A Selective History Of Minitrucks, Part Two: The Empire Strikes Back, Then Gives Up

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?

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Junkyard Find: 1984 Mazda B2000 Sundowner Pickup

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.

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Junkyard Find: 1980 Mazda B2000 Sundowner Pickup

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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  • Jeff S I rented a 2012 Chrysler 200 with the 4 cylinder from Enterprise for business travel and it was not a bad car but I would not buy one. I would have picked a Honda Accord, Toyota Camry, or a Ford Fusion over a Chrysler 200. I have known people that bought Chrysler 200s that had nothing but problems with them. I appreciate these old reviews and miss the old TTAC before it became what it is now with many articles that are slanted toward politics. Don't have to agree with everything but it is good to read an honest review of a car.
  • Jeff S The Cybertruck was first unveiled and announced on Nov. 21, 2019. For over 3 years Tesla has been saying that this truck was going to be released soon. The mystique and surprise is no longer there. I think the Cybertruck is hideous but then I am not the target for this. Since its initial unveiling there has been the introduction of the Lightning, Hummer, and the Rivian truck. The anticipation of this truck and the mystique has faded. There will be a few that will buy this because they are hard core Tesla fans and some because it is different but Tesla should have been the first to market an EV pickup. GM is planning a compact EV pickup under the GMC brand starting at 25 MSRP. This should have been Tesla and Tesla could have downsized the Cybertruck to either a midsize or compact truck and been first. Tesla should have been first at the very least to release a smaller EV truck.
  • Bloke Wow, this should make a big difference, to those catalytic converter thieves who don't have tools like 'angle grinders' with them.
  • Carlson Fan The way the truck drops in the rear and the bed/tailgate become a ramp is genius! I'd buy it just for that alone!!! It would be awesome for loading snowmobiles and garden tractors in the back. However, my trucks need to be able to regularly tow heavy loads long distance, summer & winter. Sorry folks, current battery tech. isn't even close to what it needs to be for me to think even one second that a battery truck could replace my current ICE powered truck. An EV for a DD makes sense , but for truck you need a MUCH better battery.
  • Inside Looking Out For midsize sedan it is too small. It basically is a compact car.