In Part One of this minitruckin’ history, we covered how the Big 3 provided their dealers with “captive import” minitrucks from Mazda, Isuzu, and Mitsubishi during the Seventies. By 1975 or thereabouts, both GM and Ford were convinced that the small-pickup market was not a fad and began digging their own products out of the parts bin.
The Chevrolet S-10/GMC S-15 was a sort of truck version of the A-body (later G-body) intermediate. While it’s not dimensionally identical to the older sedans, it’s possible to swap much of the running gear between those two vehicles, particularly ahead of the firewall. The Ford Ranger arrived a few months after the S-10, a few inches smaller in most dimensions and looking remarkably ungainly compared to its sleek GM competitor. Those of you who followed the minitrucking hobby in the Nineties will recall that the Ranger was conspicuous by its absence; “domestic” minitruckers were almost exclusively loyal to the S-10/S-15. Part of that was due to the Twin-I-Beam’s reluctance to accept a lowering kit and/or airbags, but much of it was the Ranger’s hokey, hick-ish appearance compared to the S-10.
So what did that mean for the captive import trucks?
I was having a conversation with a female friend a few weeks ago and she admitted to having “fooled around” in no fewer than four different brands of minitrucks during the Nineties and Oughties. I suppose in her case that would be the Noughties — but that’s besides the point. I should also mention that the fourth “minitruck” was really a Colorado, and the incident in question happened fairly recently.
“There’s always some kind of stick shift in the way, in those little trucks, you know?” she said.
“Those are the little crosses that empowered young women have to bear,” was my response.
The conversation could have gone in any number of directions from there, but where it actually went was to A Brief Discussion Of Mini-Trucks In America, 1970-2010. I thought it might be a conversation worth having with all of you, as well, because it showcases a rather unique phenomenon in American automotive history. (Read More…)
Plenty of Mazda B-Series pickups were sold in the United States, mostly badged as Ford Couriers, but starting in 1983 (when the Ranger appeared) your only choice for obtaining one of these cheap-and-simple little trucks was your Mazda dealer. I spotted this somewhat rusty ’84 in a Denver wrecking yard on Saturday, and it looked like it still had some good miles left in it. (Read More…)
After the ’79 Chevy LUV Junkyard Find we saw yesterday, it seems appropriate to follow up with another Malaise Era Japanese small pickup with Detroit badging. I found this Ford-badged Mazda B1800 just a couple of rows away from the LUV. It’s three years older and much rougher than the Chevy (Isuzu).
Back 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. (Read More…)
Until Ford started building Rangers in the early 1980s, their only small pickup was a rebadged Mazda B Series called the Courier. Like so many utilitarian Malaise Era vehicles, Couriers were everywhere… until one day in the early 1990s when just about all of them disappeared. Here’s one of the few that managed to hang on for another couple of decades. (Read More…)