While selling in smaller numbers than the mini trucks from Datsun and Toyota during the 1970s the Mazda B-series still made an impact on the North American market. Admittedly some of that effect was from its Ford Courier sibling with its F-series inspired styling. As with most Seventies compact trucks the survivors in stock condition are rare which made seeing this all original B1800 even more of a treat.
Ford’s Courier version was pretty much identical at this time except for the grill which had a scaled down F-100 look to it. In later years Ford would start using some of its own parts in place of the Mazda bits like the engine sourced from the Pinto after the 1977 refresh. The Courier was imported as a cab chassis (without a box) to combat the “Chicken Tax” on light trucks.
Mechanically these are pretty standard mini-truck fare with a ladder frame suspended by coil spring independent suspension at the front and a leaf sprung live axle at the rear. The engine is an overhead cam four cylinder as used in many other Mazda vehicles of the day. They didn’t have the legendary reliability of the Toyota but they lasted quite well even with a bit of a smoking problem at higher mileages (valve steam seals usually). This particular one has a 1.8L version code named VC. A long stroke design it delivered 74hp @ 5,000 rpms and 92 lb-ft of torque @ 3,500 rpms. A four speed manual was the only gearbox on offer until a modest refresh in 1977. If you were willing to drive really slow the B1800 had an impressive 1,400 lb load capacity.
Even back in the 1970s Mazda tried to play on their sporty reputation with a Sport version of the pickup. Sadly it consisted of carpeting, a center console, grab handles and some chrome rub strips down the side of the body. Mazda would make up for this a few years later with the properly sporty and somewhat impractical rotary engined REPU mini truck.
Our example today is not a Sport equipped truck and thus has exactly the basics you absolutely need and nothing more. Speedometer, fuel and temperature gauges as well as a basic heater. AM radio, glove-box and cigarette lighter is what you have in the way of luxury.
This little B-series pickup has been in the same family since new and recently emerged from long term storage. It has some nicks and such in the original paint but is a fantastic time capsule from an era when pickup trucks could be small and basic.
There were tons of these on the roads back in the day. Seems that rust got most of them, along with most cars of the era, for that matter.
My experience was the 1800 motor was very tough and didn’t start to smoke until very high mileages were reached.
A simple, cheap, useful product that did a lot to cement the reputation of Japanese car makers in North America.
I really liked the Ford Courier edition and wanted one badly. Unfortunately, this was after I bought my 1976 Chevy C-20 and was stuck with it.
The Mazda/Courier, Toyota, Datsun and LUV all rusted away rather rapidly by the mid-80’s, no wonder I rarely see any anymore.
I wish American engines ran as good as these did…
I never saw that many of this model of Mazda pickup, but the Courier variants were all over western Washington. A friend of my wife’s had one that was in pretty tough shape bodywise, having hit a deer once, rolled another time, and just jury-rig beat back into approximately original shape. He got great service out of it though – they certainly seemed to be tough little trucks, competitive in every way with contemporary Datsuns and Toyotas.
Ditto here. Still some of the early Couriers here on the streets, but the old Mazdas are rare.
The donor pickup for my fire trailer has Mazda mudflaps, but is similar to the ’75. The main difference is a battery compartment at the right front of the bed. I use it to stash a small gas can for the Honda pump. Oh yeah, the tail and brake lights are all round.
No idea of when mine was turned into a trailer, but tinworm isn’t too bad of a problem east of the Cascades. I had surface rust, but nothing severe. Helps not to have salt used in winter.
If it has a battery compartment it was off of a REPU, ie a Rotary Engined version. It it has the battery box and round tail lights then it should also have flares the REPU had.
Hmm, hadn’t noticed the flares. Here’s a side pic of the trailer. The sickly green paint was done after the frontectomy, with most of the bed in white, I think. I got the trailer (very) used in 2005 for $100.
FWIW, there’s about 1600 pounds of water in the tank, and 4 x 6 blocks between the frame and the axle. Max towing speed is 11mph, with the usual towing speed about 3.
Good find, I have never seen one of these in the flesh, or a Ford Courier of this bodystyle. They must have rusted away quickly. I remember seeing plenty of the 77+ bodystyle Courier/B-Series as a young kid (mid to late 80’s, roughly), but those also seem to have completely disappeared from the roads around 1990.
There used to be a Courier sitting in someone side yard down here that was an ex-Eastern Airlines ground crew truck, it still had the logos, but it was rusty.
The 4 headlight Mazda version reminds me of a baby version of a 4 headlight GMC truck from the mid 60’s.
My first car was a Courier version of this – a ’76. It ran well for me – even starting at 30 below without a block heater. I had forgotten how spartan it was.
Interestingly, mine had this body style but the new, rounded back wall of the cab. Must have been a mid-year change?
I am amazed that the rocker panels are in one piece on the subject truck – mine were completely gone when I got it in 83, as was the drivers side floor. Kydex and pop rivets fixed the floor. I used spray foam under duct tape to try to make a surface to fiberglass the rocker panels, but I overestimated how much foam I needed so it had tumors for a while.
“My first car was a Courier version of this – a ’76…Interestingly, mine had this body style but the new, rounded back wall of the cab. Must have been a mid-year change?”
There is some discussion of this in an earlier CC on the Courier:
Paul: “…let’s stick to the first gen, which ran from 1971 through 1976. And even in those years, there were some differences. The biggest being a couple of inches of precious length added to the cab, behind the rear window…That happened in 1976, in anticipation of the slightly more revised gen2, which got a new front end to go with the longer cab.”
Billy Rockfish: “Early ’76′s did have the flat rear cab as did my ’74 – the mid year “B” trucks came out with that slight extension.”
While in high school auto shop, I had the mispleasure of doing an engine swap in the Courier version of one of these, for one of our science teachers. It got towed in, with a junkyard engine from a different year truck sitting in the bed. Of course, between the years of the truck and the replacement engine, just about everything that connected to the engine had changed, so I spent, no kidding, the entire school year working on that stupid truck (it was lower priority than most of the tune-up work we routinely did, so I used as fill-in work).
I remember rebuilding the carb – it was the very first Japanese carb that I had ever done and it was 10x as complicated as any American-car carb was. I also remember fabricating a steel block-off plate for either an EGR or air injection port that wasn’t there on the original engine. Custom engine wiring harness was made by me as well.
But the thing that really surprised me, as a 17-year-old, was the ANCIENT design of the brakes: four wheel drums, with an individual wheel cylinder for each shoe, and no self-adjusting mechanisms whatsoever. That meant bleeding eight wheel cylinders, and then manually adjusting all eight shoes. And then manually re-adjusting all eight shoes every so many miles! Who still did this in 1977 (or in 1984 when I was working on it)?
At the time, my family had two 1941 Chevrolets (one driver, one project), and the brakes on this 1970s Courier were more primitive than the 1941 Chevys had! That really blew my mind – it was eye-opening how far behind in technology the Japanese cars were in many respects (such has having point-type ignition up into the early 1980s while American cars had all gone electronic by 1975).
I shed no tears for these Mazda/Couriers being around no longer, and I am a big fan of the small trucks (having owned a 1981 Nissan 720 diesel for a few years). It’s been almost 30 years since I worked on that Courier, and I still have too many (not-so-fond) memories of it.
I too was shocked that these lacked any sort of self adjusting feature the first time I saw one apart.
The early pickup trucks were definitely extra crude. The Japanese generally held on to carburation later too.
Rust did not finish all of them off here, it was also the near impossibility of getting these to pass smog checks due to the carbs and vacuum based emission control hardware.
The only real difference in engines for these utes came when they went OHC the engines swap easily throughout the range B1500- B2200 all interchange 3 hours tops to swap in a motor or did you change from diesel to gas that could take some time
When I was on the landscaping crew at the UW in the ’80s I would see little blue Couriers of the vintage in the photos around campus. They were used by the painters and handymen I believe. I never owned one but I did have a beater ’75 Chevy Luv. Later I had a new ’85 Nissan truck. Both stock short beds. Loved them both. The Luv was slow and uncomfortable but the Isuzu motor was indestructible. The Nissan got me from Seattle to Iowa City and back with all of my worldly possessions several times. I really miss mini-trucks!
At least you guysw got floor shift we got it on the tree. When I worked for the Electricity dept we had many Mazda pickups good little dungers but kinda hard on timing chains, I towed a 3axle car trailer with a 55 Austin Westminster on it and the motor and box on the deck approx 2&1/2 tons with a B1800 slow yep, stop nar, but it made it 105 miles. As for reliability the Japanese reliability myth hadnt surfaced in NZ at this time Toyotas Datsuns actually Datsuns in particular broke down with crippling regularity, these Mazda were ok for the era yeah the braking system is primitive but out brake a 41 Chev yep every time American cars have NO lead in technology and in fact trail the world in most respects
We had Ford Couriers of this generation at work, same yellow, with automatics. Compared to the larger trucks in our fleet, these were nimble, with a decent amount of scoot for the day, and fun to drive. Reliable, too.
Great memories, would love to drive one again for old times sake.
Very nice but I find myself comparing it to that orange Mazda rotary PU that Paul wrote up a few weeks ago. Man that was sweet.
Like most other commenters…there were a lot of Couriers around my area; a lot fewer Mazdas. They were out there; Mazda was still making hay with the rotary-engine lineup…just not so many.
Datsun was the big name in little trucks; and with the restyled PL620, it was easy to see why. Toyota a close second; I don’t know that quality was better than Datsun in those days, and Toyota was too new a marque to have a loyal customer base. But the Hilux sold, too.
We can’t have little trucks like this anymore. I’m not even sure why; we just can’t. A shame.
The answer is in sales statistics: There’s not enough market demand to make small pickups worth building in quantities sufficient to keep factories at capacity, hence the discontinuation of the Ranger. A pity, but they have to make money.
Yes that Datsun pickup with the low horizontal tail lamps was a classic. Even though I was a little guy I remember the TV commercials well, they marketed that as the “Little Hustler”.
Way ahead of the Hilux in sales until NIssan replaced it with the really generic square one built in TN. Toyota passed them with that generation and never looked back.
I see plenty of Couriers around So. Cal still but haven’t, in maybe 25 years, seen a Chevrolet LUV (Isuzu). LUV stood for light utility vehicle IIRC. Remember that?
Given that the Courier version seems more common than the Mazda version in the US, I wonder how many examples of each were sold?
Obviously there were (and still are) more Ford dealers, which had much to do with it…
Thanks for nice information!
Mini truck accessories
Japanese Mini Truck Parts for Suzuki Carry, Daihatsu Hijet, Mitsubishi Minicab, Honda Acty, Subaru Sambar, Cushman, Truckster, Haulster and White Truck.
Mini truck accessories
I kindly looking for mazda b1800 engine new or second hand. Urgenty.
Hey there David, I was curious as to whether or not you still have this truck or know of the person who currently owns it. If so is there any possibility it would be for sale? I own the exact same truck but was recently in a wreck and would love to have the same truck again. Thanks!
i have 1975 1600 mazda truck does any one know how to convert to rotary how realistic is it wat need to be done would realy lik to convert
i have vintage mazda tail lights/speedo clusters for sale
I still have my 1975 Courier that I picked up in 1980. Changed front brakes to disc and rear to single cylinder drum. A few other modifications along the way but is still a blast to drive around.
Not exactly CC Effect, as it was over a week ago, but I recently saw one on the road here (California). And it was a Mazda, not a Courier.
These Mazda pickups were the spiritual successor to the old 3 wheeled small trucks that were built for a long time after WW2, and which were Mazda’s bread and butter vehicle until the ‘60s. Even the old-time “Mazda” logo on the tailgate, the typeface which did not match that of the corporate logo of the ‘70s.
The only unnecessary “upgrade” was dual headlights, which had become a Mazda signature in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s. Basically every new Mazda model, for a few years, always got dual headlamps.
Don’t recall ever seeing a Mazda or Courier of this era here in New England, no doubt they all rusted away years ago.
Funny thing is the posted ute is a B1500 with OHV engine the OHC engine with an appetite for cam chains was the next model
Pretty stout little trucklets, as mentioned the tin worm did most of them in or a minor traffic collision .
I liked them but my 32″ legs were too long for the tiny cabin .
I had an 81 B2000, 240,000 miles on it and it would start in under 1 engine revolution every time. The choke worked! As for complicated carbs..the stock Nikki 2bbl was a Stromberg design. Timing chains were mechanically tensioned and if you didnt get the tensioner in there (remember playing ‘Operation’?) it would pop and send parts into the oil pan. So you set the initial guide tension with a screwdriver (press them against the chain) then tighten and then place the spring loaded ratchet tensioner in under the water pump and behind the crank pulley. Harder than it sounds…Never had the rear brakes off but the 80’s had modern disc brakes in front. It was tagged as a gross polluter her in CA (a few vacuum operated smog devices were leaking) so I ran it a few years (gasp!) with expired tags. It finally got ticketed and then the distributor seized on me and it sold to the junk yard for $50. I bought an 82 10 years ago and I still have it. 10 years of hunting down NOS smog stuff (!) and it runs great. The head can only be milled .2mm (not a misprint) before you have to shim them. single wall bed means rust holes at deck line, MT5sp trans were supposed to have a fragile reverse gear but I’v had no issues. Spare parts are pretty hard to find not being a Datsun or Toyota. B2200’s were 10X more popular in the mid 80s. Quite a few lowereed sound system “mini truck” styles were here in So. Cal. The B2200 had a new timing belt 2.2 motor that was smoother than the chain 1.6-2.0 motors.