes to special models, probably the fourth and the fifth generation are one of the best. These were the models produced in the years between 1971 and 1981. Also, these models are heavily used in Asian markets. But unfortunately, not in the US.
These models came with two engines a 356cc inline-2, and a 547cc inline-2. The first engine is a two-stroker. You can see how tiny engines are used in Japan compared to the US.
Anyways, let’s take a look at where you can look for JDM trucks.
Where To Look For JDM Trucks?
Now that we covered our list of JDM trucks, let’s take a look at where you can look for JDM trucks. How to find one?
Well, your first option is to import one into the US (or another country) from Japan.
Most of these models are highly desired, and there are a lot of companies in Japan that work with exporting these cars from Japan to the US.
If you don’t want to bother importing one from Japan, we recommend finding a specialist in your region that could perhaps source your JDM truck in the US, or maybe take full control of the import process for you so that you don’t have to do the work yourself.
Other places where you can find one of these models are probably Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist, but you’ll likely need to keep your eye out for a while, and set up plenty of search alerts.
We strongly hope that you liked our list of JDM trucks. We tried to include every popular model from the JDM pickup truck segment, as well as the Kei truck segment.
Even though pickup trucks are better looking and good for showing off at the likes of Cars and Coffee, the Kei truck is really something unique and practical that you can use as your daily driver, or possibly as your work truck. We guarantee it’ll always turn heads, even if not everyone agrees with your different taste!
Both types of trucks are not powerhouses by any means, but they get the job done while being completely different to anything else offered in the US.
Our personal favorite truck is the Toyota Stout, the truck has a real presence on the road and looks very American.
However, if you want something that screams JDM, then the Nissan Sunny may well be the way to go.