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?
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.
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.
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