The Pickup Truck for the Next Toyota War Isn't a Toyota At All

Illustration for article titled The Pickup Truck for the Next Toyota War Isnt a Toyota At All
Screenshot: Navistar
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When it first came out in 2015, we were impressed by how close the SOTV-B managed to dress up as a Toyota Hilux, the pickup truck renowned around the world for its uncanny ability to be turned into a technical. Clearly, though, Navistar or its potential customers were not satisfied with the first attempt because there’s a new one that doesn’t just vaguely resemble a Hilux, it looks pretty damn close to the real thing.

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It’s almost insulting to the SOTV-B to insist it’s not a Toyota
It’s almost insulting to the SOTV-B to insist it’s not a Toyota
Photo: Navistar Defense

Since Western intervention in the Mideast and Africa began many centuries ago, soldiers operating behind enemy lines had two imperfect choices. They could sit in the cozy protection of an armored Humvee or MRAP, but let everyone know who they are and what kind of heat they’re packing, or they could bounce around in a Toyota pickup like everyone else, attracting no visual attention but going without any protection from gunfire, let alone explosives. Navistar, which makes International trucks, thinks their refreshed SOTV-B could make choosing between safety and stealth a feature of yesterday’s war.

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At least, for those who can afford it.

Toyota pickups like these are the workhorse of securities forces of all stripes.
Toyota pickups like these are the workhorse of securities forces of all stripes.
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Locals have known just how useful a cheap, off-the-shelf Japanese pickup can be when you’re bringing down an autocrat or attempting to establish regional self-determination. Hell, in 1987 an entire war was fought with the things, with Chad managing to kick out a Libyan occupation using pickups like these so prolifically that the conflict is known as the Toyota War. But militias and rebels aren’t the only ones that need mobility, reliability, and protection out there. A request from the Department of Defense shows that the brass had been watching insurgents make the most of vehicles designed for general contractors and weekend warriors, and decided they needed a version of their own that was, you know, a little better.

Navistar, which in addition to building International commercial trucks, has made a name for itself as a defense contractor building MRAPs and other armored vehicles, came up with an ingenious solution known as the Special Operations Tactical Vehicle-B, or SOTV-B.

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From a distance, the SOTV-B could be almost any Japanese mid-size truck
From a distance, the SOTV-B could be almost any Japanese mid-size truck

The SOTV-B seemed to be a near-perfect solution to the Catch-22 of staying protected from enemy fire while staying under the radar. Looking like the Japanese mid-size pickup equivalent of a store-brand box of “Rice Krunchies,” Navistar’s first market-sized pickup since 1975 would be nearly impossible to tell from the real thing to anyone who didn’t think about it too hard. The proportions are close, and the all-important swoosh 90s-style graphics are where they’re supposed to be, but anyone who’s spent enough time riding around in Toyota Hiluxes and the other Japanese mid-size trucks would be able to pick one out up close.

The Original SOTV-B showing what it could do, and how... inconspicuously it could do it.

Still, the original SOTV-B came with a 4.5 liter Cummins four-cylinder turbo diesel making a respectable 250 horsepower and a mammoth 600 lb-ft of torque, more than any Isuzu D-Max, Mitsubishi Triton, Ford Ranger or any other mid-size pickup but perfect for handling whatever special forces might be able to throw at it. And to handle whatever might get thrown at the special forces, the production-lookalike body hides something most insurgents don’t have. Under the lookalike panels, an armored safety cell offers Euronorm B6-level protection to three, five, or seven occupants.

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The SOTV-A is an undisguised version of troops operating in the open
The SOTV-A is an undisguised version of troops operating in the open
Photo: Navistar Defense

The refreshed Navistar SOTV-B keeps the Cummins 4-cylinder and safety cell, but its modular external body panels have been swapped for ones that are quite a bit more realistic when it comes to dressing up as a Toyota. Rather than stick to just generally aping the lines and proportions of Toyota’s best-selling truck, Navistar has completely copied Toyota’s homework, down to door handle and scoop positioning and the exact shape of not only the grille, but even the fake fog lights.

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It’s really an impressive effort, but maybe we shouldn’t be too surprised— It wasn’t all that long ago that International was fighting the big three for a piece of the irresistible American pickup market. Maybe putting the investment into copying one of the best trucks out there is what Navistar needs to reenter the fray.

Max Finkel is a Weekend Contributor at Jalopnik.

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DISCUSSION

shanemorris
Shane Morris

*Cut to shot of me and David Tracy moving to a geopolitically unstable nation, getting a posse of Jalops together, and starting an off-road club*

Narrator Voice: “This Fall on Fox, these two wacky guys are headed to Central Africa for a reality show unlike anything you’ve seen before.”

*bullets whizz overhead*

David: “I told you we should have stuck to getting the Cherokee from the Tusuli tribe.”

*canned laughter sound*

Shane: “But it’s funny when you scrape off the back letters and it just says YOTA.”

*more bullets whizz overhead*

Shane (Yoda voice): “Mmm. A Jeep thing it is. Understand, you would not.”

*helicopters appear in the distance*

David: “This is the last time I answer a Craigslist ad that says ‘ran when parked’.”

*canned laughter sounds / cut to shot of David and Shane speeding away from compound gates*

Narrator Voice: “Thursdays at 8, 7 Central, this fall, starring David Tracy and Shane Morris, ‘$400 Buys You A Jeep Or A Nation’.”

*shot of David and Shane high giving*

In unison: “DID WE JUST BUY A FAILED NATION STATE, OR AN OFFROADER?!”