Nissan Junior

Car of the Day #86: 1970 Nissan Junior

Nissan Junior
Nissan Junior • via Nissan

I always find end-of-the-line vehicles interesting…or is it how so many automakers seem to like the name Junior?

With all varietal of Nissan Junior being both more rare than hen’s teeth and decomposing as quickly as summer roadkill, this little truck is one of a select few that is both ancient, long-lived, and recently still in production.

In 1956, Nissan introduced what we'd now consider a medium-duty pickup truck, only medium-duty in Japan at that time meant a 50 horsepower 1.5-litre 4-cylinder engine—and a rated, Ford Maverick destroying payload of 1,580 kg (1.75 tons). 

Seems like quite a lot of weight, 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, being able to construct their own buildings, getting into semi-professional earthmoving, or needing to carry larger loads (because they'd earned more customers), trucks 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.)

As progeny do, Junior grew in size, 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 (Nissan SD) as well. That oil burner, believe it or not, was also for a time offered in the U.S. by Chrysler Marine (the MN 22) — but you will never catch me trying to pilot that lump through Miami's Haulover Inlet.

From a thread-ending boat forum post:

“SD 33 bears NO family relationship whatsoever with later Nissan engines. For a start old Chrysler Nissan motors had Diesel Kiki fuel pumps with horrible pneumatic governing, this was all Stone Age technology. Just think about it: 3.3 litre in-line 6 cylinder indirect fuel ignition (IDI) engine with only a four bearing crank, developing just 90 hp.” - via

Anyway, good luck finding yourself a handsome Nissan Junior, as it was not a strong seller, and the company restricted its sales 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 former Prince dealerships, and at this time, Datsun was also still around…the company is lucky people knew where to buy its cars at all.

In Asia at large, Junior 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; plus, larger car-based utilities were much more comfortable, fuel-efficient, and practical for everyday use. In 1982, Junior was kicked out of Nissan’s house, making it a difficult proposition to find a nice example these days. 

Unless, that is, you have friends in Persia. 

And by Persia, I mean Iran.

Zamyad Z24 • via Zamyad

Before I proceed, one caveat here: good luck learning more about the truck if you live in the U.S. or even the ‘West’ in general. Why? Without a VPN that has servers in a country allowed to do business with Iran, your ISP may take exception to your interest in an automaker who assembles outdated Nissans.

Even now, it’s a bear to visit the official website, at your own risk:

Here’s a truck that was just not selling in Asia by 1982, and after Nissan sold the rights to SAIPA in 1986, the Iranian automaker introduced the Z24 truck, a Nissan Junior by any other measure. Fitted with a 2.4-litre engine of unknown-to-me origin, it was first built by Zamyad Co. in 1998, and then rebranded as the Zamyad Pickup in 2003.

Zamyad Co. is a subsidy of SAIPA, and handles the production and sale of commercial Volvo trucks and vans.

I'm not kidding when I say that you can go to the company website and research the Pickup, available with both a Z24 (claimed to be Euro emissions-compliant) 2.4-litre 4-cylinder engine model, and a Z28 2.8-litre diesel version. 

My favourite part of this entire saga? Here's a truck that's been assembled in some form or another since the ’70s, was exported all over the world, is all but forgotten in the West, and is now spending its twilight in Iran.

The official photos of this truck? The company doctored photos of scale models to “show” potential uses for the truck, with dump truck, fire truck, cherry picker, and other bodies. I've included them below for your amazement and amusement:

Is this not all a bit…strange and delightful, in a roundabout sort of way? 

Would you have a Junior with a modern diesel powertrain and the body of your Tehranian dreams…or as an EV conversion you'll rebadge and road register as a Nissan Miler?


Thank you to my supporting members: Ben B., Brad B., Chris G., Daniel G., Damian S., Daniel P., Drew M., Ingrid P., Karl D., Luis O., Michael J., Michael L., Michelle S., Mike B., Mike L., Mike M., Richard W., Sam G., Sam L., Wiley H.