The Daihatsu Hijet is a series of micro vans and kei trucks produced by Daihatsu over ten generations since 1960. The way that the Hijet developed within this period reflects how Japan's regulations on the kei have also evolved. The Hijet’s rivals in this market segment at the time were the Honda Acty, Nissan Clipper, and Suzuki Carry.
The first engine installed on the Hijet was a 360-cc two-stroke engine, which was what the kei law allowed in 1960. In 1976, the Hijet engine upsized to 550 cc and 660 cc in 1990, all reflective of the changes in kei regulations.
Daihatsu built the 2,000,000th Hijet in 1980.
First Generation: L35/L36 (1960-1966)
The first Hijet was a kei truck (L35) released in November 1960. Its microvan sibling (L36) followed its footsteps in May 1961. Both versions had a front-engine, rear-wheel-drive layout and a 356-cc petrol engine with a peak power output of 13 kW, top speed of 75 km/h. It sent power to the rear wheels with a 3-speed manual gearbox.
Second Generation: S35/S36 (1964-1968)
The second generation did not change in size and engine. It instead changed its layout to mid-engine (with the same drivetrain) and adopted a cab-over body structure to increase the Hijet’s cargo space without increasing the vehicle’s dimensions.
Third Generation: S37 (1968-1972)
The third generation introduced minor changes. Front-hinged doors replaced the previously rear-hinged door. The engine, size, and layout construction remained the same as the second generation. If anything, the hoodless cab-over now appeared even boxier than before.
Fourth Generation: S38/S40 (1971-1981)
This generation was initially released as a truck/ute powered by the same old 360-cc two-stroke 2-cylinder ZM engine. This version (S38), however, underwent significant modifications, including a live leaf-spring rear suspension, side sliding doors, top-hinged tailgate, and a revised front clip and rear bumper.
When kei regulations allowed bigger engines, the Hijet received a 547-cc 4-stroke 2-cylinder AB20 OHC engine (19 kW, 39 Nm) mated to a 4-speed manual gearbox, which was the version marketed in the country as the Hijet 550 (S40). It was longer by 50 mm than the previous generations. It also gained bigger bumpers and a new front clip, and could carry 350 kg compared to the 300-kg capacity of the earlier versions.
Daihatsu Australia marketed the first Hijet 550 (S40) in 1971 as a single model, the 2-door 2-seat ute. It stayed in the market until 1981 without the other variants.
Fifth Generation: S60 (1980-1981)
This generation overlapped with the last two years of the fourth generation. It used the same engine and layout but offered a wider body. Daihatsu aptly called it the Hijet Wide 55 (S60). Hijet pickups with one opening flap are designated the chassis code S60P, while pickups with three-way drop-side flaps have the code S60T. Vans have the chassis code of S60V. The 2,000,000th Hijet was an S60.
Meanwhile, Australia skipped this generation and continued receiving the previous S40 or Hijet 550 during this period.
Sixth Generation: S65/S70 (1981-1986)
In 1981, Daihatsu updated the Hijet (S65) by lengthening its engine, offering flat-floor and high-roof options for the van version. The S65 used the same 547-cc AB20 2-cylinder engine (21 kW, 41 Nm).
In 1982, the following new engines stepped up the Hijet lineup:
- 843-cc CD 3-cylinder petrol engine (28 kW, 58 Nm) paired with a 4-speed manual
- 993-cc CB 3-cylinder petrol engine (33 kW, 74 Nm) paired with a 4-speed manual
The 993-cc engine was available only for the 2-seat base model commercial van, while the 843-cc engine was sold in a 2-seat base model commercial van, 4-seat Deluxe model, and 2-seat ute. Four-wheel-drive versions also became available in 1983, with only the 993-cc engines powering them after the 843-cc units were discontinued.
Australia continued to receive the Hijet only until 1990. The models in the last few years were carried over from the sixth generation, powered exclusively by the 993-cc CB engine mated to a 5-speed manual gearbox. The range offered both the commercial van (base, Deluxe, Low Roof) and ute versions.
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