CC Outtake: 1983 Mazda B2200 Diesel – A Veteran Of The Great Diesel Boom, With A License-Built Perkins Engine

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(first posted 3/31/2016)   The Great American Diesel Boom got its start during the 1973-1974 energy crisis I, when certain diesel imports with their ability to go about 50% further on a tank of hard-to-get fuel suddenly looked very attractive, even if they didn’t sound or smell seductively. The Diesel Boom really got rolling in 1978, when Oldsmobile unleashed its 5.7 L self-destructing V8 scourge upon the land, thus sealing the Diesel Boom’s inevitable demise. But the second energy crisis forestalled that; it even accelerated the Boom, despite the lethargic characteristics of these old non-boosted tractor-like engines. Every manufacturer wanted a diesel, including Mazda. Since they couldn’t readily make their rotaries run as diesels, they looked elsewhere for the technology. In this case, it was Great Britain.

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Yes, Mazda licensed the Perkins 4.135 four cylinder diesel engine from the UK firm, one of the biggest sources of diesel engines and technology back in the day for passenger cars and light trucks, including Chrysler vehicles built for export or assembled in other countries. A Perkins diesel was even offered briefly on 1962 Dodge pickups in the US. That was a bit premature.

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The 2.2 liter S2 engine in the Mazda B2200 was rated at 59 hp, which means the driver kept his right hand on the slick-shifting five speed transmission most of the time. I don’t know much about this particular engine, but pretty much all of the Japanese diesel light-truck engines from this era had legendary reputations. And the few that have survived seem to be coveted and coddled by their owners.

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This ’83 looks like it could five or ten years old, rather than over thirty. The B-series of this vintage and the prior one, also sold as Ford Couriers, are starting to get a bit scarce here, and this is the only diesel version I’ve ever found.

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The “BIODIESEL” bumper sticker isn’t very prominent in this shot, but it confirms the obvious: this is not only a survivor of the Great Diesel Boom, but also of the Lessor Biodiesel Epoch, which seemed to peter out a few years back. Obviously, there’s still a few hard-core adherents, mostly driving slowly-but-surely-aging Mercedes W123s. And a few old Japanese pickups. And even one Isuzu I-Mark diesel that just won’t quit; I saw/heard it again on the street just today.

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This Mazda is a bit of a hair shirt on wheels, but I do love seeing seeing these clattering relics of another time still being used like this. I said seeing, not hearing or smelling.