Throwback Thursday: History of the Toyota HiLux
The Toyota HiLux has been around for more than 40 years and is one of the best-selling vehicles in Australia. Here’s the history of the Toyota HiLux, a true Offroad Icon.
JUST A FEW MONTHS before Elvis Presley gyrated his way back onto television in 1968, the first ever Toyota HiLux rolled off the production line at the Hino Motors Hamura plant in Japan. See, while the HiLux had been conceived by Toyota, and while Toyota had first built a utility back in 1947, the HiLux was born of a union between Toyota and Hino to produce a light 2WD utility.
That union, stretching back to 1966 came a year after the launch in 1965 of the second-generation Briska (the Briska was a Hino built light ute based on a the Renault Contessa sedan) which had been beefed up and redesigned to take the fight to Datsun’s ute. To match the Datsun, the Briska’s payload was upped from 600kg to 1000kg.
Once Toyota got involved, the Hino Briska, in 1967, after some design and engineering tweaks, became the Toyota Briska leaving Hino to take its name off light trucks and cars and focus on its burgeoning truck business. But that wasn’t the end of Hino’s involvement. Nope, Toyota commissioned Hino engineers to work on the design and engineering of a Toyota-branded successor for the Briska.
The short development time was due to the fact the new vehicle was just a mashing together of the Briska and Toyota’s Lite Stout which ran a shorter wheelbase than the Stout it was based on. Thus, in March 1968, the Toyota HiLux was born. Hino was subcontracted to assemble the thing.
That first HiLux while mostly being a bitsa of Hino and Toyota development in the Briska and Lite Stout saw the first time curved glass had ever been used in a light commercial and became a real combination of passenger car comfort with light commercial strength.
HIGH MEETS LUXURY
Yep, the HiLux is a mashing together of the words High and Luxury, although in the US it was marketed simply as the Toyota Truck. The US was the first export market, with sales there beginning in 1969.
The first HiLux borrowed its 1.5L engine (mated to a four-speed column-shift manual) from the Toyoace and in 1971 this engine was replaced with a 1.6L unit thumping out around 61kW. Adopting a body-on-frame construction, the HiLux featured a double wishbone/coil spring front suspension combination and a rigid axle/leaf sprung rear. The payload was 1000kg and the cargo bed measured 1850mm; the following year (1969) an extended wheelbase was introduced with a bed measuring 2250mm long.
The second-generation HiLux launched in 1972 and was aimed squarely at the US market – the up-spec SR5 variant was introduced on this generation. The mechanicals were mostly carried over from the first-generation model, although the wheelbase increased in length by 10mm and 45mm for the standard and extended wheelbase models.
To satisfy the US demands of more grunt to cruise on the highways, a 2.0L four-cylinder petrol engine (with 81kW) was introduced and came fitted with a three-speed automatic transmission. The 1.6L model was manual only but could be had with either a column shift or floor-mounted shifter; the floor mounted shifter meant front seat passenger capacity dropped from three to two with the HiLux getting separate driver and passenger seats for the first time.
US safety standards saw Toyota beef up the HiLux’s brakes, adding a tandem master cylinder with a master vac and load-sensing brake proportioning valves. But to meet tightening US emissions laws the 2.0L engine was dropped, with the 1.6L donk continuing as the only engine available; it was detuned to 72kW. The HiLux was still only 2WD at this time.
‘BORN IN JAPAN, RAISED IN THE US’…
…That was the heading on the brochure announcing the launch of the third-generation Toyota HiLux in September 1978, almost 10 years after the first generation was launched. Most of the running gear was the same as the second-generation model, although the coil springs at the front were replaced with a torsion bar. The HiLux was still only 2WD.
The HiLux now came in three standard length models and four extended wheelbase variants. The first extended cab, or what we’d now call a King Cab appeared with 90mm extra room than a standard cabin. Then in 1979, Toyota added a double-cab to the HILux and made a diesel engine available for rear-wheel drive models; it also saw the release of the first four-wheel drive HiLux. And a tailgate embossed with the word Toyota became a cost option; something that’s now a standard feature. The 4×4 model also ran a solid front axle and leaf suspension setup until 1986 when 4×4 models switched to independent front suspension.
Then in 1983, a new HiLux launched, although the third-generation continued to be offered in some markets as an entry model. All four-wheel drive models got a new body, characterised by blister guards front and rear. The model line-up grew from 17 to 20 with four engines now offered, a 1.8L petrol, 2.2L diesel, 2.0 petrol and a 2.4L petrol. 1984 saw the launch of the HiLux-based 4Runner. Oh, and the HiLux was still being built at Hino’s factories in Japan.
In 1986, live front axles on 4×4 variants were replaced across the board by independent front suspension with wishbones and half-shafts – previously only available on SR5 variants. The automatically disconnecting front differential (ADD) was carried over from the previous SR5 models. A quirky pub fact, SR5 came about in 1975 in the US and stood for Sport RN (engine code) and 5 for the five-speed manual transmission; although some have also suggested it stood for Sport Rally 5 (for the five-speed)…
POWER, STURDINESS AND COMFORT
These were the three pillars on which Toyota said it based its fifth-generation HiLux. And this is where the legend of the HiLux, at least here in Australia, was cemented. This fifth-gen model is one of the ARB Offroad Icons, and you can read all about the restoration of that vehicle here.
Launching in 1988, the same year Australia celebrated its bicentenary, the HiLux saw a reduction in body variants to one, with pressed doors and internal sash windows. But the major change was the difference between two-wheel (rear drive) and four-wheel drive models… for trainspotters, the difference between the two was that while both models had pumped guards, the 4×4 variants featured pumped guards with additional flares to minimise mud splatters up the side of the body.
This fifth-generation HiLux also marked the first overseas (non-Japan) production of the HiLux, and a joint agreement with Volkswagen saw the HiLux released as the VW Taro.
A suspension change in 1991 for double-cab models only saw a double-wishbone with torsion bar set-up added. This replaced the previous double wishbone and coil spring front-end set-up on 2WD models; 4×4 variants continued with their independent front end, leaf spring rear combination.
The sixth-generation HiLux arrived in 1997 and saw commercial and passenger variants split. And, here in Australia was offered with with the choice of four EFI-equipped engines: 2.0 litre petrol, 2.7 litre petrol, 3.0-litre diesel and 3.0-litre Turbo-diesel. In 2004, power windows were made standard features across the range.
The arrival of the seventh-generation HiLux in 2005 saw the launch of the most powerful full chassis ute in Australia. Yep, Toyota’s 4.0-litre V6 petrol produced 175kW and 376Nm of torque, which was borrowed from the Prado. This generation also saw the arrival of a new five-speed automatic.
Exterior styling was tweaked and the HiLux became bigger than its predecessor with the wheelbase increased by 235mm to 3085mm, the front track increased by 115mm to 1510mm and the rear track increased by 100mm to 1510mm. There were now 30 models in the HiLux line-up.
Safety was also a priority with this new HiLux with chassis and body stiffness improved by around 50% on the sixth-generation HiLux.
With Australia used for the first time as a test location for this seventh-generation HiLux, the suspension came in for its first full review and it now ran a new coil-spring double wishbone independent front suspension with ball-joint mounted stabiliser bar, in place of the previous double wishbone torsion-bar systems used in 4×2 and 4×4. Power-assisted rack and pinion steering replaced the previous recirculating ball and nut system to provide a more direct steering feel. The change, or return, to coil springs allowed designers to lower the vehicle’s overall floor height, for improved ingress and egress.
HERE AND NOW
The launch of the eight-generation Toyota HiLux in 2015 was a total makeover of the ute, with a thicker frame, stiffer body, new high-torque turbo-diesel engines, six-speed transmissions, beefed-up suspension and brakes, and improved off-road ability.
Like the seventh-generation, Australia was a key location in the development of the HiLux, and local engineers spent six years tweaking and tuning and testing, travelling more than 650,000 kilometres in Australia. A major first for the new HiLux, though, was the addition of an “intelligent” function via a button on six-speed manual fitted variants; it helps to match revs when shifting.
Some interesting stats for the latest HiLux are 20% greater rear wheel articulation than its predecessor, 279mm of ground clearance, side rails and cross members are 30mm thicker.