By on December 1, 2015

b4k

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?


hombre

The S-10 and Ranger fairly flew off showroom floors, particularly between the coasts. It’s worth noting that the mini-truck customer base had some significant demographic differences across the country. On the West Coast, Japanese pickups appealed to young people who had an “adventure lifestyle”. They were also third vehicles for middle-class families who were on their third or fourth Honda or Toyota by the late Seventies.

In the Midwest and Southwest, minitrucks were still the choice of younger drivers, but those drivers were often coming from families where the pickup truck was the sole method of transportation. If Papa had an F-250, and Mama had an F-150, then it mades sense for the kids to get Rangers. As an aside, your humble author has to confess to a bit of culture shock here: having grown up on the East Coast and in certain suburban enclaves of Ohio, when I started dating women from California and Texas and New Mexico I found it absolutely shocking when my girlfriends would tell me that they’d grown up driving a truck. In a few cases, they’d go straight from pickup trucks to Explorers or Tahoes, having never owned a car in their entire lives. The idea of a woman driving a pickup truck is still vaguely shocking and transgressive to me. In over a year of selling Ford trucks for a living, I never once handed the keys to a woman, so when I go to Houston and see twenty-five-year-old girls with their own Lariats or Silverados it induces a bit of cognitive dissonance for me.

It also became common for older people to buy minitrucks once they retired or suffered a cut in personal income. The Ranger and S-10, which always had a higher “hip point” than two-wheel-drive Toyotas or Nissans, offered an easy step-in. Just as important, they shared everything from seatbelt buckles to door-card materials with their full-size showroom mates. After all, if you grew up in a household with nothing but GM or Ford trucks, a Chevy LUV or Ford Courier would induce considerable distress just from the complete unfamiliarity of everything from the controls to the bucket seats. Whether we admit it or not, we all like familiar objects; the sense of homecoming I had when I settled into my new 330i fifteen years ago was undoubtedly due to my misspent youth in a 733i.

It didn’t hurt that the cars surrounding the Ranger and S-10 in the dealerships were slow, cramped, uncomfortable, and just plain odd-looking. Imagine that you were a rural business owner or agriculture worker, set in your ways, a “Ford man”, and the satisfied owner of a ’78 Fairmont. You’re returning to the Ford store in 1986, looking to trade in the old wreck for something new. The salesman explains to you that the big, boxy Fairmont has been replaced by something called the “Tempo”. When you see the Tempo, it looks less like a car to you than something you’d put up your ass to ease constipation. “If you’re willing to spend a little more,” the man in the cheap sportscoat tells you, “we have the Taurus”. That looks like a bar of soap.

You’re about ready to throw up your hands in disgust, but then you spot something in the corner of the showroom. It’s reasonably sized, boxy and traditional. Respectable, really. “That’s the Ranger XLT Club Cab,” you’re told. And that, dear readers, is how Ford increased the Ranger’s market share beyond that of the Courier.

Chrysler had its own smaller pickup coming, but it was planned as a “tweener” to cover the gap between Ranger and F-150. As a consequence, the Dodge Ram 50 stuck around for a few years after the LUV and Courier got the chop. Once the Dakota was a proven success, however, Chrysler decided it wasn’t worth getting Mitsubishi to engineer its third-generation compact truck for the U.S. market. And thus endeth the era of the captive import truck, in 1996.

At that point in history, the domestic minitruck had triumphed over its oppressive captive ancestors. It was also doing a pretty good job of rendering the contemporary Japanese-brand competitors irrelevant. The Toyota Tacoma and Nissan Frontier didn’t have the mojo of their predecessors. Mostly built in America, they cost more than the domestics while failing to offer the big-bore 4.3-liter and 4.0-liter V-6 engines available in the S-10 and Ranger, respectively.

This being also the era of increasingly outrageous development costs (Ford famously spent six billion dollars on the development of the Mondeo/Contour), the smaller Japanese manufacturers were having trouble getting their next generation of small pickups to meet the increasingly divergent demands of the U.S. and “ROW” (Rest Of World) markets. The Asian markets still wanted a vehicle with the proportions of the original Toyota “HiLux”, but Americans wanted minitrucks with enough room for a pair of six-foot adults to stretch out and enjoy a long highway trip.

i370

The solution was plain to see. It was time for a second wave of “captive imports”. This time, however, it would be domestic pickups rebranded for import dealers who needed the volume and the customer loyalty. The Mazda B2200, whose ancestor had conquered California as the Ford Courier, became nothing more than a badge applied to the Ford Ranger. Isuzu’s “P’UP” disappeared, to be replaced by the Hombre, which was a lash-up of some export body panels for the facelifted Gen 2 S-10. Some years later, Isuzu would take a variant of the Colorado/Canyon twins as the “i-Series”, as seen above.

These “captive” trucks never set any sales records, but they probably kept the lights on at a few dealers over the years. My personal impression, backed by nothing more than keeping an eye out over two decades of cross-country travel, is that they were more common the closer you got to California. I don’t think I’ve ever seen an Hombre in Tennessee.

Mazda canceled the B-Series pickup a few years before Ford let go of the ancient Ranger on which it was based. The Isuzu i-Series was also canceled in 2008. The market at which they’d been pointed would no longer sustain niche minitrucks. There was even a question, which remains open today, as to whether the market can sustain minitrucks at all; the entire compact pickup market in this country, if you combined the sales of every entrant, would only be the fourth-best selling pickup truck. Our own Tim Cain notes that “The Toyota Tacoma-led small/midsize pickup truck segment grew by 31% to 29,471 units in October 2015, a U.S. year-over-year sales improvement of nearly 7,000 sales. Pickup sales continue to be dominated by full-size trucks, however, sales of which increased 4 percent to 186,995 units in October 2015, an increase of more than 7,700 units.”

We could close the story here, but to do so would be to neglect my favorite captive truck, one that sold an oddly prophetic six hundred and sixty-six units in its final year of production:

raider

The Mitsubishi Raider was the third-generation Dakota midsizer with an Eclipse-ish front end. Both Chrysler and Mitsubishi managed to delude themselves into thinking that, nearly a decade after the last Mighty Max had sold and rolled, there would be any market whatsoever for a “Japanese pickup” approximately the size of a Seventies Chevrolet C-10. The dealers spent the first year giving them away at whatever price the market would bear. Then production was restricted to meet demand. That demand never reached ten thousand units a year.

Let’s bookend this story, therefore, with the very first LUV on one side and the very last Raider on the other. What lessons can we learn from the captive minitruck adventure, which spanned five decades and put a few million badge-engineered pickups on the American road? Well, there are probably a few, ranging from the perceptive value of brands to the tenacious stupidity of auto executives.

The lesson that I want to give you, however, is a different one, and it’s one that I hammer home about twenty times a year at TTAC: This is a business that revolves around the dealer. No matter what we want to believe, no matter what we want to be true, the fact is that dealers are the true customers of the manufacturers. You’re just the cattle lining up at the trough. And if you doubt me, then call up Isuzu and see if they’ll put your name on a truck, why dontcha?

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64 Comments on “A Selective History Of Minitrucks, Part Two: The Empire Strikes Back, Then Gives Up...”


  • avatar
    gtemnykh

    My favorites from the late 80s-early 90s era are the Mazda B2600i 4wd and the Nissan Hardbody 4wd, they seemed less watered down than what followed.

    I recently rode in a Colorado for the first time, like the Isuzu-ized one Jack posted. I was down in Mexico and we were evacuating in anticipation of Hurricane Patty. 2007 crew cab z71, inoperable 4wd and a christmas tree of dash lights, but it drove and rode well, I sat in the second row and was not uncomfortable, at least for city driving. They have surprisingly high resale value here in the States.

    • 0 avatar
      Carlson Fan

      If it was 1993 all over again I’d go with another Toyota extra-cab, 4WD, V6. Only this time I’d do it right and get the SR5 trim versus the Deluxe I owned.

      There really wasn’t another compact truck at the time that drove as tight as that thing did. And for me, the exterior and interior styling was the best in its class. My only complaint was the V6’s lack of low end grunt for towing. But it got the job done and as I stated last week I worked that truck way harder towing than anyone I knew at the time with a FS truck. Every weekend it was leaving town with either a boat or a snowmobile trailer hooked to the back of it depending on the season. Amazing that when my buddy got rid of it with 300K it still had the original clutch.

      • 0 avatar
        gtemnykh

        Don’t get me wrong the Toyota pickup is a truly excellent rig and probably the best of the bunch durability wise, but I just like the offbeat nature of my choices. That 89-94 Pickup was basically still a global Hilux with a torsion bar IFS instead of a solid front axle on the 4wds. The Tacomas that followed simply aren’t quite as robust. Tacomas use C-channel frames and double wishbone front ends with vulnerable lower ball joints. Albeit it make no mistake, 95-04 Tacomas are still great trucks (watch out for frame rot though).

        • 0 avatar
          Carlson Fan

          “That 89-94 Pickup was basically still a global Hilux with a torsion bar IFS instead of a solid front axle on the 4wds.”

          Yep it was definitely a tough little truck. Everyone that got behind the wheel always commented on how nice it drove.

          I shoveled many 1700-1800 pound loads of river rock into the bed of that PU when I was landscaping my first house. At that point it still had enough suspension travel left in the rear that it wouldn’t bottom out on the way home every time you hit a bump.

  • avatar

    Isuzu I-Series, Raiders, and Mazda B32354513110000s (along with the Equator) are great buys because no one typically has any idea what they are, even dealers would pay more for an identical Ranger/Colorado/Frontier/Dakota.

    I have a B236451340000 on the lot right now. Wins the award for the most depressed-looking front-end ever on a pickup. I feel like at any given second, it may pop its own clutch and roll itself in front of a County dumptruck to put an end to its misery. If Mazda’s contemporary grille design is a smile, the B-Series is contemplation of suicide.

    I will say for as much guff as they receive from everyone, Colorado/Canyons more than hold their own on the resale front, especially a Crew Cab, and especially with 4WD. Can’t touch ’em at the block unless its seriously beat.

    Last stream-of-conciousness rambling, I will never, ever stock another Tacoma. You pay way too much for what you get.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      Mmmmmmmmmmmm MY98 XJ8… but wait MY98 was affected by the Nikasil defect. Have you checked for the “fixed” plaque on the back of the motor?

    • 0 avatar
      Carlson Fan

      “Last stream-of-conciousness rambling, I will never, ever stock another Tacoma. You pay way too much for what you get.”

      It has been that way for a long time. I bought a new compact Toyota PU in 1993. My first new vehicle ever and before that I said I would never buy any car/truck brand new. The prices people wanted for used Toyota trucks were insane even back then. Given my circumstances at the time, it was cheaper to just buy a new one. Never regretted that decision.

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      Gf’s uncle traded in a ’01 Tacoma 4wd extended cab TRD package truck with 160k miles on it, parking brake inoperable due to rust, diff lock solenoid inoperable due to disuse/rust, and a CEL on due to a bad catalytic converter, still got something like $7k on trade. The dealer cleaned it up a bit and put it on the lot in a few days with a $11k asking price, her uncle was floored. To be fair the truck did look really good, no rust on the body anywhere, or even the rear bumper, as it had been replaced after a fender bender a few years back.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      The B-Series had to match the other Mazda trucky thing, the MPV.

  • avatar
    Drzhivago138

    I missed Part 1 last weekend, so I was a bit confused at first.

    Also, it’s “That’s the Ranger XLT SuperCab.” “Club Cab” is Dodge and Dodge only.

  • avatar
    turf3

    1) Re: the “minitrucking hobby”‘s neglect of the “hokey hickey” Ranger: who the he!! cares. They all just got tired of their customized minitrucks and bought Hondas and cut the springs and put 15-series tires on 8″ wide rims. The Twin I beam generation Ranger was one fine truck.

    2) Re: women driving trucks: boy it must really freak you out when they handle firearms competently.

    • 0 avatar
      Drzhivago138

      “Who cares?” Anyone who’s curious. I’m not into the minitruck hobby at all, but when I see certain things in life (e.g. 95% of slammed minitrucks being S-10s), I think to myself, “huh, I wonder why that’s like that.” And now I know why.

      If you’d care to read it again, you’ll notice that he wasn’t really slamming (no pun intended) the Ranger, just giving reasons why it wasn’t used.

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      2) Not really, my ex-wife was a plate shooter for years.

    • 0 avatar
      Willyam

      Growing up out here in Red-state land, big C-10’s and F100 (later 150’s) were for boys, Rangers and S-10’s were for girls.

      Datsuns and Toyotas were for the occasional weirdos like my family who towed a small boat with a tiller rather than a wheel, and enjoyed puttering along at 55 getting non-truck mileage with kids riding in the bed under the cap on piles of life vests. So guess what I learned to drive in? We sold the first Toyota to another weirdo, who made it into an ice-cream truck.

      My first real truck was a 1965 F100. Six-cylinder, three on the tree, maybe one operating drum brake. Fenders you couldn’t dent with a hammer. Normalcy restored.

      To this day, IMO, young cowgirls in domestic minis with lots of feathers and junk on the mirror are still kind of hot.

  • avatar
    CobraJet

    Here in Tennessee I have seen a few Hombres. There is a person in my neighborhood h who has the latest version Raider. Not sure if I’ve ever seen another.

  • avatar
    Lightspeed

    Here in Alberta, land of the Rig-Rocket and Bro-Truck there are a surprising number of Rangers. Some for urban delivery duty, but most are well-optioned 4x4s. The S-10 seemed to have its day here, but are rare now. If Ford had brought the quad-cab Ranger here instead of the Explorer Sport-trac, they’d still be selling Rangers.

  • avatar
    Chets Jalopy

    I married a girl who had recently bought a 1993 Ranger new. We managed to hold onto it through 270,000 miles. We sold it last spring to an old man. It was the most reliable vehicle we’ve owned and we were pretty sad to see it go.

  • avatar
    tylermattikow

    Midsize and compact trucks really have lost popularity for two reasons, #1 is the fuel economy size and price are too close to full size trucks. The other reason is the Wrangler 4 door. It is the right size, image and utility to take away those who bought small pickups to support their active lifestyles. The cost of the wrangler is also offset by the incredible resale values.

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      I’m not sure how a Wrangler Unlimited compares in utility to a compact truck with a bed. I guess you can offset that with a small utility trailer.

      • 0 avatar
        bball40dtw

        Utility trailer indeed. Heck, if you don’t need to go off road, a Transit Connect with a utility trailer is way better than a compact truck.

        But I’m the guy that used to buy used bread vans when I was buying fleet vehicles. So much utility!

        • 0 avatar
          MBella

          Just about any car and a utility trailer will suffice. I used to share a Ranger with my dad for the odd time one of us needed a truck. I now have a 4×8 utility trailer and can tow it with my wagon. No insurance to pay, registration is a one time deal. When I take the sides off I can put it up flat against a wall. It’s way more practical.

          • 0 avatar
            DenverMike

            Cool story, BAFO

            Save it for your kids at bedtime. No ‘cab-chassis’ loophole ended years before the whole Mini-Truck Craze exploded. It wasn’t until the mid ’80s most import pickups were made in the US. Some mini-trucks, like the Dodge D50 and Mitsubishi Mighty Max never were made in the US. Nope, in Okazaki Aichi Japan until ’96 when US sales dropped to almost zero. I don’t remember seeing any new ones after 1990.

            And nice theory, but it’s really hard to sell anything to Americans with shaky resale value. They could end up with a used Daewoo or Diahatsu junk type of *situation*. No one wanted them *used*. Even the junkyards would only offer whatever steel was selling for at the time (by the ton), even if they ran good and clean, low miles.

            Disposable junk doesn’t sell here. Price does play a role, as you said, but the ‘tipping point’ would be around only $4,000, for a fully bling’d out 4×4 crew cab you could throw away in a couple years, I’d say.

          • 0 avatar
            krhodes1

            I’ve been saying this here for eons. Trucks as suburban utility vehicles make no sense at all. Plus add that with todays supersize trucks, it is a heck of a lot easier to get something on a nice low utility trailer than up into a waist high pickup bed.

            Jack’s take on women and trucks is interesting to me. In my part of the East Coast, there has never been any shortage of women driving pickups. But Maine is a tad more redneck than Joisey.

    • 0 avatar
      Big Al from Oz

      tylermattikow,
      Pricing was the biggest killer of the little pickups.

      They were popular when they could be imported from Japan. Once the loopholes were made tighter, ie, the stopping the importation of the cab chassis, and the US manufacturers made the small pickups they rose in price by around 25%. Odd that!

      The price of fuel also plays a role.

      A form of the “minitruck” does exist and they are selling for the same reasons, pricing. The US doesn’t receive these as technical trade barriers and import tariffs are blocking their entry into the US market. They are mainly the Chinese and Indian pickups.

      A couple of these are quite nice and cheap. The Cummins power Tunland from China and the Tata “Tuff Truck”.

      The Tata can be had for around $12 500 US and the Tunland is around the same price. Both have diesels. The highend Tunland can be had for $22 000US with dual cab, 4×4, leather, and some bells and whistles. Not bad pricing, but the stigma of buying one will take some time to be overcome.

      http://www.drive.com.au/content/dam/images/2/s/f/9/3/image.gallery.articleLeadwide.620×349.2sf98.png/1377209411327.jpg

      http://s3.caradvice.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/Foton-Tunland-4×4.jpg

    • 0 avatar
      Willyam

      This is a really interesting point. Rangers used to be EVERYWHERE around here. I had a 3.0 4×4 for a while. Good little truck, but if you needed to squeeze people in the jump seats it was embarrassing.

      Over the last few years, they’re just…gone. You don’t even see parts runners anymore. In fact, it’s kind of conspicuous when you see a small truck of any kind.

      Since the Wrangler sedan was introduced, I doubt it cannibalized a lot of the college-kid or rural regular Wrangler buyers, and I see a lot of soccer-mom-ish versions running around. So who DID it cannibalize sales from?

  • avatar
    Atomicblue

    My daughter drives a 1994 Mazda B4000 SE 4X4 with a manual trans. She loves the truck, but it’s a single cab and she’d like more room inside for her dogs. I’m planning to take it off her hands and give her a 2006 Corolla we are inheriting. I’m looking forward to having the little truck to kick around in from time to time. I had a 1993 Dakota single cab long bed for about 4 years and loved having it around to do “truck things.” The problem with the Dakota was rust. It had spent most of its early years in the salt covered roads of the Midwest and it was literally falling apart in the driveway. This Mazda has been a TX truck it’s whole life so no rust and it won’t have that worry here in FL.

  • avatar
    pbr

    >> the fact is that dealers are the true customers of the manufacturers.

    so [i]that’s[/i] who “they” are … as in: “they just won’t build the brown diesel manual wagon I would buy if only they would sell it.”

  • avatar
    dal20402

    A lot of minitrucks (both foreign and domestic) got sold in the ’80s and early ’90s on the strength of absurdly low prices. These days, it would be a loser on several levels (CAFE especially) to sell a minitruck super-cheap. And when they’re more expensive, it’s only the people who really need the smaller size (which is not a huge proportion of *truck* buyers) that prefer them to full-size trucks.

    If you could get a stripper Tacoma for $17k, they’d fly off the lots in epic numbers.

    • 0 avatar
      bball40dtw

      Same thing with large SUVs. If GM decided to price a stripper Tahoe (to the general public) similar to the Traverse, they’d sell so [email protected] many.

      • 0 avatar
        PrincipalDan

        I’ve been kind of sad that even the “fleet” Tahoe/Yukon/Suburbans that I occasionally see still have cloth interiors (instead of vinyl) with their rubber floors.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        Stripper Tahoe would reduce too much margin and compete with Traverse which probably doesn’t have much margin in comparison. Pay to play.

        • 0 avatar
          bball40dtw

          Oh I agree. There are good reasons why they don’t do it. Margins, cannibalizing other product, CAFE, not falling into old-GM traps, etc. A $30K Tahoe makes all other GM CUVs worthless in this brave new world with low gas prices and short term memory.

      • 0 avatar
        dal20402

        I don’t know. You’d definitely sell some, but the Tahoe is so small inside I think the family crowd would keep buying Traverses. You have to step up to a Burban (and its attendant exterior size) to carry the same people and stuff as a Traverse.

        The minitrucks in the 80s were literally competing for the title of cheapest vehicle in the showroom, and doing it without econobox stigma. That was brilliant marketing.

        • 0 avatar
          Carlson Fan

          “I don’t know. You’d definitely sell some, but the Tahoe is so small inside I think the family crowd would keep buying Traverses.”

          As a Tahoe owner I have to agree. Unless your towing something fairly heavy your better off with a unibody SUV. You just don’t get the room and/or practicality with a BOF SUV that you do with a unibody SUV.

        • 0 avatar
          bball40dtw

          I’m going to replace a CUV, that I actually really like, with a SUV. I don’t tow more than 10 times a year and the CUV has a big enough tow ratings for what I do.

          • 0 avatar
            Carlson Fan

            I’ve been inside and ridden in my sisters Outlook. They tow an older competition ski boat with theirs from time to time and it works just fine for them. Her biggest complaint is too many trips to the dealer for recalls and other issues. It’s not quite as bullet proof as the Pathfinder she had before it.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            Our MkT has had zero issues besides the 20″ tires setting the TPMS system off every time the temperature drops more than 20+ degrees. Drives me nuts. My GTI used to do it too.

            My wife just wants a Navigator or Expedition King Ranch (I want the King Ranch, she wants the Navi).

        • 0 avatar
          its me Dave

          When you compared those two cheapest vehicles in the showroom, the contrast in images projected were pretty clear.

          An S10 said “this is my unique choice of vehicle”. The Cavalier said “this is all I can afford.”

    • 0 avatar
      Dan

      The regular cab was exactly what you’re describing, stickered for $19,025 in its final model year, and sold so poorly that Toyota discontinued it for 2015.

      • 0 avatar
        dal20402

        Too expensive. I think it needs to compete with a Yaris the same way the ’80s truck competed with a Tercel.

        • 0 avatar
          Drzhivago138

          So, unibody FWD?

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            Nope. RWD, BOF, cheap and cheerful, probably a bit smaller than today’s midsizers. Rebuild a Nissan Hardbody in a way that meets modern regulatory requirements and is a bit more resistant to rust.

          • 0 avatar
            Drzhivago138

            Overlooking the fact that the Yaris is unibody FWD, to meet modern regulatory requirements regarding MPG, any truly compact pickup would almost certainly have to be a unibody FWD platform. Think Fiat Strada.

            I won’t say it can’t be done, but it doesn’t look likely that a new BOF RWD platform would be tooled up just for a compact pickup.

    • 0 avatar
      bunkie

      I’m something of a contrarian. After all, I drive a CTS wagon. I recently leased one of the last 2015 Tacomas. I kept seeing all these lease deals on domestic full-size trucks but, to support Jack’s point, the local dealers had no qualifying vehicles, only ultra-optioned versions. The Tacoma wasn’t on my radar (despite my having leased two Rangers in the ’90s) but when I ran into a dealer display at a county fair and asked them if they had the advertised lease deal Tacoma, they said yes. Actually, they were stretching the truth a bit as they had a base model with the SR option package (about $1500 extra) which happened to have all the extras I wanted and none I didn’t. All of the arguments against the mini trucks are true: the fuel mileage isn’t any better, they don’t tow as much, they have smaller payload capacity. The arguments for the mini truck really only appeal to a portion of the truck-buying public: availability of a manual (big issue for me) and smaller size. In the end, it was quite a bit less expensive than what I could get at a local Ford dealer. I don’t have a boat and since I drive less than half of the allotted miles per month, I don’t really care about the fuel mileage (which, of course, would be the same with an F-150, so it’s a moot point). I just like smaller trucks. It’s more than I need, but fits well with what I want: My motorcycle fits in the bed, it’s drives very nicely, I get to shift my own gears, and when I finish the stereo upgrade (Focal components in the doors, an amp hidden behind the factory head unit and custom made boxes for the rear) it will be damned-near perfect for me.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    I have the last year, 2008, of Isuzu I-370 crew cab which I bought new for 10k off MSRP. It is black with charcoal heated leather seats, 4×4, towing package, fog lights, power driver’s and passenger seats, power windows and locks, fob, and auto dim mirror (a great buy for 21k). It is a great truck. I also have a 99 S-10 extended cab with an I-4 with 5 speed manual which I bought new and has been very reliable.

  • avatar
    Big Al From 'Murica

    I have probably owned more of these then any other vehicle. Had an 88 Ranger, an 88 Bronco II (Pretty much a Ranger), an 03 S-10, and the recent 2013 Frontier. The S-10 and Rangers were different. The size difference was enough to where they offered a different experience then the fullsize rigs of the time but they were no less of a “truck”, especially in the case of the twin I-Beam Rangers. Yes, this suspension in combination with the styling caused the typical minitruck crowd to shun them. In the case of 4×4 models however it ensured that the suspensions actually had some flex in it. They all were manuals and all got pretty good mileage, especially given the fullsize drivetrains available at the time. The Frontier was a different beast. I liked it, but it got worse than fullsize mileage without the capability. 1 6 foot tall 14 year old and a 10 year old hitting a growth spurt made it no longer pleasurable to drive on longish camping trips. Plus, while I like relatively spartan trucks I decided I wanted some options (The Frontier had an auto, but that was it. No Cruise and manual locks/windows).

    When I shopped the replacement the Fullsize made more sense and gets better MPG to boot. I did shop some very nice 88ish Bronco II’s though but as much as I wanted to pull the trigger I use the bed more than I thought and that little wheelbase makes them scary tow vehicles, even with my little pop up.

  • avatar
    namstrap

    I had a D50 with the 2.6L engine and a five speed back in the eighties. I loved the power, and the bucket seats (bumblebee striped yellow and black)were very comfortable. The transmission was I think the nicest shifting one I’ve ever experienced. Unfortunately, it started using more oil than gas. I sold it cheap to a contractor who used it for years after, keeping it topped up.
    We bought a new 1993 Ranger, and had it factory built for towing a small fifth wheel. We both prefer a standard transmission, but the only one available was a Mazda built one, and not acceptable for towing the weight we were towing. The result was a stiff riding truck that would tow 5200 lbs., and got 16 mpg empty or towing. Canadian gallons.

  • avatar
    RS

    It’s interesting to see how well the older Rangers have held up around here in MN. Very little rust compared the others. S10’s were not nearly as good. Imports were the worst for rust.

    • 0 avatar
      Big Al From 'Murica

      I maintain that the Ranger was just a downsized F150 while the S-10 followed the small truck mold set by the imports. Both good in their own way but I prefer the Ranger’s approach.

  • avatar
    Pig_Iron

    Thanks for pointing out the A/G-Body link, I was not aware of that.
    :-)

  • avatar
    Chris Ransdell

    The subject of why smaller trucks aren’t sold in numbers or kept current comes up a lot. I wonder if part of the reason there hasn’t been a rush to pump development dollars into this class of vehicle is the average transaction price. For full size trucks there seems to be no end to the number of high end trims that people flock to. It seems like the most common trim for privately owned Silverados is LTZ and for F-150’s the Lariat trim is very popular. When I owned a Nissan hardbody (used 1996 4×4 King Kab) it was in SE-V6 trim (with the 5-speed!) but those were always rare.

    I wonder if small truck buyers have tended to stick more to value trims that don’t offer a lot of profit. If so, that runs head-on into the issue that a nicely equipped mid size pickup starts to get very close in price to a full size pickup and until the new Colorado came out, those smaller pickups came with some pretty sparse feature lists.

    I would like something similar now but the market is mostly crew cabs and I really don’t like the look or the functionality of the giant cab tiny bed pickups.

    On a side note, I recently moved to Scranton PA and here in PA there are actually a lot of regular cab full size trucks even F-250 class ones. On the west coast the only regular cab full size pickups I saw were clearly fleet vehicles with most of the rest being crew cabs. Why the middle option of the extended cab isn’t popular here is beyond me.

  • avatar
    outback_ute

    The previous Colorado is basically the same as the ROW GM/Isuzu pickup with the exception of the engines offered.

    Also it appears that the new generation Hilux is more similar to the Tacoma, however I am not sure how much relationship there is.

  • avatar
    nrd515

    I find it very odd that you would find it strange dating women who grew up driving trucks, even though you’re a lot younger than I am (59). I grew up in the Toledo area, and while most of the girls I knew drove smallish, and beaterish cars, there were always a few who drove their parents or grandparents hand me down F150 or Chevy/GMC truck. When I lived in Las Vegas, I didn’t know a single woman who drove a pickup or SUV until just before I left, where a co-worker had the misfortune of nearly having her foot amputated when she wrecked her new Courier. When I came back to Toledo in ’82, trucks and SUVs were common across both sexes, with smaller ones dominating with women. My girlfriend from 20 years ago had a Suburban since college and was about to replace it with a new Tahoe. She currently drives a 2012 Yukon.

  • avatar
    Zjz125

    Growing Up on a Wisconsin Farm I spent many years driving Beater Mini Trucks made me despise them. While I was wrenching on FWD Imports.

    Now as a Young Adult who had to buy his first truck commuting truck ( Non Tow Vehicle) Needed Utility first house purchase etc.
    I picked up an 08 Mitsu Raider Ext Cab 2WD 36k on it for 7500. In WI
    A joke of truck in my demographic. hence the price

    A Year Later Living In Miami / South Florida A 2 Inch Level Lift Full Size Ram Wheels With Wheel Spacers Fake Ralli Art Grill Badge, A tonneau cover with a JY Pulled Explorer Roof Rack Mounted to it bike racks.

    This Low Mile Disregarded ( 1 of 650 ) Pick Up gets the same attention and perceived value as the Sporty Model Tacomas Frontiers Colorado’s etc. That people pay 20 to 30k for.
    Cant wait to sell if after owning it for a few years and 50K plus miles for around 2k profit.

    Really there’s no bigger joke than the full size crew cab brodozers in South Florida.

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