The year was 1968 and Toyota had peeled the covers off of what would become one of their important and best-selling models. That model is the Toyota Hilux and this year, it celebrates its 50th birthday.

Since then, there have been eight generations of the pickup and, according to Toyota, 17.7 million have been sold. The Hilux is available in over 180 countries and regions, and is produced at 6 factories worldwide. The Hilux was manufactured in the Philippines at one point according to Toyota's official site, though the production has now shifted to Thailand.

In 2017, Toyota sold 521,000 units of the Hilux. Asia is the largest market for the pick-up, with 167,000 sold in 2017. South America is second at 116,000, followed by the Middle East at 65,000, Oceania at 57,000, Africa at 55,000, Europe at 41,000, North America at 19,000, and Japan at just 10,000. 

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Happy birthday, Toyota Hilux

Production started in 1968 and the first generation model was built in the Hino plant. There were only two body styles made, namely a single cab with a short bed and a single cab with an extended bed. The second generation followed in 1972 and became the first Hilux to be available with an automatic transmission, as well as a range of bigger engines. By 1978, the third-generation arrived and was the first to be available with a crew cab (four-door) configuration, along with a diesel option, shaping the Hilux as we know it today.

Happy birthday, Toyota Hilux

In 1983, the fourth-generation Hilux made its debut and with it came the pickup platform vehicle boom with the 4Runner (also known as the Hilux Surf). It appeared on the silver screen too as Marty McFly's pickup in Back to the Future. The fifth-generation model came by 1988 and, later in its life, was assembled here in Santa Rosa, Laguna. 1997 saw the launch of the sixth-generation Hilux and it would be the last model to be assembled locally.

Happy birthday, Toyota Hilux

Then, by 2004, the Hilux saw a major, revolutionary redesign. Shifting to the IMV platform, it formed the basis of the Innova and the Fortuner. The seventh-generation Hilux would also become the longest-running model, produced from 2004 until 2015.

The current-generation Hilux sits on the new IMV platform and it still underpins the Fortuner and Innova. It also got a smaller but more powerful turbodiesel engine, along with a host of safety features that couldn't be imagined 50 years ago.

Several special edition models have been launched in other parts of the world. For now, however, Toyota Motor Philippines hasn't mentioned any plans for the Hilux's 50th birthday just yet.