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How To Buy A Used Pickup

Tori Tellem | Writer
Posted January 4, 2011
Photographers: The 4-Wheel & Off-Road Files

So why'd we pick these years to focus on for Toyota? Well, 1979 was the first year Toyota pickups were offered in four-wheel drive. And from then until 1985, Toys came with solid front axles-it was 1986 when live axle versus IFS became the subject of many a-heated campfire discussion.

These Toyotas were called the Son of Land Cruiser because many drivetrain parts were carryover from the 'Cruiser. And that's a big plus for these model years since parts are readily available. But for some real shopping secrets, we turned to the Toyota experts: Jim Sickles of Downey Off-Road Manufacturing, Marlin Czajkow-ski of Marlin Crawler, and John Hendricks of Northwest Off-Road Specialties. They tell us that '79-'85 Toyotas are cheap to buy, easy to find parts for at wrecking yards and in the aftermarket, inexpensive to repair, dependable, and tough.

Models Available One advantage Toyota has over other manufacturers is that it keeps things simple, from the vehicle design to the configurations. The SR5 package came in 1981 and was an interior/exterior upgrade, but there were no packages that affected the engine or performance. The '79-'9511/42 pickups were called Hi-Lux though the name was rarely seen past the early '80s and changed to Tacoma in mid-1995. The pickups came in standard bed and longbed, and while there were no sheetmetal changes from 1979 to 1983, the big going-ons happened in 1984-the introduction of the Xtracab, which has a shortbed on a longbed frame for 2 more feet of interior room.

For you spotter's guide fans out there, '79-'82 Toyotas have round headlights and the '83-'85s have square. The '84-'85s appear taller because they have square-cut fenderwells versus the '79-'83s round ones. Grilles changed slightly during the '81-'83 model years.

Engine Options There were three Toyota pickup four-cylinder engines used from 1979 to 1985: 20R, 22R, and 22R-E. There was a 21R, but it was used only in Japan. The '79-'80s had the 20R carbureted 2.2L engine; the '81-'83s were fitted with the 22R carbureted 2.4L engine; and '84-'85s came with either the 22R carbureted or the 22R-E electronic fuel injection.

It's easy to tell the engines apart-just read the writing on the wall. On the driver side of the engine behind the alternator is a flat, machined area with the engine designation. Also look on the nose of the valve cover-if you're lucky there will be a decal with the original engine size. Or for more of a challenge, look for the 20R's round intake ports; the 22R has square intake ports. The intake manifolds are not interchangeable.

All of those four-bangers can be easily upgraded for performance. One drawback of the solid-axle Toys is that they were never available with a V-6.

Year Displacement Induction Compression Horsepower Torque
'79-'80 20R/2.2L
carb; 2bbl 8.4:1 90 @ 4,800 122 @ 2,400
'81-'87 22R/2.4L
carb; 2bbl 9.0:1 96 @ 4,800 129 @ 2,800
'84-'95 22R-E/2.4
EFI 9.0:1 105 @ 4,800 140 @ 2,800
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