Small Hauler: The J.Beat x Pandem Datsun Sunny Truck

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‘It’s not how big it is, it’s what you do with it.’ That was my response when Jun Sakamoto showed me around his workshop, humbly making excuses for its modest size. To be fair, I’d seen smaller.

Nestled in a small hamlet in rural Saitama, J.Beat Custom has turned out some of the coolest Pandem and Hardcore Tokyo builds over the past few years. Jun Takahashi‘s Hardcore Tokyo Camaro, the Pandem C5 Corvette and Tokyo Auto Salon 2024-debuted Pandem Datsun D22 Frontier – which I’ll be sharing with you soon – were all built out of this simple space.


This isn’t the first Rocket Bunny-kitted Datsun truck that we’ve seen on Speedhunters. Way back in 2017, Trevor shot the Hardcore Tokyo x Pandem Datsun 620 after it was built up in the USA.


While the 620 was somewhat rough and ready, Sakamoto-san’s J.Beat Custom x Pandem Sunny – which also made its debut at TAS last month – is that little bit more refined, but still manages to retain a pseudo, raw race car feel that somehow works.


The green and gold livery pays homage to the KPGC110 Skyline GT-R concept that Nissan showed at the 19th Tokyo Motor Show in 1972, which has a JPS vibe about it, while Racing Service Watanabe Eight-Spoke R-Type wheels measuring 15×9-inch at all four corners add to the custom Sunny’s rich and authentic flavour.


I’ve always loved modified Japanese trucks, and the Sunny especially when they’re fitted with 09 Racing’s ‘Hakotora’ front end conversion, which gives it a Hakosuka look. But I’m told the Hakotora facelift is actually quite involved – it’s not just a case of bolting off and bolting on. For this Pandem collaborative build, Sakamoto-san just let the newly-designed overfenders and deep front air dam do all the talking, and I don’t think anyone could argue with the finished product.


With wide wheels and a wide body, Sakamoto-san just needed to address the ride height in order to pull the whole look together. And it’s here where things get a little trick, because Mr. J.Beat didn’t just want to slam out his Sunny, he wanted it to handle too.


The front end is entirely Toyota AE86 fare, which Sakamoto-san says is a straightforward fit in the Sunny. This provides the Datsun with a wider front track and steering from one of the world’s favourite drift car bases.


Out back, the Sunny’s original leaf spring setup has given way to a custom 4-link rear end fabricated by tube-frame and exhaust specialist Hatta Shokai. Everything – including the RS*R Honda Odyssey coilovers – is on display, with the truck’s bed cut out in order to accomodate the new suspension arrangement and the Number 7 fuel cell.


Under the hood, Sakamoto-san has stuck with a Nissan A-series engine, although it’s now an A15 from a Datsun 210 instead of the factory A12. With twin Solex 40mm side-draught carbs and a straight-pipe exhaust it’s loud as hell – in a good way.


The cabin is fairly basic with a mix of original equipment and some aftermarket additions. The latter includes a pair of vintage low-back bucket seats, sports wheel, flower shift knob and an Auto Meter 5-inch tachometer.


Sakamoto-san’s J.Beat Custom x Pandem Sunny truck might not be the most modified thing to have emerged from his humble little shop in Saitama, but there’s no denying the fact that it’s very cool.

Toby Thyer
Instagram _tobinsta_

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