Most pickups are workhorses, a tool for their owners like a hammer or a pair of pliers. They’re hardy and built to last but they’re not necessarily built to keep. In contrast, some cars are collectible; others are bought by conscientious owners who take meticulous care of them. As a result, an enthusiast’s old Mustang is about as surprising to see on the road as a pensioner’s old Corolla. But old pickups? They get worked to the grave and then, years later, you realize you haven’t seen an old Ford Courier or Mitsubishi Triton in a long time. To my astonishment, I saw two damn near extinct pickups in Clayfield the other day.
Clayfield is a suburb (neighborhood) on Brisbane’s northside. It’s full of leafy streets and beautiful old homes, meticulously restored and renovated. Unsurprisingly, this makes real estate quite expensive here. The street traffic, however, often looks a little working-class owing to its proximity to a major train station, Eagle Junction. Lots of commuters park on these verdant streets including, I imagine, the owner of this Ford Courier.
The Courier nameplate continued to be used in the Asia-Pacific region on a rebadged Mazda B-Series, long after it disappeared from North America.
There was also a 4WD wagon variant called the Raider, available with a third row of seats. This was only offered in right-hand-drive markets and was also sold elsewhere in Asia as the Mazda Proceed Marvie. The Raider was introduced to Australia in 1991 but, like many other Japanese cars of the era, was hamstrung by an unfavorable exchange rate. By the end of its run, it was decidedly overpriced for a four-cylinder, truck-based wagon.
Unlike the first generation, the second series of Courier was available in extended cab and dual (crew) cab variants. Also new was an optional V6 engine, the British Essex V6, available in South Africa. In Australia, however, engines were limited to 2.0 and 2.6 fours plus a 2.2 diesel four.
Ford and Mazda initially sourced a 2.6 four from Mitsubishi although they introduced an in-house 2.6 a few years into this generation. The Mitsubishi four was part of the Astron family of engines that saw duty in countless Mitsubishi and Chrysler products. This is an XL 2.6 but it’s unclear whether this Courier has the Mazda or the Mitsubishi mill under the hood as trucks aren’t really known for regular styling changes.
The PC-series Courier’s contemporary was the second-generation Mitsubishi Triton, which naturally used the Mitsubishi 2.6 four. Known as the Mighty Max in the US, Mitsubishi’s compact pickup used the name Triton in other markets such as Australia. Triton sounds tough and serious; Mighty Max was quite literally the name of a children’s cartoon.
This generation of Triton was introduced in 1986 but this would be a 1990 or later model as it features Mitsubishi’s 2.5 turbo-diesel four. Today the Australian ute (pickup) market is now dominated by turbo diesels, but back in 1990 there were only two trucks so equipped: the Triton and the Holden (nèe Isuzu) Rodeo. Compact trucks from Toyota, Ford, Mazda and Nissan were still trudging along with naturally-aspirated diesels.
Although this generation of Triton was the last one sold in North America, Mitsubishi’s compact truck has lived on in global markets. Keenly priced, the Triton is currently the third best-selling pickup in Australia after the Hilux and the Courier’s successor, the Ranger. There’s still a Mazda connection with Ford’s pickup as the two companies developed the current Ranger and Mazda BT-50 together, however the next BT-50 is being developed with Isuzu (who co-developed their current D-MAX with GM).
This Triton looks downright clean for a truck that’s between two and three decades old, the only cosmetic fault being a smidgeon of rust on the tailgate.
In a city with a rather rust-free climate, old Camrys and Falcons still thrive. No matter how hardy a pickup is, eventually it’s going to reach the end of its useable life and there’s very little collectors’ appeal for old Couriers and Tritons like this. It’s refreshing, then, to see some are still out on the roads.