By on November 3, 2011

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.
The Courier wasn’t quite as cool as its Mazda-badged rotary-powered REPU sibling, but it was a good real-world value.
The early Courier’s 1.6 liter overhead-cam four was a fairly sophisticated powerplant by the standards of the time, and these trucks were able to compete head-to-head with Datsun and Toyota’s truck offerings. Now, of course, the Couriers are just about all gone. I found this battered example in a Los Angeles junkyard.

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22 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1972 Ford Courier...”

  • avatar

    That was an honest, useful truck. I think they all just got used up.

    I’m probably alone in this, but I love those old Japanese pick-up beds with the multiple tie-down cleats. They screamed “utility” proudly- probably why we don’t see them anymore.

  • avatar

    Nice find. Looks pretty decent except for the hood. Did someone paint the front with house paint? The 1.6L engine is the same as the one in my Mazda 808 Coupe. It is called the NA engine in Mazda code.

  • avatar

    I think I’m in love. Would love to have a cherry example restored to putt around in, run to the recycling center, etc.

    Hopefully the “one day” when this truck’s successor, the Ranger, disappears will be a long, long time from now. Or never. They did make an awful lot more Rangers than Couriers, I suppose.

  • avatar

    That brings me back in time. I had one of these as my second car. A revelation in reliability compared to my Fiat 128. Head gaskets went like popcorn though and the single wall bed dented easily, but a pretty useful truck for small jobs. Set me on a 15 year course of mechanically sturdier Toyota pickups which rusted even worse than the Courier did. Some days I think it would be cool to have little trucks like that again even though I long since made the more rational choice and drive a full size F150.

  • avatar

    The basic, simplistic, cheap-to-keep itty-bitty trucklets of the past were popular in the salvage yards.

    The pics of the Courier’s engine shows an easily-seen smog-fighting contraption I believe was known back then as A.I.R. air injection reaction where the air pump sent fresh atmosphere into the exhaust manifold to, hopefully, assist in the combusting of any combustible materiel departing the engine but my Old Coot memory is becoming increasingly faulty; perhaps due to protein deprivation as vittles become increasingly expensive and food procurement is steadily decreased to meet living costs such as the taxes forced upon the populace just to provide a life necessity such as shelter, etc.

    Anyway, cool truck. Don’t really miss the once-owned 1972-1/2 Datsun Lil Hustler but the 1978 Toyota HiLux bought as a “stolen-recovery” vehicle from the dismantling yard employer and fixable under a friend’s shade tree using a tree and a chain and replacing a few el cheapo components at wholesale cost through the yard’s after-market el cheapo parts supplier led to a groovy truck.

    Entertainment provided during the rebuild process via the neighboring “Purple People” cult/commune who would pass by and smile while, I suppose, communing or, perhaps, enjoying watching the rookie laboring upon the little trucklet.

  • avatar

    I will never wax eloquent about a Courier after having spent the better part of a year working on one while in high school auto shop in 1983-4. It was I think a 1977 model which belonged to one of the science teachers, and he dropped it off at the beginning of the year with a dead motor still in it, with a 1978 model junkyard motor sitting in the bed. I may be a year or two off on the model years but I remember that the replacement engine was only one year newer than the truck.

    Mazda had changed just about everything conceivable that connected to the engine between those two model years (example: 2-bolt exhaust pipe flange went to 3-bolt) which made putting the newer engine in extremely difficult. It took me 2-3 months to get the new engine installed with everything connected and working properly, working on it for the better part of 3 hours per day.

    And the brakes – it had four wheel drums, with TWO wheel cylinders per drum, with MANUAL ADJUSTMENT for each shoe. So you had to do eight adjustments on the brakes, once or twice a year. I was absolutely dumbfounded with this, as the 1941 Chevrolet that I owned at the time had more advanced (double-acting wheel cylinders) brakes than this!

    And don’t even get me started on the carburetor on this thing. Probably the most complicated carb that I have ever rebuilt in my life. I made diagrams (no digital cameras back then) of every air bleed jet (many of which had tiny ball bearings captured underneath them) so I could get them all back in the right place.

    And after a year’s worth of work in the shop, it drove only so-so and I was extremely happy to see that pickup disappear from our shop. Give me a Datsun or Toyota pickup of the same vintage any day over this thing.

  • avatar

    A friend of mine bought a gen 2 1981 model in 1992. While very nice at the start, he beat it into the ground over the next 7 years.
    The man was (and is) an incredible cheapskate. In the end, it had no unwrinked panel, faded paint, and NO floor. I don’t mean a heavily rusted floor, I mean the periphary of the floor was non-existent. You had to skew your legs towards the tunnel or lose your feet. He actually took this thing on highway drives in Saskatchewan winters, and him and his wife had to stuff blankets into the corners of the cab to keep the cold out. He actually lost his cell phone out the bottom one time, never to be recovered.
    We had mutual friend who were status oriented yuppies, and they were pissed every time he visited them and had the nerve to park it in thier driveway, thus calling thier breeding into question in the eyes of thie neighbors.

  • avatar
    Sammy B

    For those that watched 2010’s EXCELLENT but cancelled, “Terriers”, seeing their light blue Courier was always fun. A small detail that really fit perfectly!

  • avatar

    My grandfather had a Courier for several years in the early ’80s. I don’t remember much about it, other than it was loud and had vinyl seats. This is the man who also owned several models and generations of Ford Thunderbirds and at least one piss yellow AMC Pacer. I miss him.

    Something like this would be all the truck I’d ever need. How much are 10 year old, 4-cylinder, regular cab Rangers going for these days?

    • 0 avatar

      “How much are 10 year old, 4-cylinder, regular cab Rangers going for these days?”

      Depending on miles, possibly a lot more than you’d think. Around here, a 2001 Ranger XLT with 150,000 miles in “clean” condition pops up at $2,500 on Edmunds TMV and Intellichoice. I remember when that kind of money bought you a Ranger with half that many miles and slightly less years of worldly “experience”, but there you go.

  • avatar
    Joe McKinney

    I learned to drive in my father’s 1976 Mazda B-1600. These were nice little trucks, though not as good as contemporary Datsuns or Toyotas.

    Around 1980 or so I read a newspaper article about Ford crushing a ship load of new Couriers because they had begun to rust en-route from Japan.

  • avatar
    Point Given

    Saw one of these on the show Terriers, was quite amused. looks like a solid old little truck. The kind we don’t have any more.

  • avatar

    SAKES ALIVE! I STILL WANT ONE OF THOSE!! The front grille makes it look like a mini F-150!

    Seems like these things only came in light blue or yellow! That’s what I always remember seeing as a kid. There’s an early 80s one of these parked on the street nearby, but it’s a motorhome.

  • avatar

    The Courier was not Ford’s only small pick-up truck from that era. Remember the Ranchero?

  • avatar

    That’s not a pickup; it’s a car with the back hacked off…same as the El Camino.

  • avatar

    I worked for a guy for a couple of weeks in 1979, who had three of them. In Las Vegas, they didn’t rot almost instantly like they did in the land of winter salt, so they were driven into the ground. He had 2 of them still going until 2000 or so, when the last one puked a motor when he started it up one cold (For Vegas) morning. I was shocked to hear what he replaced it with, a 2001 Dodge Ram 1500 4×4! Talk about going the other way!

  • avatar

    I remember these around quite a bit back in the day.

    There IS a well weathered, but mostly straight and appears to be solid old red one still floating around on Capitol Hill as I’ve seen it parked around my apartment building on the streets every so often. It’s from the 70’s first gen Courier which ran from 1972-1976.

    Neighbors we used to lived next door to, had a ’79, I think it was Ford Courier that he bought new to replace his orange ’73 Ford F-150 that he also got new and drove it for several years and it was white.

    These, like the Chevy Luv were very numerous back in the day and I still see one every so often, but hardly these days.

    A couple of years ago, spotted a weird green/yellow (original paint), I think a ’72 if I recall right Luv parked on the street in halfway decent shape for its age when I was out photographing my walk and it was that day that I spotted an ’87 Sprint 5 door, and a battered ’76-80 round headlight Subaru Brat that had been painted in a gaudy blue and white motif and had mus-matched wheels but looked to still run. All three were in the same block/street if I recall right here on Capitol Hill.

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