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.
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.
At least, for those who can afford it.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.