Rare Rides: The Mazda Navajo of 1992, O Brother of Explorer

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis
rare rides the mazda navajo of 1992 o brother of explorer

The rarely seen (any time post-1999) Mazda Navajo was the oft-forgot smaller sibling of Ford’s incredibly popular first-generation Explorer. An example has popped up for sale in Wisconsin, and it’s about as new as can be. We need to check it out.

Ford’s Explorer was introduced in 1991, and quickly became the new hotness for families across the nation. Eager members of the middle class traded in their tired minivans or even more tired large wagons, and bounced around the country in their new Explorer Eddie Bauer or perhaps an XLT (sad!). And across town at the Mazda dealer, there was a thoroughly Japanese Explorer for sale with a Native American name.

Born of the time when Ford owned Mazda, the Navajo was also introduced for the 1991 model year. It took the prize for first SUV sold under the Mazda name. Unlike the Explorer which was available in three- or five-door configurations, the Navajo was only available as the former.

The main difference between the American and Japanese brothers were the front and rear treatments, and some wheel designs. Two different trim levels were offered on the Navajo: a base DX or the “upmarket” LX we have here. Unlike the Explorer, the Navajo came with some standard equipment even in DX guise. Power windows, locks, and mirrors were always standard, and the LX trim included a leather steering wheel and some additional interior lighting.

The original buyer of today’s Rare Ride decided those things were not enough, and opted for the premium package to accompany his Navajo LX. Air conditioning, cassette stereo, power lumbar, and manual moonroof were all benefits of checking the premium box. All Navajo examples were powered by Ford’s 4.0-liter Cologne V6.

Though good value, the Navajo had some issues. The first of which was the name on the grille, as consumers didn’t look to Mazda for an SUV. Said stream of customers was limited further by Ford’s prerogative to offer the Navajo only in three-door configuration. Families demanded five doors, and Mazda didn’t even offer that many on their MPV minivan. The end result was lackluster sales figures, and the Navajo would be discontinued after the 1994 model year.

This extra clean Navajo we’ve been viewing was recently listed on Racine’s Craigslist. It has four-wheel drive, a five-speed manual, and only 60,000 miles on the clock. Asking price? Just $2,000.

[Images via seller]

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3 of 33 comments
  • JohnTaurus JohnTaurus on Apr 16, 2018

    Its smaller than the 5 door Explorer, but its exactly the same size as the Explorer Sport. Ford did not own a controlling interest in Mazda until 1995, and I highly doubt they mandated Mazda to only offering a 3 door. It's more likely that Mazda wanted to project a sporty image and was unprepared for the popularity of the 5 door version with families. All that said, I do like this one, but there are too many rust-free Explorers out there to choose from. I do want a first gen or earlier second gen at some point, but I've decided to put more money into fixing up my Taurus first. Which, by the way, has a ton of parts waiting to be installed once this job is over. I'm very excited to get to work on it! Lots of upgrades coming, including a set of 17" OEM Ford wheels I bought for it Sunday.

  • MoparRocker74 MoparRocker74 on Apr 16, 2018

    When a Ford Explorer derivative looks refreshing and desirable, you KNOW the current crop of CUVs/SUVs is total crap. I like the idea that an SUV doesn't have to cater to suburban soccer moms schlepping kids around...this is an entirely suitable rig for a younger single guy. And not much these days fits that bill.

    • PrincipalDan PrincipalDan on Apr 16, 2018

      Eh those guys are buying pickup trucks and (Toyota hopes) the 2019 RAV4!/s Seriously though I saw some XLT F150s with 5.0 Coyote, 4x4, bucket seats + console and extended cab at at a Ford dealer in Utah. Those are going to be blank canvases for some Ford loving Bro (the demographic 2 door SUVs served.)

  • IH_Fever Another day, more bloviating between the poor downtrodden union leeches and the corporate thieves. But at least pantsuit guy got a nice new shirt.
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