By on July 27, 2013

12 - 1980 Mazda B2000 Pickup Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinBack in the Middle Malaise Era, most of the B-series Mazda pickups you saw in North America were badged as Ford Couriers, and of course we’ve found the occasional junkyard-dwelling Courier. Still, some Mazda-badged pickups were released into the wild, and the longbed version was known as the Sundowner. Here’s a very-much-of-its-time Sundowner in yellow with beige-and-brown tape stripes and red-and-brown rust, spotted at a Colorado self-serve yard earlier this week.


Sakes alive, that’s a cheap pickup!
05 - 1980 Mazda B2000 Pickup Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThis one appears to have spent at least some part of its life in the Midwest, or maybe it just sat with a bed full of melting snow for a couple dozen Colorado winters.
01 - 1980 Mazda B2000 Pickup Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe interior isn’t so bad, but the 5-digit odometer can’t tell us whether it’s an 84,942-mile truck or a 484,942-mile truck.
07 - 1980 Mazda B2000 Pickup Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinJust 77 horsepower from the 1,970cc SOHC F engine.
14 - 1980 Mazda B2000 Pickup Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThese trucks didn’t have quite the rep for reliability earned by their Toyota Hilux competitors, but they were pretty solid machines for their era.
19 - 1980 Mazda B2000 Pickup Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe 26-year-old Colorado State Parks pass is a nice vintage touch.
09 - 1980 Mazda B2000 Pickup Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinTip: if you’re swapping build tags, use rivets instead of screws. Oh, and mount the tag right-side-up.

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78 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1980 Mazda B2000 Sundowner Pickup...”


  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    If I remember correctly in Australia we had the Ford Courier and B Series Mazda’s. Our utes came with the VC 1800 gasoline engines.

    My brother had the B2200 which is the same ute but with a 2.2 litre Mazda built Perkins diesel. Great diesel.

    The issue we had here with the diesel utes was the gearbox couldn’t stand to up to the load. So my brother’s ute blew the gearbox.

    I was driving past a farm on day and saw a wrecked Courier in the front yard and bought it for $250 and pulled the engine gearbox out and dropped it into my brothers B2200.

    Believe it or not my Webbers were sitting idle for a while so I rebuilt the engine and dropped the 2 DCOE sidedraughts onto it.

    What also helped was the fuel line was 5/16″ not the 1/4 in the older Datsuns, so enough fuel was feed to the Webber at full song.

    I also fitted Toyota Crown pistons into it as it increased the compression from about 8.5 up to 11 to one, had a bit of work done to the heads and a bit of a cam grind. The Toyota piston gudgeon pins where the same size and from the crown of the piston to the gudgeon pin centre was the correct dimension. The Crown pistons also had a cone top to them for the increased compression. Worked fine.

    With the diesel diff still fitted it was wheel spinning in 3rd.

    The top speed increased significantly because the engine would wind out to 8 500rpm.

    That was my only foray with building Mazda engines, as I used to build mainly L series Datsun engines.

    • 0 avatar
      Firestorm 500

      I bypassed all that work.

      Just dropped a Chevy V-8 in mine and called it a day.

      (kidding)

    • 0 avatar
      pishta

      That was an MA engine of it were 1970cc, the VC was the 1800cc. Precursor to the F motor. The quad headlights were very rare here in CA, I think they all got dual sealed beams as far as I rememeber. The Fords got round ones. The Beds were single wall and mine is rusted through too. Mine also has a bent bed or frame or bent LCA in the front as it sits like I weight 500 lbs. Motor is a little loud, I think I got a worn rocker shaft as no amount of valve adjustment can get rid of these 1-2 valve ticks. But the motor purrs on the road, can do 77mph all day long with its barely overdrive .86 fifth gear and tracks arrow straight. And it ALWAYS starts with just one pump to set the choke and about a 1/2 second crank of the starter with no gas, vrOOOM! Good stuff. Simple little truck. Shortbeds (non Sundowners) got heavier rear springs and a much stiffer ride.

  • avatar
    olddavid

    In 1980, the entire Mazda lineup were rear-drivers. The GLC, 626, RX and pickups all had live axles and low prices. The domestics would tacitly approve a dual dealership with the non-threatening Toyo Kogyo, but find “technical” errors and omissions in the applications when Toyota or Datsun were the franchise import of choice. Honda was seen as an up and coming make, but not much of a volume threat. American Motors had stand-alone stores in every major city- most factory owned. 33 years changes everything. That old Ray Davies lyric comes to mind again – “I wish I knew then what I know now”.

  • avatar
    1998redwagon

    i learned to drive a stick shift on a courier longbed. went to work one day and the boss said to go pick up a load of aluminum siding in downtown detroit at the revere outlet. grabbbed the keys to the shop’s chevy and headed out the door. oooops cannot find the chevy, came back in and was told it had been traded in, “take the little red pickup.” got the new keys, found it in the lot and boy tony was right it was RED and LITTLE compared to the full size chevy. o and what’s this? a manual. well i knew how manuals operated and what kid had not practiced alongside their friends who had one when crusing around town. how hard could it be? this was a perfect chance to learn on someone else’s (brand new) vehicle. all i had to do was get out of the parking lot without being seen and i knew i could learn to drive that thing. i figured i could crawl out of the parking lot in 1st gear and then begin shifting on the road. boy was i wrong. first gear was really low and i needed to shift to second fairly fast. damn. stalled. quickly restart and accomplished the first to second shift just as i was pulling out onto the road.

    if i remember correctly there was one more stall and then i had the hang of it. i enjoyed that truck that summer and made many pickups at the revere outlet and other places around town but it did not have the grunt of the chevy nor the length to really carry 30 foot gutters. a limitation in the business. still it was the first manual i ever drove and without instruction. a forgiving clutch helped as much as a forgiving teacher.

  • avatar
    -Nate

    I well remember these and the Ford Couriers too ~

    I drove a first year Courier for an Auto Parts Store , it had the never remembered sticker across the whole back window : ” FORDS NEW 1800 CC IMPORT ” .

    A good little low powered work truck for In Town use , I delivered many a V-8 engine out Machine Shop had gone through with it , we’d installed a goose neck hoist in the R.R. corner .

    -Nate

  • avatar
    ExPatBrit

    I bought a used one at an auction as a stop-gap until my finances improved. I kept it way longer than that.

    5 years later I sold it on Craigslist for slightly more than I had originally paid for it.

    20 e-mails in less than four hours. The first person to show up thrust the $$$ into my hand.

    What a pity we can no longer buy a newer version of this type of vehicle.

  • avatar
    I've got a Jaaaaag

    Love those factory bed tie downs.

  • avatar
    Japanese Buick

    I always think of a Sundowner as an airplane. Here’s one with a similar paint job!

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Beechcraft_BE-23_Sundowner_C-GJML.JPG

  • avatar
    prndlol

    I just punched $5795 into the Bank of Canada inflation calculator and it works out to $16 236 in 2013 bucks. That doesn’t sound so cheap considering this stripper pickup weighed less than two garbage dumpsters.

    • 0 avatar

      But it’s got tinted glass! And carpeting!

      Pretty much the only smallish truck around is the Nissan Frontier, and in my area their online builder is showing it for $18,800 stripped – I don’t even think that includes a radio, although it does have a 6 foot bed and an extended cab.

      It’s not so much that the price was a great deal as that the whole category of cheap small pickups has disappeared. A few years ago you could probably find a stripper 2wd standard cab Ranger for $12k or less after rebates (in Exterminator White with a giant plastic grill), but there really isn’t anything for someone who wants a cheap stripper truck anymore.

    • 0 avatar
      Xeranar

      I’m not going to doubt the bank of canada but a $5795 today would be closer to 21K if we’re using really simple inflation. Their’s is probably closer because the collapse cost us several years of near zero inflation. Still those numbera aren’t great compared to a regular F-150 or Silverado…or Ram … or Tundra.

  • avatar
    marc

    “Sakes alive” is forever burned into my memory. thanks for bringing it back. I never could figure out what the point of it was, other than to rhyme their prices ending in 95. And they used it for quite a few years, IIRC.

  • avatar
    el scotto

    I wonder if the S Koreans or the Chinese could come up with the updated version of this? A truck this small shows you don’t have any, err compensation issues. Clever, thrifty, practical and a sense of humor? Yes. Compensation issues? No. I’d even support a brown, 5 speed mt, diesel small truck to facilitate the ttac jihads supporting both issues. Price one around 15k (US $)some folks may have second thoughts about buying one. The reality? I’ll be buying unicorn chow before small trucks make a comeback. Oh, please no “chicken tax” diatribes. It’s been done to death and you can search for previous discussions. Thank You

    • 0 avatar
      Xeranar

      But but! Small trucks and what not…..in the world of fuel efficiency per pound hauled these trucklets just never made sense. The everyday hauler needs more hauling capacity and the trailer queens need more trailer capacity. These trucks made sense for the 20 house painters in San Francisco.

      • 0 avatar
        jeffzekas

        Actually, these trucks made sense for 90% of the folks who use trucks as cars (I am talking to you, Los Angeles and Seattle!) My boss used his 1971 Toyota Hilux (bought new) for newspaper delivery. My brother had a Datsun 1300 truck for commuting to school (25-30 mpg!). The fact is, MANY trucks are used as cars (i.e. for daily commuting) and very few are used by farmers, or builders, or gardeners, relatively speaking. So, seen in THAT perspective (truck as style statement, not workhorse) these mini trucks make a lot of sense.

        • 0 avatar
          RobertRyan

          Oh How True!!! Much more so than Australia where I live.

        • 0 avatar
          Scoutdude

          You are correct that a compact truck will haul just as much as the average F250 does, a size pack, just fine. However as a style statement the F250 or other 3/4 ton truck is where it is at and no mini truck can ever challenge that.

          • 0 avatar
            Jimal

            (Editing this because I see that Scoutdude posted some data)

            ” However as a style statement the F250 or other 3/4 ton truck is where it is at and no mini truck can ever challenge that.”

            This is a completely subjective and random statement of opinion. Perhaps you need the biggest truck possible, but that doesn’t objectively mean that there is no market for small to mid-size trucks.

            If you analyze the data you will see that the demise in each small truck’s sales coincides with the amount of time since its last update.

            The best example of this is the Toyota Tacoma, which still sells at a pretty good clip:

            2000 147,295 [introduction]
            2001 161,983
            2002 151,960
            2003 154,154
            2004 152,933[refresh]
            2005 168,831
            2006 178,351
            2007 173,238
            2008 144,655
            2009 111,824
            2010 106,198
            2011 110,705[refresh]
            2012 141,365

            The Frontier is another example of this:
            2002 75,207 [Introduced in 2001]
            2003 65,161
            2004 70,703 [redesign]
            2005 72,838
            2006 77,510
            2007 64,397
            2008 44,997
            2009 28,415 [refresh]
            2010 40,427
            2011 51,700
            2012 55,435

            Compare that to the one-time segment leader, the Ranger:
            1993 [2nd generation introduced]
            1998 [last restyle]
            1999 348,358
            2000 330,125
            2001 272,460
            2002 226,094
            2003 209,117
            2004 156,322
            2005 120,958
            2006 92,420
            2007 72,711
            2008 65,872
            2009 55,600
            2010 55,364
            2011 70,832

            Meanwhile the F-Series, the truck Ford wanted you to buy, went through four major generational upgrades during the same period, with the fifth coming out next year.

        • 0 avatar
          ICARFAN

          Agreed, small trucks make a ton of sense because most people are not maxing out the hauling capacity on their trucks everyday anyway. I haul camping gear, groceries, kayaks, bikes, dogs, my quad in my 94 Ranger and paying the extra gas money to drive my big truck would suck. When I need to haul literally an entire additional room of building supplies, a bunch of firewood or a trailor, nothing better than my old F-250, but it makes no sense to use it to run into town to pick-up a couple 2×4′s, nor take on vacation. I know all my needs could probably be filled with a new F-150 Ecoboost, but no payment is nice and I do actually like both my current trucks.

      • 0 avatar
        Jimal

        The decision to essentially abandon the compact truck market was never a market based decision. It is cheaper for the Big 3 to lose money selling stripped down full-size trucks than it is to run a completely separate production line for a compact truck.

        The demand exists for compact trucks. It always has. What is needed is a car maker who doesn’t have the baggage of a full-size truck to compete against. I’m looking at you and your Amarok, Volkswagen.

        • 0 avatar
          DenverMike

          Mazda, Mitsu and Isuzu sold trucks here without “full-size” and still ran away screaming.

          The Amarok would still compete against other VWs, but it’s clear which VW would rather sell. BOF trucks are expensive to build and in the US, they have to compete with full-size truck prices (after rebates), even if they’re not competing directly for buyers. The base Amarok would be capped at the price of the base Golf in the US only.

          In other markets, buyers might be willing to spend the equivalent of over $40K on loaded, high end small trucks. In the US, that buys a lot of “full-size”.

          It’s clear, there’s plenty demand for cheap, smaller trucks, but there seems to be less demand for mid to high end, smaller trucks to offset the strippers. Aside from all the fleet buyers, cheapskates and other bottom feeders, there’s not much in it for small truck OEMs. At least not in the US.

          • 0 avatar

            I’ve always wondered if with the right vehicle and marketing there would be demand for a high-end small truck. I mean, if Mini can sell luxury minicompact cars, surely there are some single, city-dwelling types who want a well-equipped pickup for outdoor activities and Ikea runs but don’t want to deal with parallel-parking an F-150 or feeding it’s giant gas tank.

          • 0 avatar
            DenverMike

            There’s no real reason why a “Limited” or King Ranch of small trucks wouldn’t sell. Other than everyone would ask why you didn’t just get a high end full-size, for the same price. But then we don’t really shop for smaller trucks when looking for something high end or “luxury”. High end small trucks exist in places like Australia, but those are the biggest pickup trucks they have.

            And you can’t really get that much better fuel economy in hard loaded crew cab, 4X4 smaller trucks. Worse in some configurations. But the much smaller fuel tank will make it feel like it’s drinking it that much faster. A 34 gallon gas tank is a luxury in itself.

            City boys with lots of cash aren’t naturally attracted to trucks of any size, but if you’re a business owner, rancher, or farmer, you don’t want to be one upped by a rival or competitor with a high end full-size. Or heaven forbid, an employee of yours with a mid grade full-size.

          • 0 avatar
            Jimal

            “Mazda, Mitsu and Isuzu sold trucks here without “full-size” and still ran away screaming.”

            Three financially weak Japanese manufacturers probably aren’t the best argument for your point. I love Mazda, but they were selling rebadged Rangers until Ford ended Ranger production. The other two are basically irrelevant in North America. Volkswagen is not in this boat.

            What other VWs would the Amarok compete against? It is a segment VW hasn’t been since the Rabbit pickup in the early 80′s. My gut tells me that if offered as a full-line, VW will get the fleet buyers who would have gone for the Ranger in the past AND the underserved compact truck crowd AND the VW fanboys who get along now with a trailer or borrowing/renting a truck when one is needed.

            There is a market out there for a proper compact truck, and it isn’t just the bottom feeders. Not everyone likes or wants a full-size truck, regardless of price.

          • 0 avatar
            DenverMike

            “Not everyone likes or wants a full-size truck, regardless of price.”

            I’m not saying everyone does. But if you won’t come close to pulling the trigger on a Tacoma or Frontier, what chance do I have of putting you in an Amarok? After the novelty wears out? And what are you driving now? A full-size truck against your will?

            Bring on the Amarok and it may take some sales from full-size trucks, but mostly it would cannibalize other mid-size trucks and cars from most segments. VWs especially. But does VW want to lose sales of much cheaper to build FWD unibodies that share platforms for a stand-alone BOF truck that’s low margin and low volume?

            The US market drifted away from smaller trucks, but we were never really into them before Japaneses OEMs systematically dumped cut-rate mini-trucks on the US by the millions. Search: “Voluntary Restraint Agreement, 1981″.

            Mini-trucks became the hottest market trend since roller skates. Just when we were done with molester custom vans, big 2-door coupes, Rancheros/EL Caminos, muscle cars and other gas guzzlers. Oh well, fads come and go. And all these mini-truck buyers weren’t necessarily traditional truck buyers. I don’t recall the full-size trucks market taking a hit. But I’m sure most every segment took a hit. And this was before the SUV craze, mind you.

            You can still buy new roller skates. They’re probably still a hot trend in some parts of the world.

          • 0 avatar
            Big Al from Oz

            Yep, DenverMike as usual you come out with some real garbage to support your claims.

            Here’s one of the many links I found in Australia selling those small trucks we only get.

            There is a factory in Bundaberg in QLD that is doing Tundras as well.

            Why do you always try to propagate misinformation?

            http://www.american.com.au/

          • 0 avatar
            Jimal

            I’m driving an ’07 Passat wagon right now, but I’m in the market for a late model used Ranger or Mazda B-Series because I need a truck for the weekends. I spent a year commuting in a Dakota Quad Cab; it was expensive and not particularly pleasurable.

            I’ve shopped the Frontier and Tacoma but I haven’t warmed up to either of them.

          • 0 avatar
            DenverMike

            @Jimal – Why not get a new one and support your cause? I’m the same way. I’ve owned a few small trucks, but always 2nd or 3rd hand. That right there is the problem. Plenty would like a smaller truck, but not too many (except for fleet and other bottom feeders) are willing to step up to the plate and buy one new. It’s the same way with the small diesel wagon with the manual trans. If they do buy a small truck (retail w/rebates), they’ll probably get a stripper base model.

            Yeah, no doubt Ford wants you to buy the F-150 over anything else they have. But no one here is against small trucks. US consumers are against small trucks and rather get something else when it’s time to buy something new. Full-size trucks? Yeah, but also most everything else under the sun.

            The problem is we were never naturally drawn to smaller trucks in a big way. The mini-truck craze came and went and the market is just slowly correcting itself.

            Mazda, Mitsu and Isuzu trucks came in at a good time, but knew when to dump the US market for greener pastures.

            And the assumption that US consumers dumped full-size trucks for small ones during the mini-truck craze is wrong. People from almost every car segment jumped into the fad. There’s a long list of 60′s and 70′s automotive fads that had just ended and it was the perfect storm for smaller trucks.

          • 0 avatar
            Jimal

            @DenverMike, my wife is actually rocking the ’13 Passat TDI with the manual. We looked at the JSW but the Passat was just more comfortable. I guess we’re those people.

            Like I mentioned earlier, while I’d like a daily driver I’ve never warmed to the Tacoma or the Frontier. At this point I’m looking at Rangers, which are holding their value rather well, but it would be a short-term solution. I want something a bit more modern so whatever truck I get at this point will probably be retired to the backyard before too long.

        • 0 avatar
          Scoutdude

          Yes it was market driven. Look at the sales of mini trucks they peaked in the 90′s and steadily dropped from there. At one point The Ranger and Toyota each sold 300K or more per year. Toyota and Nissan combined will not even come close to selling 300K this year.

          • 0 avatar
            Jimal

            The Ranger died on the vine, its last major update occurring in either 1993 or 1998, depending on your definition of “update”. Nissan and Toyota both got into the full-size truck market and their (now) mid-size trucks are similarly dying on the vine.

            Ford’s is a production strategy, Nissan and Toyota’s is a segment strategy. Neither are based on lack of demand.

          • 0 avatar
            Scoutdude

            Nissan and Toyota may have stolen some of their own compact truck sales with their full size trucks. However their compact is still their best seller and their compact and full size sales combined still don’t come close to what their compacts sold in their hey day. So yeah the market just walked away from the segment.

        • 0 avatar
          RobertRyan

          Correct and they make a lot more money on the “One size that fits all” than trying to make something that does the job better.

        • 0 avatar
          Roberto Esponja

          Jimal, that’s not entirely true. I subscribe to a magazine called Automotive Fleet, and when the Dodge Dakota was discontinued, they published an article about it which showed how much sales of compact/midsize pickups had declined since the year 2000. Even before “carmaggedon”, the reduction was astounding. Wish I had a link to that article to post here.

          • 0 avatar
            Jimal

            Which coincides with 1) the last Ford Ranger update and 2) the introduction of the Toyota Tundra. The Dakota was never a compact truck, it was a mid-size. The Colorado/Canyon, which sold well in their first few years, died the Ranger death by neglect, having never been serious updated before being dropped in 2012.

            Even with the Tundra, Toyota still sells a ton of Tacomas.

          • 0 avatar
            Scoutdude

            The reason that Ford decided to not update the Ranger was because the market for small trucks was going away. Pickups smaller than full size acounted for about 8% of the total US market in 2000 and that was down from the peak in the mid 90′s by 2011 they were less than 2% of the total market. Ford was smart to soldier on the Ranger until it wouldn’t meet safety regulations anymore.

            GM
            Year Colorado Canyon Total
            2004 117,475 27,193 144,668
            2005 128,359 34,845 163,204
            2006 93,876 23,979 117,855
            2007 75,716 20,888 96,604
            2008 54,346 14,974 69,320
            2009 32,413 10,107 42,520
            2010 24,642 7,992 32,634
            2011 31,026 9,590 40,616
            2012 36,840 31,026 67,866

            Tacoma

            2000 147,295
            2001 161,983
            2002 151,960
            2003 154,154
            2004 152,933
            2005 168,831
            2006 178,351
            2007 173,238
            2008 144,655
            2009 111,824
            2010 106,198
            2011 110,705
            2012 141,365

            Ranger

            1999 348,358
            2000 330,125
            2001 272,460
            2002 226,094
            2003 209,117
            2004 156,322
            2005 120,958
            2006 92,420
            2007 72,711
            2008 65,872
            2009 55,600
            2010 55,364
            2011 70,832

            Dakota

            1999 144,148
            2000 177,395
            2001 154,479
            2002 130,712
            2003 111,273
            2004 105,614
            2005 104,051
            2006 76,098
            2007 50,702
            2008 26,044
            2009 10,690
            2010 13,047
            2011 12,156
            2012 491

            Frontier

            2002 75,207
            2003 65,161
            2004 70,703
            2005 72,838
            2006 77,510
            2007 64,397
            2008 44,997
            2009 28,415
            2010 40,427
            2011 51,700
            2012 55,435

            So you can’t blame the GM twins sales drop due to not being updated since they tanked after their 3rd year.

            Plain and simple the American public got tired of small trucks.

          • 0 avatar
            RobertRyan

            @jimal
            “The Colorado/Canyon, which sold well in their first few years, died the Ranger death by neglect, having never been serious updated before being dropped in 2012.”

            Eventually ANY vehicle will not sell if you leave it to wither on the vine.

      • 0 avatar

        I drove a Ranger as my sole vehicle for years. Granted, a little bigger/tougher than this, but still pretty much the smallest truck on the market at the time. 95% of the time it was a commuter car, but the bed came in handy for my flea market and eBay business or the occasional home improvement project or furniture purchase.

        There are a lot of people who need a cheap commuter vehicle, but also like being able to make an occasional Ikea purchase or trip to the dump and don’t want to have to borrow or rent a vehicle to do it.

        • 0 avatar
          3Deuce27

          @ Dmike

          Reg; “we were never really into them before Japaneses OEMs systematically dumped cut-rate mini-trucks on the US by the millions.”

          That is funny, they couldn’t build them fast enough, sales were so hot. The price of fuel had sky rocketed after the Embargo in 73′ and everybody who really didn’t need a big truck for work was buying them.

          In 79′ and 80′, we were hit again with a spike in fuel prices, I bought the LUV and parked a perfectly good Suburban, never used it again for daily use.

          And my Chevy LUV 4×4 ‘Mikado’, was anything, but cheap. I could have bought a base model American pick-up for less then the price of the LUV.

          My extended family still has a lot of those early 80′s small pick-ups. Couldn’t bear to get rid of them or just had the common sense to hang onto them.

          Your comment “Japaneses OEMs systematically dumped cut-rate mini-trucks on the US by the millions.” is yours alone. Support that contention with facts.

          To whit> When the automobile industry in the United States was threatened by the popularity of cheaper more fuel efficient Japanese cars, a 1981 voluntary restraint agreement limited the Japanese to exporting 1.68 million cars to the U.S. annually as stipulated by U.S Government.[1]

          The Japanese automobile industry responded by establishing assembly plants or “transplants” in the United States to produce mass market vehicles. They also began exporting bigger, more expensive cars (soon under their newly-formed luxury brands like Acura, Lexus, and Infiniti).

          • 0 avatar
            DenverMike

            You missed one important detail. Trucks were never part of the VER agreement. There was zero restraint on import trucks. And Japanese OEMs capitalized on this. Absolutely, positively.

            Yes the Oil Embargo was fresh on our minds. And CAFE helped kick off the mini-truck movement too. But by the late ’80s, things were a bit different and so we moved on the SUV craze and other segments. By 1991, mini-trucks, along with minivans, were given “light truck” status and exempt from the Gas Guzzler tax. That’s when they began to grow. Kind of defeated the purpose of having a “mini” truck. Their fuel economy isn’t so mini anymore, either. Nor their price.

            The market is too fragmented now for any segment to dominate. Mini-trucks had their day. And they’ll always have niche status, at least.

          • 0 avatar
            3Deuce27

            @DMike,

            Yes, your right, but at nearly the same time as the VER, they were subjected to a 25% Valorem Tariff, refered to as the ‘Chicken Tax’ of 1963. Adding the truck box here to make an end run around the tax was stopped by the government in 1980. http://www.nytimes.com/1983/06/21/business/us-gains-in-small-trucks.html

            And you didn’t address the issue of ‘dumping’ and ‘Millions of’ Japanese trucks.

            Nissan which started the small truck market in 58′ or 59′, started building trucks here(US) in the Spring of 1983, long before the SUV market developed.

          • 0 avatar
            DenverMike

            Foreign OEMs don’t always feel a need to bring all their autos to the US. That’s always going to upset some of their loyal fan base and OEMS can go ahead and blame a chicken or a frog or whatever.

            The Chicken tax did absolutely nothing to slow the tide of import mini-trucks. Millions of import trucks in that era. It’s too easy to dodge the Chicken tax and it’s no deterrent to Amarok. Don’t kid yourself.

          • 0 avatar
            wstarvingteacher

            I have driven three Datsun (Nissan) pickups close to a million miles. I started with an 81 Datsun king cab (probably my favorite overall because of the cab) Z22engine and 3 speed auto. I gave the original owner my Ford Courier and took over payments. I worked full time as an air conditioning (heating/chimney) contractor after retiring from the Navy. A trailer made from an older style Datsun and overload springs on both truck and trailer let it work like a one ton. I sold a lot of firewood and (I think) a cord of oak is about 3k lbs. Go anywhere but hard to stop. Died because a hose burst on the interstate and by the time I could get out of the traffic the head was toast. I cried because it was a new engine. We didn’t fix it again because why does a teacher need a truck and it had close to 350k.

            When I started teaching I found out why and I bought a 79 Datsun for $200. It did everything the newer one did except for the firewood. In 92, in Texas you could hardly live on starting teachers pay so I moonlighted. I had over 200k of my miles on it when I gave it to my daughter. It also may have been my favorite. I know the engine was my favorite of the three. I had 100 miles per day commute to teach in an adaptive behavior center. Had my vehicle been keyed in the parking lot as some were I would have survived. Teachers at adaptive behavior centers should all drive beaters. Possibly the toughest engine I ever owned.

            The last one was an 87 Nissan with the Z24. About 330k miles and second engine when I gave it away. The guy I gave it to promptly overheated it and there went the head gasket. He gave it back and I had it rebuilt in the high school auto shop. 1300 miles later the engine froze. I looked for another and guess what. It wasn’t there. Hardly any small trucks around. The closest I could find was an S10 with a bed that is almost 8 feet and a 4.3 engine.

            The Nissans drove like sports cars and were also commuter vehicles. The S10 may be a better truck but it’s not a better vehicle. I have come to think a small SUV/CUV would best serve my needs. A small trailer makes them a truck and you can carry folks. The best fit in years was an absolute POS. A 2002 Saturn Vue filled my needs superbly but was always breaking. Computer replacements in batches. A timing chain killed it.

            I wish I could buy my 81 again but I can’t. If I had my druthers I would buy one of the four doors I saw on Saipan. Four doors, small truck, short bed and a trailer hitch. They never even came here.

            Sorry about hijacking the page for a minute but I guess if this is for old guys remembering that some things used to be better, it fits.

    • 0 avatar
      panzerfaust

      Mahindra was trying to, but that project was stillborn.

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        It was not Mahindra it was GV inc a used car dealer based in TX that was trying to import them. The problem was that neither Mahindra nor GV wanted to spend the money to certify them for sale in the US, let alone set up the factory to assemble the CKD kits. GV didn’t have a problem selling franchises and taking potential dealers cash though.

    • 0 avatar
      Firestorm 500

      Well then they’re going to want leather, power windows, locks, A/C, bluetooth and ipod connections, etc.

      Now it’s a 28,000 small truck.

      • 0 avatar
        Summicron

        Utility freaks like me would buy the strippers but as always we’re too few to matter. And you’d never see a stripper on the lot.

        • 0 avatar
          3Deuce27

          Still cruising in my 85′ Nissan 4×4 ‘Kingcab’ at 284,000 miles, despite only changing the oil once when it blew a head gasket.

          While it has been a good little truck, I never grew as fond of it as my first little truck, my 80′ Chevy ‘LUV’ 4×4, Mikado. That truck was a hauler with intentions of being a sports car, and that is the way I drove it for 318,000 miles as my personal truck.

          The Nissan was bought for fleet duty and originally served the construction crew until I shut that part of the business down in 96′. Sold off most of the rigs, but kept the Nissan as I no longer had a little pic-up left from the era of truly small pick-ups, having mistakenly sold the LUV to drive a new Ford 150 4×4 for daily service.

          Miss that old LUV, with its great handling, load hauling capacity, and 22-30 MPG. Anybody have one in great condition?

        • 0 avatar
          mkirk

          Just got a Crew Cab Frontier with An automatic as the only options. No power windows, no power locks, no cruise…just a basic truck. Yes, it is an automatic because I tow with it and I didn’t like the feel of the clutch in the manual. It had no bluetooth but 200 bucks and 30 minutes to install it fixed that…Spotify is my one automotive indulgence these days.

          It wasn’t on the lot though but a sister dealership the next town over had it so it was there in a day. They had several of the 2 door extended cap strippers on the lot though. The Tacoma was a similar story unless you wanted the 4 door. No strippers to be found.

  • avatar
    wstarvingteacher

    I drove small trucks till the engine froze on my 87 Nissan about three years ago. I would love to buy another. Make mine a king cab with auto this time around. Steady diet of single cabs and sticks for years. Trying to keep the wife happy with the auto.

    First truck I owned was a 74 (I think) ford courier with a shell. Previously owned by a scuba diver who had foam in the back and threw his unwashed gear in with them. Truck bed was shot. Replaced with wood and kept driving it. Traded and took over payments with a guy who had an 81 king cab datsun in 1981. Never looked back. Generally speaking have had a truck ever since and they get worked till they die. Smog inspections make that more difficult.

  • avatar
    April

    I recall seeing these with the paint on the cab fading at a different rate as the bed. They would import the cab and chassis and add a domestically sourced box (with different paint qualities) to circumvent the 25% import tax in those days.

    So ridiculous.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      Yup that was the norm for mini trucks for most of their life span. In the 80′s when I would take road trips to CA I’d see truck loads of Toyota beds coming north to be installed at the port of Tacoma. They would go in convoys of 3 trucks usually at least one of the trucks was filled with only blue beds. On the typical trip to CA Id see 3 or 4 of those 3 truck convoys coming north when I was heading south.

  • avatar
    jim brewer

    The Mazdas and the Mitsubishis had relatively gutless 80 hp engines. Toyota and Nissans had 103-106 hp engines for about the same price. Toyota had a “fun” manual gear linkage too. Nissan had 5 spd. They were otherwise equally durable cars. They probably relied on their association with Chrysler and Ford in those days to hold their own in market share. I always thought the Mazdas always looked a bit more businesslike than the market leaders.

  • avatar
    George B

    Remember that interior from a Ford Courier U-Haul truck. Drove it from Mobile, AL to Pittsburg, KS with a gutless engine, a manual transmission making ominous noises in 3rd, and no air conditioning. My dad decided that the transmission might not survive the relatively mild hills of the Ouachita and Ozark mountains. We drove it west and then north through Oklahoma to miss most of hills. Always amazed how badly worn out U-Haul trucks are that get sent out on long trips.

  • avatar
    AoLetsGo

    I had the light blue Ford Courier for one year in college in 1982. Not a bad little truck but the door had a very tinny sound when you shut it. Ford must have had a bunch of these that they needed to get rid of so somebody at HQ had the bright idea to let those employees that already had a company lease car, lease a Courier as an extra car for a really cheap rate. The high schools and colleges in Michigan were awash with these things that year. I later heard that the accidents, high miles, and general abuse of these little trucks after one year was so bad that they never did the extra lease car deal again.

  • avatar
    namesakeone

    Interesting that it has five-lug wheels (okay, brake rotors) on the front and six-lug brake drums on the back. Two spare tires?

  • avatar
    panzerfaust

    Well, the ‘downer’ part of the name is still correct. Why was the tag switched?

  • avatar
    doug-g

    Murilee (Phil), here’s an off-the-wall question, but I’ve wondered this for awhile. If you see Michael Lamm, and think about it, ask him what Lloyd Lafond did after they quit making Hudsons. Did he sell AMC products, another make, or just quit selling cars. I don’t recall ever reading where Michael mentions this. Thanks.

  • avatar
    kinsha

    I worked at a place in 1980 that put up billboard signs. ( hated that job ) they had I believe three Chevy Luv pick ups that we would use in the field. We drove the hell out of those trucks! All of them no AC and 4 speeds. Now if you ever paid any attention to where billboard signs are located you can understand where thes little trucks had to go! All of them were covered in sign glue and pieces of old signs!

  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    These old mini trucks were built to initially suit the Japanese market back in those days. The dimensions couldn’t exceed the Japanese mandated 4.5m in length and 1.7m in width.

    They sold very well in the US, but the Big 3 didn’t like the idea of their full size trucks having competition for the daily drivers. So the chicken tax forced small truck production into the US, which was less efficient than the Japanese manufacturing them.

    There is still a large market for smaller pickups in the US. Look at Ram with their tiny 6.5′ single cab, Pentastar 8spd. It’s going to sell for $27 000. The reality is it has a low payload and tow ability. Mini truck capability, with an expensive price tag.

    I hope the Colorado does sell.

    As for the VW comment by Jimal. VW’s US manager released a statement saying that for the VW Amarok to be released in the US the Chicken Tax will have to be removed. He stated the only way to have a small pickup in the US was to manufacture within the country because of the Chicken Tax and regulations. Protectionism.

    But, you guys are the ones losing out because of UAW/government/manufacturers controlling what you can and can’t buy in the US to drive around in.

    The quote of $28 000 for the Mahindra is quite misleading. That’s what we pay in Australia. Vehicle prices in the US are 2/3s what we pay, so a diesel, 4×4, dual cab in the US would sell for under $20 000. Unless it is manufactured in the US or attracts the 27.5% of US import tariffs.

    • 0 avatar
      3Deuce27

      There are and lot of people I know that would welcome the return of the 80′s sized small pick-up, especially with a diesel, or a turbo diesel like Isuzu used to offer in the states. For most, the little extra cab feature would be essential. Nice to be able to keep your gear or groceries inside and have the option of another passenger or two.

      The little trucks were easier to work out of and would carry a significant load. Got great mileage and were cheap to maintain. Easy to park and great off road. Comfortable enough for trips.

      Drove my 80′ LUV on many trips across the West, many of 1,200 miles or more, one way. That probably wouldn’t fair well with the sissy crowd who have to have position memory mirrors with the automatic reverse tilt feature, and all the other NE crap we didn’t need 20 years ago.

      Hell, my grandparents drove 3,000 miles cross country in 1933 in a Reo Flying Cloud that grandpa made into a flatbed truck, because he said it was to good to be a car. Imagine, no top, cruise control, air conditioning/heater/climate control, power windows or frickin auto mirrors. How did they do it?

      In SW Oregon, the little trucks sell for a good price and have a near cult status with the off roaders(most have no doors), and people who just want an economical utility vehicle drive the prices up for nice ones. I often find notes on my little Nissan put there by people who want to buy it.

    • 0 avatar
      Jimal

      Getting around the chicken tax is as simple as moving some production to Mexico, where NAFTA negates the Chicken Tax. Expensive, but simple.

      • 0 avatar
        Big Al from Oz

        @Jimal
        The same article on the VW Amarok also stated for production to be viable in NAFTA (including Mexico) VW would have to move 100 000+ pickups a year.

        So if the market is that small, why not remove the tax so you guys can get your hands on some of the fantastic pickups we have.

        Who’s it going to hurt?

        • 0 avatar
          Jimal

          Considering that the Amarok is a global product for VW (they sell it just about everywhere BUT the U.S. and Canada) 100k seems easy-peasy. IMHO it would be a brilliant move and an tremendous opportunity.

          One only has to look at the earlier discussions to see what is leading VW to reduce its sales goals when the rest of the market is seeing growth to get your most likely answer.

          • 0 avatar
            Scoutdude

            In 2011 Toyota struggled to sell 110,000 Tacomas. The best year for the Nissan Frontier was way back in 06 with 77,000 sold, in 2009 they didn’t even sell 30,000 in the US. Last year Nissan moved only 55,000 and Toyota managed 140,000 both boosted by the fact that the Ranger was gone.

            So VW is quite smart in thinking that they aren’t going to come in and capture 50% of the market. Nothing would be easy-peasy about that. It would be a totally stupid move resulting in losses.

            I’m sorry that you just can’t get your head around the fact that people in the US just don’t buy compact or mid-size trucks anymore.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      The Chicken Tax came well before the Japanese mini trucks ever hit our shore. They came in w/o paying the chicken tax. Know why the small Toyota we get in the US today is called the Tacoma? Because that was the “final assembly point” for them before they started making them in the US. The truck was imported w/o a bed. The beds were made and painted in California, shipped on special trailers that would haul 25 or so of them and they were installed on the trucks at the Port of Tacoma. Boom no chicken tax paid. The rest of them cam in in the same fashion.

      If VW wanted to sell the Anorak in the US all they would have to do is assemble in Mexico or at least make and instal beds in Mexico or the US.

      The Mahindra was going to come to the US and its final assembly point was going to be in the US Illinois IIRC. Of course Mahindra dragging their feet on fitting air bags that met US specs and the used car dealer turned importer failed to submit the vehicle and pay for the emissions and fuel economy certification.

      So sorry the chicken tax does absolutely nothing to “protect” the US based mfgs. In fact Ford has to and successfully dodges that chicken tax as did Dodge on the Transit Connect and Sprinter.

      As far as that new Ram it has a higher pay load, greater tow rating, more interior room, and better MPG than any gas powered compact pickup that meets US safety and emissions standards.

      • 0 avatar
        RobertRyan

        @Scoutdude ,
        If you can bring in anything WITHOUT any modification whatsoever then you have dodged the tax.Rebuilding a vehicle to get it into the country does not constitute a “Dodging”
        Would be fun if you had to do it for Ferrari’s, Porsche’s and other exotics.
        An “Anorak” is a rain coat, you meant Amarok.

        • 0 avatar
          Scoutdude

          By definition definition a tax dodge is a legal or illegal way of avoiding paying more tax. So yeah importing an incomplete vehicle is a tax dodge. Plus importing them w/o a can actually save them money. More trucks can be fit on the same boat and making a bed in Mexico and installing it there or in the US is cheaper than making it in Germany. There is a reason that many of the VW’s sold in the US are made in Mexico.

          Only Damiler/Chrysler chose to rebuild their trucks here to avoid the tax. I agree that is a poor way to do it. they could do like Ford does and just put some throwaway seats in it.

          There are many ways that VW could sell their truck in the US w/o paying the chicken tax but the simple reality is that they don’t want to since the market is so small it just wouldn’t be worth it. In case you missed it at one point there were more than 1 million compact pickups sold annually in the US, for 2013 that total will be less than 300,000. There just isn’t room on the market for there to be more players that are profitable.

    • 0 avatar
      DenverMike

      @BAFO – Mini-trucks sold extremely well in the US for a short time, but I guess this had nothing to do with Japanese OEMs dumping millions of cut-rate trucks on the US market, Chicken tax (loopholes) and all?

      By the time Japanese OEMs started to build mini-trucks in the US, the fad was about over and the SUV craze was starting to take off. You’re saying the Chicken tax had something to do with US assembly? If so, what took so long to build in the US?

      But did the Chicken tax have anything to do with VW building cars in Mexico??? But then why would VW import trucks from South America, and not build them in Mexico next to their cars?

      So you take the words of OEM mouthpiece marketers as Gospel truth? What about when Ford announced the Ranger was put out of its misery because of the declining mid-size truck market, with zero mention of it cannibalizing their Golden goose, F-150?

  • avatar
    FuzzyPlushroom

    Looks like this Sundowner…

    …should’ve taken a bit more care.

  • avatar
    mkirk

    While I am nostalgic about these little trucks, lets be clear about some things:

    1. Those little diesels everyone claims were so damn great couldn’t get out of there own way back then.
    2. You didn’t want to get hit in one of these
    3. Rust Rust Rust.

    I owned an 88 Ranger, a 93 Ranger (regular cabs, 5 speeds, 4 cyl), an 88 Bronco II (pretty much a Ranger), an 03 S-10 (extended cab, 4 cyl, 5 speed…the only mediocre one of the bunch), and my current Frontier. All were/are 2wd trucks. I like little trucks, but my Rangers outclassed these early little imports and were equally long lived with the exception of the Chevy and the pre IFS Rangers are pretty stout offroad as well. This truck is where it belongs.

    • 0 avatar
      3Deuce27

      Reg; ” little diesels everyone claims were so damn great couldn’t get out of there own way back then.”

      It is all relative, nothing could, it was the seventies and eighties. The combination of new emission equipment and the need for better mileage after the Embargo and the rapid rise of fuel costs, negated any real performance in any car available in the states. But you know, we got along just fine.

      The little Isuzu diesels performed well, especially the turbo one.

      My wife had a Chevette diesel and we found it perfectly adequate in its performance.

      My LUV had 84Hp and got a whole lot better mileage then my Nissan with 20 more Hp.. Wasn’t a fair trade to me as they both performed the same and had the same load capabilities. The LUV in a 3 day period hauled 37,000 pounds of rock for a dry well, with no load under 2,800 pounds. Now that is tough. Not sure the Nissan was up to that.

      • 0 avatar
        Big Al from Oz

        @3Deuce27
        My first vehicle was a Datsun 520 trayback with a 1300cc engine, it used to get over 40mpg.

        I’ve owned two 520 series, three 620 series, 86 D20 KingCab, D20 3.2 diesel dual cab 4×4. I have spent much time and money modifying these fantastic vehicles.

        I think Nissan has gone backwards since Renault took them over, but at least they still are around.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    This old thing just reminds me of a pontoon boat with its stripes and script logos.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    Those Mazdas were good trucks for their time. Anything lasting 30 years is very good. Most manufacturers would rather sell a loaded down larger pickup for 50k.


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