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50 years of the Toyota Hilux, the pick-up even Jeremy Clarkson couldn’t kill

By Paul Connolly

Happy 50th birthday this year to the Toyota Hilux, the ultra-tough pick-up truck that’s been proved to be well-nigh indestructible.

The Hilux – technically a light commercial vehicle – was born in March 1968, and is now on its eight generation.

It’s one of the greatest workhorses of all time, and, having shifted 18 million units since launch, is, says Toyota, “the world’s favourite pickup”.

Today, the Hilux is produced in six different countries and is on sale in 180 countries and regions throughout the world.

Its reputation for invincibility was dramatically highlighted by the BBC’s Top Gear programme in 2003 when Jeremy Clarkson set out to destroy one.

In series 3, episodes 5 and 6, a 1988 diesel N50 Hilux with 190,000 miles on the clock on the was subjected to extraordinary abuse – but still running after being repaired with tools from a mechanic’s toolbox.

Dramatically, the abuse included:

  • Being abandoned in the sea
  • Being set on fire
  • Having a caravan dropped on top of it
  • Being bashed with a demolition ball swinging from a crane
  • Falling from the roof of 23-story building amid a series of demolition explosions.

The incredible storyline, set across three segments with the clips still available on YouTube, led to the battered wreck of the Hilux being preserved for posterity at Top Gear HQ.

But Clarkson’s attempts to destroy the Hilux aren’t its only claim to fame.

In 2006, with Top Gear’s James May driving, it became the first vehicle to reach the magnetic North Pole, and it became the first 4x4 to reach the South Pole in 2009.

Today, Hilux is produced in six different countries and is on sale in 180 countries and regions throughout the world.

To mark the anniversary, Toyota has launched a new Hilux ‘Invincible 50 Chrome Edition’ with a range of bespoke accessories and a dedicated “Invincible 50” badge positioned on the front doors.

Here’s the lowdown on all generations:

1st Generation (1968―1972)

hilux_1st_004.jpg

The Hilux debuted in March 1968 as a new bonnet-type truck that integrated and succeeded the Briska and the Light Stout. The vehicle was conceived by Toyota, and was developed and manufactured by Hino Motors, Ltd. at its Hamura Plant.

The engine was a 1.5-liter 70 PS unit (2R), had a passenger capacity of three and a payload capacity of 1,000 kg, with a cargo bed that was 1,850 mm long.

The name Hilux is derived from the words "high" and "luxury."

2nd Generation (1972―1978)

hilux_2nd_002_s.jpg

The second-generation Hilux was placed on the market in May 1972. Both the long and short wheelbase versions succeeded the predecessors' mechanical components, although they extended the wheelbase by 10 mm and 45 mm, respectively. The length of the deck and the maximum payload capacity remained unchanged.

3rd Generation (1978―1983)

3rd Hilux.jpg

The third-generation Hilux went on sale in September 1978. Its model offered sedan-like specifications and equipment as well as ride comfort. The variations included three standard-length models and four long-body models. The 1.6-liter 12R-J engine was inherited from the previous generation

4th Generation (1983―1988)

4th Hilux.jpg

The fourth-generation Hilux was released in November 1983. The rear-wheel-drive (RWD) models included the Comfortable series and the Popular series; the former was the fourth-generation model with renewed interior and exterior design, while the latter was the third-generation model that remained in production. All 4-wheel-drive (4WD) models came with a new body.

5th Generation (1988―1997)

5th Hilux.jpg

The fifth-generation Hilux that came out in September 1988 represented the three basic concepts of power, sturdiness, and comfort. To enhance its functionality as a multi-purpose vehicle (known as RV or recreational vehicle in Japan at the time), the interior equipment was further upgraded. The basic body variations were reduced to one featuring pressed doors with integrated window sashes. A major difference between rear-wheel-drive (RWD) and 4-wheel-drive (4WD) models was the wheel arch flares.

6th Generation (1997―2004)

6th Hilux.jpg

The sixth-generation Hilux that was introduced in September 1997 consisted of a business-use truck line and a personal-use sports pickup line. The latter came with equipment and devices suitable for a multi-purpose vehicle, featuring extended cabin height and length as well as improved quietness.

7th Generation (2004―2015)

7th Hilux.jpg

The seventh-generation Hilux was launched in August 2004 as a new pickup truck for sale into more than 140 countries worldwide. Inheriting its rugged styling from the sixth-generation model, it offered 21st century customers the high levels of durability and comfort they were looking for, with lots of interior space, improved comfort, and both the ride comfort of a passenger vehicle and the convenience of an SUV.

8th Generation (2015―Now)

8th Hilux - 1.jpg

The eighth-generation Hilux was launched in May 2015. Above and beyond conventional ideas of toughness, it boasted ride comfort that made long, tough drives less gruelling, a quiet cabin and enhanced cruising range thanks to improved fuel efficiency.

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