If you’re a fan of the mini-truck craze that started in the mid 1970s, you owe a big ‘Thank You’ to this week’s Vintage Monday feature vehicle and its well-known off-road racer. Check out the 1974 Spencer Low Datsun racing pickup truck!
Now, if you know much about the Datsun brand you probably know that the company’s cars started being embedded into the rally world in the 1930s. In 1958, Datsun entered its first international rally–The Australia Mobil Gas Trial–under the guidance of one of Nissan’s marketing executives named Yutaka Katayama. As it turns out, the competition, which was basically a full off-road lap of the Australian continent, was won that year by a Datsun 210 nicknamed “Fuji-Go.”
Following this win, Nissan continued in its rally pursuits, entering races such as the East African Safari Rally, the Canadian Winter Rally, the Monte Carlo Rally and the Welsh Rally. Baja races were also entered with some success.
In the 1970s, Spencer Low, a soon-to-be factory-backed racer, took a mid-1970s (1974 or 1975 depending on who you source) Datsun pickup and turned it into the four-wheel-drive off-road racer you see here. It was sponsored by Low Manufacturing, which was one of the off-road industry’s first performance parts suppliers at the time (Low was into making off-road conversions for the Datsun), and was equipped to compete against Jeeps, VW buggies and Broncos, which were popular at the time in the off-road world.
With Low’s knowledge of the off-road racing scene and the backing of his company Low Manufacturing, this little truck competed in sand drags, short-course racing and even desert racing.
With the help of Spencer Low, the Datsun pickup truck became a popular off-road platform, for which Low Manufacturing made parts specifically, turning the trucks into capable off-roaders.
In 1975, Nissan was named the SCORE Mini Truck Manufacturer of the Year, thanks to the Datsun brand’s presence in the industry, as well as the pure competitiveness of the Spencer Low Datsun trucks.
Nissan claimed this title every year through 1978 and then went on to claim at least one HRDA Truck Series Championships in 1984, 1985, 1986, 1988 and 1989. Among those racers who helped Nissan take these championship wins home were Mario Alesi, Jack Johnson, Roger Mears, and of course, Spencer Low.
Purchased by Dana Dague in 2012 as a rough shell of what this truck used to be, the Spencer Low ’74 Datsun has come full circle in the industry, having gone through a complete rehabilitation.
In its new life, the truck features an SLR engine built by Maxed Performance of Huntington Beach, California, FOX racing shocks, a Maxed Performance transmission, Precision 4-Wheel Drive front axle, and a driveline from Driveline Incorporated out of Mission Viejo, CA.