The Hardcore Tokyo x Pandem Pickup
Tough Spirit

The Rocket Bunny philosophy applied to a left-hand drive, US-only long bed version of a ’70s Japanese pickup. It sounds like an unlikely pairing, but this Pandem Datsun 620 makes much more sense than you might first think.

The truck was created to tell the story of Tokyo’s underground car scene in the 1980s, and there’s hardly a better chassis to do it with.


Of course, the ’78 pickup has a story as well, and we’ll start there. After seeing a local’s Datsun on a visit to the Modesto area, Kei Miura wanted to create one himself.


I’ve seen Carlos’ truck several times now at various shows, and as luck would have it, he turned up for dinner the night I shot the 620 at hand.


Miura-san knew that if he was going to build an old Japanese pickup, it would have to be done right. This wouldn’t be an ordinary Pandem kit, thus the ideology of the build would have to be extraordinary.


That’s where Junichi Takahashi of Hardcore Tokyo comes in. He’s a man who has stood up for and been a part of the underground car scene for decades. In other words, the perfect collaborator to pull off the build.


As the owner of the car, Jun wanted it to be created in an authentic manner; it was to be an ’80s-style build through and through. It had to represent the working man, a typical daily driver that was built over years of hard work both in the office and the garage.


As the poster board that accompanies the 620 says, any ride like this in the ’80s was built “upon blood sweat and tears, this was their life obsession.” While I think many of us can relate to that, it was just different in the ’80s.


The tough spirit of the bosozoku, midnight Wangan racers, and touge runners of the time is unparalleled today. Those who weren’t a part of it (including myself, obviously) will never fully understand the intricacies of the scene in its time.


What we do all know full and well is the aftermath: the ’90s JDM vibe permeates builds the world over. Be it a drift car, a show car, or a time attack racer, the aesthetic cues from the 1990s are often very obvious. You don’t need to look farther than the SSautopower lot to see this influence.


But these themes are only what’s left of the ’80s, when this all started. Likewise, most of the builds that are created now are really just based off of leftover ideas from the ’90s, and they’ll never quite be the same. This evolution of every car scene is what makes it so deep and diverse; endlessly interesting and intriguing.


It’s what keeps you building and us hunting.

Daily Driver

So, what makes this thing go? The SR20DE swap was sourced from an S15 Silvia Spec-S, topped off with an awesome set of Tec-Art’s Japan independent throttle bodies. The engine build was completed at SSautoPower, where I met up with Daniel Mendoza (Dee) for the second time in a couple months.


In the engine bay you’ll notice a complete lack of wiring at the moment; since my trip to shoot the 620 was so last minute, I was told there wasn’t time to put the harness back in with the short notice I gave the shop. In fact, they had just pulled it out.

When I saw the truck next to the AutoCon show at Irwindale Speedway a couple weekends back the JWT harness was there, but being the perfectionist he is, Dee wanted to button it up a bit more. I imagine things may have been just a tad rushed getting the pickup together for the FD booth, perhaps similar to many SEMA builds underway at the moment


Tucked harness or not, you need to get the thing to sit in the engine bay regardless, which happened via an SSworxs mount kit. Also from the SSautopower/SSworxs boys is the exhaust manifold, a one-off part made just for this build.


They also provided their SS spark plug cover which blends nicely with the ITBs. Both contrast the engine bay, which was painted using a proper hot rod black. Fuel delivery is handled via an AEM high-flow pump, managed by an AEM Series 2 engine management system. The injectors used for the build are what you’d find on a 1JZ-GTE motor, which provide plenty of juice to the small four-cylinder.

Tomei cams provide a bump in the power that’s sent out back through an ORC clutch kit and a rebuilt transmission, also done in-house. You then get power to the rear wheels through a one-piece driveshaft by CVB.


As you can see, the inner passenger headlight is actually a mesh screen to provide fresh, cool air to the intake. All around, just a proper job. While they could have easily shoved any number of V8s under the hood, this four-banger just fits the build so much better. The SR20DE (theoretically) makes it a viable daily driver for any average hardworking person who tinkers in the garage in the evenings, exactly what it’s supposed to be.

Working Man

Just as easily as putting in a larger motor, the car could have been finished off with a shiny, perfect paintjob like we saw in the teaser renders. But for the truck which would wear the first-ever of these kits, that did not suit the creative genius that is Hardcore Jun and Kei Miura.


This pickup was to represent the thousands before it that were built by the common working man who was driven to create something outstanding for themselves. Likewise, Jun has done the same with this build. Born and raised in Tokyo, Jun grew up in that ’80s era and saw it all happening in front of him; through this build the bad boy boso culture lives.


The body was painted white before being sanded down for the in-progress look the truck wears. Again, this Datsun was not built to win shows but rather tell the story of how things were during the ’80s in and around Tokyo.


Underneath, it’s all been thoroughly gone through with a complete frame-off restoration. From front to back, the chassis was painted to match the engine bay. Flipped leaf springs in the rear and custom re-indexed torsion bars up front are matched with Revolver-R mini shocks. With the SSautopower trailer as evidence, I can assure you it is plenty low in the front.


With this setup, though, the truck sits just right. And, as I mentioned, being the long bed version that was only available in the States, it’s even more desirable overseas.


Similar to the exterior, the interior was kept even more simple. It’s almost entirely stock besides a few small details like a Tomei shift knob along with the bare-metal cupholder and door panels which match the engine look.


The build is completed with a fitting set of wheels: 15-inch diameter Work Equip 40s. Measuring 9-inches wide up front and 10.5-inches wide out back, it’s a meaty setup for the lightweight pickup. Hoosier R7 rubber provides all the grip you could ever need.


This truck really is what you might’ve seen showing up at an underground meet 30 years ago. It even has that old school JDM scent about it; I’m not sure what exactly it is, but I’m sure you know what I’m talking about.

True Spirit

As you can see, it’s already a complete build, but as with any custom creation that’s freshly finished, updates are sure to appear in the coming weeks and months. However, there were no half measures or items that were looked over. Rather, the untouched areas are purposely preserved.


In doing so, the build is just as it should be. It’s simple, yet refined. An awesome collaboration between Rocket Bunny and Hardcore Tokyo, along with a handful of other sponsors and the team who put it all together at SSautopower.


It’s a throwback for those who were there at the underground shows in Japan during the era where street drifting and late-night touge runs began.


It’s an avenue of insight for the next generation to learn from – believe it or not, fender flares and aero kits are good for more than Instagram likes.


In the days before social media, there were those who built their cars, trucks, and bikes this way; the way they wanted. Just for themselves, over years and years of hard work.


As Jun said, “Born and raised in Tokyo. Not media made – forever my heart will be racing in the streets.” A classic Japanese pickup that’s been crafted by true spirit, indeed.

Trevor Yale Ryan
Instagram: tyrphoto

Cutting Room Floor


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A few years ago, I passed up the chance to buy a 620 kingcab (here in the UK) as you can image.... I'm getting my back up about it almost daily.


Haha another will turn up! What do they go for out there anyway? They tend to be as cheap as 1,500US in a neglected state.


There's 2 good condition ones on ebay right now for £8000. Unless basically a barn find turns up I can't imagine seeing a neglected one for sale.


they basically don't exist here these days, the only ones you see are imported ones, in grotty condition anywhere between £4,000 and £6,000, good ones closer to 10 and that's standard form.


Oy that's rough! A quick search found me this a couple hours away. A little rough but only $1,300...come on out and sneak it back over.


I was looking to pay £4,500 for this :


This picture is pure gold... <3

Kudos on this and the whole article :)


Thanks mate!


a bit tryhard with the whole "STREET BUILT BRAH!!" thing
ends up like the videogame companies ran by old dudes making games for the young, ending out shit


I'm not sure where you picked up the idea that this truck was built "for the young" or for anyone besides Takahashi himself. He's been doing things his own way for a long time.

Also, what if old dudes are just making games for themselves...and letting young guys like you fund them


i never implied in my comment that he built it for the young, you just might not have good reading comprehension, if any. i'm saying that it looks like it tries too hard to be "street" but it ends out being half-assed and it's obvious that he didn't make this with his own money


eugh......sooo, so close.

That paint and stickers ruin it.


"Miura-san knew that if he was going to build an old Japanese pickup, it would have to be done right. This wouldn’t be an ordinary Pandem kit, thus the ideology of the build would have to be extraordinary."

Read the article twice..... still can't see what's special about the kit and there's no real mention of it beyond that paragraph? Also, the graphics are a bit inelegant, but to each their own.


It just doesnt do it for me.


Once again another build that was in my area I never knew about. Surprised me again.


Yeah, SSautopower is pumping out some awesome stuff! Sorry we couldn't connect; like I said my trip was very last minute to squeeze in time with the car before the builder left for Japan.

Brennan McKissick

I like the overall idea behind the truck and actually really like the aesthetic but it's a bit over the top with the stickers. I get what they are trying to say, but the stickers are just too much. Everything else though is spot on. I love the fact more people are using the N/A SR20 motors and building them.


Yes, I was very happy to see this engine end up in the car! Great execution, too.

Jay Soh Tsu Chung

As good as this thing looks, my OCD would not allow me to like this truck because it is not sitting parallel to the ground.


Don't look haha! We do weird stuff here in the US of A....anyway, I personally love the old school stance of this RBxHC 620 build.


It just seems a bit too try hard with the stickers and the sign especially

He's built the car just for himself, so why does he need to explain it to anyone else?


I feel it's missing the roll bar/spoiler combo from the renders, which would have made it look a lot more like a race truck.
Would have made a good design element to visually connect the top rear of the cab to the rear wheels. Right now the bed looks a little frail.

I'm digging those wheels though.


Yep, you're correct there. As far as I know, the roll bar will be added as an option later on, along with a custom grille and other smaller components.


How do you see out that windshield??


I do like that this is a bit more relatable. I like how the truck is a bit tatty and old. Front spoiler looks great, and the flares look great how they have a high protruding arch in them.


Love the idea and the feeling of the build! Wish I could have been alive back then ;)


Excellent article. I like the message behind the owners build. A lot of people don't pay attention to the history of sport. I recall seeing a tuner in the MX5 community who was praised for his use of a DRS style rear wing that he adapted from modern day Formula 1 cars. If you go back several decades to Sterling Moss there is an account of a DRS style device on one of his racing machines from the 50s I believe.

Very important to study and analyze the decades past. A lot of stuff has already been done that is hailed as innovative to the current generation of enthusiasts.


Love the truck, and build, but those stickers, kinda like put together by a 13 year old teenager screaming "I support violent driving"


No mention of how this 6 lug truck is now running 4 lug wheels??


Good catch, I did neglect to mention that the truck is running an SSworxs six-to-four lug adapter.


This truck is just oozing Japanese tuner spirit, distilled in its purest form. i bet the "old school jdm" smell in the cabin is amazing, as with cars from that era lol


bloody hell the writing on Speedhunters is some of the worst i've come across. shut up already with 'working class / created to tell a story' banter. It's just a pretty car stop with the superlatives.


Love the "no more headlight", million stickers, rivets, and brown wheels. very unique


I don't know why the cover photo looks like a rendering to me... like, I thought that's part of Miura-san's render photo.


These are the builds I like to see. A working man's ride. No glitz and glamour. All business. I wish I had a lot of knowledge about the scene in Japan in the 80s. But I only know of certain cars during that time.


This car was built for internet likes. The owner can try all he like's to convince me otherwise, but I won't believe it. There is nothing 'hardcore' about this vehicle, aside from the 'worn' paint. Driving like a dumbass doesn't make you cool.

Also, it's mentioned in the article that Hardcore Tokyo has been a part of the 'underground' car scene for years. Doing what, selling t-shirts? If all it takes to gain notoriety in the 'underground' car scene is sell stickers and t-shirts, then I'll leave that to the cool guy 17 - 22 year olds.

You know, the ones that think cars like this are 'hardcore'.


I have to agree.
Ditch all the ridiculous "look at me" stickers - it states it's "hardcore" twice and "violent" three times - and I'd like it much more. Street racers would prefer to have the visibility out of the windshield, and this thing is screaming to be pulled over as-is.

It reminds me of the guy who tells you constantly "I do MMA" and instigates bar fights with a puffed out chest. If you're legit, truly legit, you don't need to remind anyone.



Great car and write up. I've just picked up a long bed a few weeks back. Imported from states to uk.


Fake grease stains.......fakyu


What size tires on this?