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.Cutting Room Floor