Driving up the freeway on the morning commute, I overtook something that looked a bit out of place. While pickup trucks have morphed into all sorts of variations, this one was different. It was relatively stripped, and it was older, with the basic jellybean shape going on. Beyond that, it was small, roughly the size of an old Toyota or Datsun pickup. Most curiously, the bed was integral to the bodywork, and there was a triangular quarter window installed behind the door.
I need to get a couple of things out of the way here, and the first was that I was unable to capture a photo of my catch, as I was driving alone and traffic was being unruly. Second is that, living near the California-Baja California border, it is a solid assumption that when a vehicle, especially a smaller, low-end one, is unfamiliar, it is likely a visitor from Mexico.
The license plate is the key, and though California and BC have similar looking plates at a casual glance, a close look will give away the game. In this case, I was too busy taking in all the small novelties in the appearance of the truck to actually get a glimpse of the plate. The bowtie emblem on the tailgate had an unfamiliar look about it, and the “Tornado” lettering was a new model for me as well. The integral bed and the side window treatment quickly grabbed my attention, and that was all I had a chance to see.
The view from the front quarter explained some things, but also brought on new questions. The belt line of the truck, unlike most, actually begins to dip at the rear corner of the cab, going forward. So while the rear cab window is wide but not tall, the side glass, and particularly the windshield, offer broader expanses of glass and good forward range of vision. From the front quarter view, this thing looks more like a car than a truck.
So, home from work, searching “Chevrolet Tornado” on-line immediately turned up my quarry. It was built in Brazil from 2004 through 2010, and sold in Mexico as the “Tornado”, even as it was sold as the “Montana” in other markets. I assume I saw the older year version, as it was a very basic “stripper”, and the Tornado appeared to get a bit visually fancier over the course of the model run.
The engines were 1.4 liter and 1.8 liter Opel-sourced engines (hmm), with a 5-speed front-wheel-drive powertrain (hmm). Sounds like an Opel car. In fact, the Tornado was a pickup version of a van version (the “Combo”) of the Opel Corsa “C”, built from 2000 through 2006 in Germany, with the production run extended to 2012 in Brazil. So, in fact, it is a car underneath the truck exterior.
I prefer to simply think of it as a baby Australian Ute. How cool would it be to have one of those?
Nice find. I’m always surprised at how rare Mexican-plated cars are in California, though I’m several hundred miles further from the border. By comparison, I see Canadian-plated cars frequently. When I was in Baja 5 years ago I saw a few of this style El Camino-light trucks from Chevy, VW, Fiat/RAM but in general the automotive landscape looked pretty much like home. In particular I was surprised how the late-model Tacoma outnumbered the late-model Hilux which was still sold there, and is considered a much better truck by Internet forum “experts”.
Here’s one on its home turf, Ensenada, along with a few other CC’s
I’d say you had a g’day’s shooting!
I wonder if I could sneak come California tags on it……
When I lived in Centro America in the mid 1970’s there were so many tiny pickups it made my head spin .
I did a light overhaul on one that barely fit a 55 gallon drum of Diesel fuel in it’s tiny bed .
I suppose that no one would give this truck a second glance in Central or South America, but to me it’s downright exotic. I like the design of these, though I can’t see actually owning one myself. Glad you got to see one in the metal.
It’s always fun to see the occasional visitor from a foreign land. Just yesterday while driving to work in Virginia, I saw a BMW motorcycle with a British license plate. And of course I can’t help wondering how on earth it got here, and why?
Per the UK DVLA, this bike has been unlicensed in the UK since OCt 21.
Ex-pat working or now living in Virginia, I guess, and go the chance to take his bike over there? No LHD/RHD swap needed!
Could be — and I guess the cost of shipping a motorcycle across the Atlantic might be somewhat reasonable.
In glancing at the Customs regulations, it looks to me that regular people (i.e., non-diplomats) can import a car or motorcycle to the US for one year if they’re here for a visit or work, though it appears there are plenty of both restrictions and loopholes.
Oops!. Has to be legal in the UK ,Road taxed to be legal on US roads but will the cops know that?.
Is that second window on the tornado the third window from the Corsa?
Good catch. It looks like it, doesn’t it?
Nope, they are different.
Interesting that the grille opening looks more like the 1998-2004 Astra rather than the Corsa. Yes, I agree, the overall effect is quite like a baby Holden. In that respect I’m hoping to spot a VXR8 Maloo one of these days: it’s not that usual to see late Monaros and Commodore V8s locally, though badged as Vauxhalls probably because we’ve got a VXR dealer just a little further down the coast.
Because the Corsa produced by Chevrolet got that different nose from the Opel model ever since it’s premiere and the pickup were also designed by the same team.
May I ask, then, please, why you’ve scribbled it out? Licence plates are designed and intended—required, even—to be displayed unobstructed, for all to see.
The plate was already scribbled out on the photo I chose. It was difficult to find a shot of the Tornado from the rear, on the internet searches. I have added a recent Frontera BC plate below, that is representative of the breed. But, like so many states here, there are now all sorts of variations, and I have lost track of what all the nuances mean.
It is easy to see the difference from the standard white CA plate when you look, but less obvious at a quick glance.
Oh! Please excuse me, then; I thought it was a pic you’d taken. Also, I was temporarily confuzzed; to me BC = British Columbia and even though it was right in front of me I didn’t make the Baja California connection.
“Opel Corsa “C”, built from 2000 through 2006 in Germany”, it’s not in Spain ?
Per Wikipedia, Opel Corsa C’s and their variants were built in Germany, Spain, Brazil, Ecuador, South Africa, Argentina, Egypt. As far as I can tell, the variants sold in Mexico were assembled in Brazil.
Again, per Wiki, the European versions of the Corsa C were replaced by the rollout of the Corsa D in mid-year 2006. The C and variants continued for a while longer in other markets.
Possibly this Chevy Tornado is the Brazilian known sibling Chevrolet Montana .
To say the true : a big flop in the South American region .
Enough to say that both mini pickups Fiat Working Strada and Volkswagen Saveiro are still hot sellers. Not to mention, incredibly for English customers, the Brazilian Fiat utes of the last decade are proven unbeatable good soldiers . Chevy is usually 6th or 7th in the ranking of both selling pickups and quality-built image through the custom C10 . We don`t know here what went wrong with Chevrolet pickups , being the little Fords the only America`s ones who have a reasonably good number of purchase . But Again for the amaze : in the mini pickups`field, all carmakers in South-America ( Brazil, Argentina, Peru, etc ) are trying to follow the Fiat`s trend, as they are impressively succesful with their models Working, Fiorino Van , Toro midsize pickup , etc and still etc . Chevrolet mini pickups aren`t either available in the list even for GM`s aficionados .
Yes, the Montana in Latin America.
Interesting that they are so unpopular. It sounds like Fiat and VW have done a very good job of providing excellent cars for the local car markets, and have reaped the rewards.
VW and Nissan seem to have the dominant number of sightings of Mexican smaller cars here in Southern California. Or perhaps the VW and Nissan new car dealerships are very strong in the Tijuana area. Also Chevrolet, Renault, and Suzuki visitors are somewhat common. Note the Renault nameplate in the photo below. I spotted one like it on the freeway here, some months back. Renault is not shy about making that emblem VERY LARGE.
Dacia Duster FTW!
Too bad they weren’t marketed here.
@ Duane ;
Many non American brands tried selling tiny pickups in the U.S.A., none were very successful .
I suppose everyone knows what “turf trucks” are but those are not often legal for the public roads .
More’s the pity IMO .
Thought that same thing.
Sweet! Very popular in Central and South-America, those small pickups. Rarer than hen’s teeth here, and when spotting one, they all have one thing in common: unlike the Chevy/Opel and similar designs, they look weird and wonky. And that’s mildly put. All hack jobs with a compact van as starting point. Example below, to keep it in the Stellantis stable.
Reminds me of the Home Depot rental trucks we have around here.
I like that! What they have in common is the flatbed with dropsides, but that’s about it.
The HD rental trucks are not like most others around here. I am guessing that HD got tired of damaged truck beds, or perhaps damage to the aft side of the cab (these trucks have strong and relatively elaborate structures protecting the back of the cab from damage), so they have gone with the heavier duty aftermarket variety of truck bed. If there is major damage to the truck bed, changing it out is easier, too. People in this country can be notoriously rough in how they treat rental vehicles.
Thanks, I never thought of the damaged truck bed aspect, as that Ford’s set-up is the norm here anyway (the usual chassis-cab-bed version of the panel van model).
Traditionally, light trucks around here get pickup beds, flatbed/stake beds, or utility/service beds, but not the lowsides/drop sides.
Johannes, I am attaching a photo of an old Ford with an aftermarket utility/service bed (with what are basically arrays of lockable cupboards). I can’t find European versions of such a thing, do they exist on light trucks?
Gotta love traditional American service / utility beds ! =8-) .
My brother has an old 1979 Dodge D200 long bed, crew cab service bed, it’s the best camping vehicle I’ve ever encountered .
@ Dutch 1960, storage units, drawers, cupboards, shelves, etc. are always placed inside an enclosed body. Like in a full-size panel van with a raised roof.
Everything is possible. A DIY-job, ask the local carpenter or call a specialist for a custom-built job. Example below (photo courtesy of StoreVanNederland).
Thanks, Johannes, useful information for something I am working on, and it backs up what I found with my own research from afar.
I imagine being front drive, this would have quite a deep bed, while still having a usefully low liftover height. Sounds like an extremely useful package.
This was based on the Opel Corsa C . Assembled in Brazil from 2003 to 2010. It had a 1.8L gas or “flex” 4 cylinder engine. Here it was named Chevrolet Montana
I wonder if it sold well in Mexico. Do FCA still sells the little Fiat truck badged as “Ram” there ?
Here is it’s interior (Brazilian model) . Identical to the Corsa C.
It looks like they do indeed.
2022 Ram 700 Laramie
The Tornado/Montana got a second gen around 2010/11, based on the (older!) Corsa B platform, which was reengineered to create the Chevy Agile and the Montana.
That one lasted in Mexico til 2020, when it was replaced by a Chinese Wuling van, sold as the Tornado Van.
The Montana meanwhile is getting replaced next year by a more direct Fiat Toro counterpart. Sizewise that means it sits somewhere between these subcompact pickups and the Maverick/Santa Cruz. There are many bad fanmade renders of it but this is the one that seems the closest to what it could look like.
Can’t believe it took this long for the Maverick and Santa Cruz to get a mention, lol.
Unfortunately (as I’m sure you’re aware), it looks like Chevy won’t sell that vehicle north of the Rio Grande to compete with them here. A missed opportunity, imo.
Those aren’t the correct wheels/tires, are they? At least the LR looks like a spare, it doesn’t fill up the wheel-well.
I am honestly not sure. Many of these trucks seemed very fancy in the on-line photos, with various levels of bodywork trim, fender flares, and alloy wheels. I tried to grab photos of trucks that largely matched what I saw on the road, which was a stripper with steel wheels, and with little extra trim or options.