Taiyo Racing Pick-Up 4WD (1988)

Released in 1988 and based on a series of real desert racing trucks, this beautiful ready-to-run Nissan Pick-Up R/C model was made by Taiyo of Japan.

Some of you may be aware there was also a Tyco version of this model. But I think the Taiyo version is even rarer. So rare, this article requires a Patreon donation before you can read it!

(Just kidding 😄)


Nope, no “Patreon” requests from me. And on that note, forgive me while I rant for just a moment 😄… Why does it seem like so many content creators on the web now expect a fee or “monthly subscription” for the privilege of watching them do something they love? Don’t we all have enough monthly bills to pay already? I’m okay if they merely ask for donations. But some of them are getting pushy, running sponsorships, or putting their content behind a paywall. Remember when the web consisted of little more than fan homepages about people’s interests? For every hobbyist who succumbs to the temptation to think “I can make money from my geekdom!!” and starts asking for cash, Patreon takes a cut of those donations. No wonder Patreon aims to commercialize as many hobbies, skills, YouTube channels, websites etc, as they can.

The web is, to me, a place intended for the free sharing of interesting information and to connect with others. Out of the shared passion we have for a given subject. 👍  I’m simply happy if you guys are happy. So as always, I appreciate any comments you leave, to let me know you’ve enjoyed your visit.

And that brings me to today’s passion, which is … vintage Nissan Baja racing trucks.

In the 1980s, the late American desert racer Sherman Balch used to race handsome red, white and blue Nissan trucks, like this one…

Sherman was a multiple winner (1976, 1982, 1987) of the Baja 1000 desert race in the USA. And in his later years, he raced a variety of these Nissan pick-ups, as did many others.

The exact variety of real Nissan pickup upon which Taiyo based their “Racing Pick-Up 4WD”, isn’t entirely  clear to me. But the photo above is the closest real-world example I’ve found so far to Taiyo’s model, and I think it’s pretty darn close. Note the colour, shape, headlights, and the spoilery bit behind the driver’s cabin, the spare tyre…  (You can also see other varieties of Nissan racing truck here and even a restoration thread here).

Now compare that real car, to Taiyo’s rather beautiful little R/C model from 1988…

The Taiyo Racing Pick-Up 4WD is a 1/14 scale off-road 4×4 vehicle that was released at a time when Taiyo, in their own words, intended to become “the top brand of toy radio control in terms of performance and price”. Apparently it coincided with an effort to reduce prices across the Taiyo R/C line. Though from what I can see, none of this came at the cost of quality.

The Racing Pick-Up 4WD was made in Japan and exudes Taiyo’s premium quality in every way – solid plastics, high-quality rubber, and superb livery and scale detail. Some of you may be aware that Tamiya also made one of these red, white and blue Nissan off-road racing trucks in 1989, which they called the Nissan King Cab. And while I own one of those too (and it’s a classic kit-based R/C model from Tamiya that I always found a pleasure to race around a track), on a realism scale at least – the Taiyo model actually has more well-proportioned looks than the Tamiya.

A very rare, official Taiyo photo of the Racing Pick-Up 4WD in action.

This vehicle also marks a little evolution in Taiyo’s model range, as it’s the first time they made something you could call a “high-speed” R/C truck. Prior to this, the years 1986 and 1987 had been  dominated by nimble off-road buggies. And prior to that, Taiyo had manufactured various R/C 4x4s, Jeeps and trucks over the years. But none were capable of anything like the speed of a buggy like a Jet Hopper. Well – the Racing Pick-Up 4WD was the car that changed all that. With a 4WD drive-train, and powered by twin motors, some of the documentation about this car claimed it was capable of 24Km/h, while the car and box itself actually says 25Km/h. Either way, this was easily the fastest pick-up truck Taiyo had ever produced at the time it was released.

Performance of this model, in my experience, is certainly extremely nimble. I can imagine flipping this car by performing hard turns on a bitumen or concrete surface – something I will never subject my example to, since it is really one of the few surviving examples I have seen in this kind of condition over the past 20 years…

Taiyo achieved this high speed by not only packing this car with their novel twin-motors idea, but also by adapting the tried and true chassis configuration of their buggies (independent front suspension, rolling axle rear suspension – with springs and friction shocks for both) – which is an inherently simple and lightweight format. Here, they also made it suit a 1/14 pick-up body so that the wheels wouldn’t flare out too far on either side of the body – preserving as much scale realism as possible.

The result is a very neat looking vehicle with smaller wheels than most buggies, and shorter travel suspension tucked under the body. But it’s a car still capable of blasting across not-too-rocky off-road terrain. As well as truly zipping along on any sort of smooth surface.

Rear suspension is a little softer than the front suspension, but I do love how neatly it all fits together with the front swing-arms tucked under the body. It’s not a perfectly scale realistic car of course, but it’s realistic enough to seem correct. And all the while, remain capable as an off-roading toy. A nice balance between the opposing concerns, and consistent with so many of Taiyo’s fantastic, good-looking, high-play-value R/C models from the mid to late 1980s.

At the rear gearbox you’ll find the ubiquitous High/Low gear change lever. While the rear tray carries a genuine spare tyre. I love it when toy cars carry a proper spare, instead of a fake.

In the USA, this model was released with slightly different livery, and known as the Tyco 4WD Turbo Racing Pickup. Merely finding any photos online of these models is a bit of a challenge. But below is what the Tyco version looked like. Both the original Taiyo release, and the Tyco/Taiyo release, came in two colour varieties – either a red or blue roof/bonnet. The images below show the Tyco/Taiyo release in the predominantly blue variety…

Back to the drive-train… the Taiyo Racing Pick-Up 4WD carries a front differential, but actually lacks a rear differential (similar to the earlier Jet Hoppers). Other 4WD buggy models by Taiyo (such as 1987’s Taiyo Jet Racer 4WD) typically did have a rear differential. So the lack of one here is a curious omission.

The body detail and decals are amazing. Just check out those perfect little Hella spotlights. My favourite spotlight brand. And a tastefully small front bumper also helps preserve the looks of this car (something often sacrificed by models in other brands, with their huge goofy bumpers)…

At the wheels, you have the popular block-pattern style tyre fomat (copied from the “Oval Block” tyres produced by Tamiya in the mid 80s on buggies like the Hotshot). And there are 4 identical examples of this “All Weather Tire” around the car.

The rear tyres are no bigger than the front tyres, since this is a 4WD after all. So all four corners of the car have equal grip.

I wonder if Taiyo had to pay any license rights for all those cool sponsor logos on this car? Most likely not. As companies often got away with this back in the good old days.

This model features quite a few famous brands – BFGoodrich, Champion, Hella, Monroe and others. And that’s a big part of why so many modern ready-to-run R/C toys fall short these days (in addition to their mediocre quality). Imagine seeing a hard-body, made-in-Japan, high quality R/C model, covered in real sponsors, at your local mainstream department store today? It just wouldn’t happen.

And now for a quick comment about Australia (where I live) – because I must say, I don’t think this model was ever sold here. Most of the Taiyo models that were sold in Australia were sold under “Metro/Taiyo” branding. And in all my years, I’ve just never really come across this car in Australia… not a nice one, not a terrible one, not eBay, or Gumtree, or… anywhere. I’ve also never seen it mentioned in any Australian toy catalogues or brochures. If I’m wrong though, and you do remember seeing it in Australia – please let me know!

And that leads me to the really big caveat about the Taiyo Racing Pick-Up 4WD, and why it’s so rare today. This was a very short-lived model, that was sadly discontinued all too soon.

To the best of my knowledge, the reason why this beautiful Nissan is so incredibly rare today is because it was only produced for a single, solitary year – 1988. And that applies to both the Taiyo release in Japan, and the Tyco/Taiyo release in the USA.

In 1989 it was discontinued. The 1989 Tyco annual catalogue no longer included it. Precisely why it was discontinued, I can only speculate – but I believe it was because Tyco wanted to replace it with a new vehicle they felt would sell better in the US market. So they put an order in with Taiyo to manufacture a replacement model with similar looks.

The Tyco/Taiyo 9.6v Turbo Baja Bandit was more successful and re-used the Nissan body from the Taiyo Racing Pick-Up 4WD. But it was also a different car underneath and only 2WD.

This replacement was, of course, the Tyco/Taiyo 9.6v Turbo Baja Bandit. Which actually featured the same body mold as the Taiyo Racing Pick-Up 4WD – except, atop a completely new 2WD chassis.

The Baja Bandit went on to become a hugely popular model in the US, with it’s own TV commercials and even a spin-off slot car set, much like the Turbo Hopper buggy. Really, the Baja Bandit was even more like a buggy underneath (and shared it’s chassis with later buggies in the ‘Hopper’ line). Nevertheless, it presented a similar style of model on the outside – a Nissan off-road pickup, minus all the Nissan branding. Tyco also had Taiyo jazz it up a bit more with chrome windows and a new colour scheme.

As with most Taiyo models from the late 1980s, the manual of the Taiyo Racing Pick-Up 4WD featured the great colour box-art image of the car on the front, and typically came with a spare set of steering clips in a little bag taped to the front (these are clips that fasten the steering rods and were considered easily breakable during impacts). The transmitter meanwhile, was the fairly standard Jet Hopper style two-stick unit, complete with legendary “turbo” shift on the accelerator.

About 12 years ago I had the fortune of discovering the official Taiyo website (Japanese-only), before it was shut down for good. On it, Taiyo had a little history section – and for the year 1988, it was clear they considered the Taiyo Racing Pick-Up 4WD one of their premiere models. Calling it out with a photo to highlight it’s significance (alongside with the “Turbo Grabber 4WD” buggy)…

Taiyo released a total of 33 different R/C models in 1988.

In 2007, the Taiyo Kogyo company was purchased by Sega. But within another couple of years, it was liquidated. Bringing a sad end to a toy manufacturing history that began in 1960. Taiyo had actually manufactured R/C models from 1975 until 2007 – about 32 years in total.

Among those years, I would say that the mid-late 1980s were Taiyo’s golden heyday. And among the models they produced during those years, the incredibly short-lived Taiyo Racing Pick-Up 4WD stands as one of my absolute favourites. I wonder if Sherman Balch, or any of the other real Baja racing drivers, ever knew it existed?

Here is perhaps my favourite photo, from my photo shoot this week…

So in conclusion…

If you’re looking for the Taiyo Racing Pick-Up 4WD – keep looking.

About my only tip for finding one is that you may stand a slightly better chance of finding the Tyco/Taiyo release on eBay, than the purely Taiyo release featured on this page. But generally speaking, both releases of this car are near unobtainium in good condition. And still extremely rare even in bad condition. All due to it’s very limited production run.

The Taiyo example on this page actually took me several years to find in such minty condition. But what an eye-catching little car it is, with that iconic Nissan red, white and blue of the 1980s.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this profile. And as always – happy collecting!


On this page: Taiyo Racing Pick-Up 4WD (1988)

DetailSpecification
Scale1/14
Length330mm
Drive4WD
Motor(to be confirmed)
Gearbox2-speed
DifferentialYes (Front only)
Suspension

Yes

Digital ProportionalNo
Batteries8 x AA (Car). 1 x 9volt (Transmitter)

How rare is the Taiyo Racing Pick-Up 4WD (1988)

The ratings below are purely an estimate, based on experience collecting R/C cars since the early 1990s (and on eBay since 1999). NIB means "New in box".
CommonOccasionalRareExtremely Rare
NIB
Used

Issues to look for: Taiyo Racing Pick-Up 4WD (1988)

This table explains the issues to look for, when purchasing a vintage Taiyo Racing Pick-Up 4WD (1988) in any condition.
IssueDetails
Items sometimes missing on this modelThe headlights from the front bumper bar, and the spare tyre at rear are sometime missing.
Other parts to check on this modelMost examples that are around these days tend to have fairly worn or scuffed decals. The rear tyres may suffer from excessive wear due to the lack of a rear differential. The white plastic body may also suffering from some yellowing if it has been exposed to UV light.

Model History: Taiyo Racing Pick-Up 4WD (1988)

The original model was the Taiyo Racing Pick-Up 4WD. Over time, there may have been different releases around the world with different distributor branding and so forth. The table below lists all releases of this model that we know of. If you think you have found another not shown here, feel free to contact me. To learn more, please also visit the Models, Releases and Variants page.
ReleaseNameDescriptionSold in...YearImage
Taiyo"Racing Pick-Up 4WD"Original release of the car by Taiyo.Worldwide1988
Tyco/Taiyo"4WD Turbo Racing Pickup"Tyco/Taiyo release in the USA, where it was called "4WD Turbo Racing Pickup"USA1988

3 comments

    1. Super truck for sure. I live in the USA and a friend of mine had a 1988 or 1989 Nissan 4wd extended cab pickup. In the USA i believe it was sold / marketed as the Nissan Hardbody pickup. My friends truck was an XE or SE V6 model. It looked almost identical to the truck in this review, which was a very entertaining read, thank you. Btw, the “rant” was a good one. Spot on. Cheers, good health and best wishes!

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