COAL: 1981 Ford Courier and 1984 & 1993 Mazda Pickups – Good, Better and Best

This COAL will be a bit of a cheat, I’m combining a Ford Courier with two Mazda pickups. Honestly, these trucks were so similar and so likable, I’m giving myself the okay to do a Mazda mashup and discuss all three.


We’ll start with the Ford Courier; ours was not all that different from the sad looking specimen shown here. In 1989 my wife and I invited her younger brother to come live with us in St Paul. He was living in Jamestown, NY and the local economy there was in pretty sad shape. We convinced him that his job prospects would be better in the Midwest. He didn’t own a car, so we started looking and soon found a somewhat beat up, but mechanically sound, 1981 Ford Courier 5 speed just like this one, complete with cheapo aluminum topper (i.e cap, shell, etc. depending on your geography). We bought the truck and then arranged a personal, no interest loan for him until he got on his feet.

The truck proved to be a reliable and economical commuter vehicle. This generation received the 2.0 liter Mazda engine starting with the 1978 model year, making 75 hp. The 2nd gen Courier was actually based on the 3rd gen Mazda, produced from 1977 to 1985. Aside from the unique grill and slight interior mods, there wasn’t much difference between the two. He let us borrow it on occasion to haul furniture, mulch, lawn clippings and the like. This was my first experience driving a mini pickup and the little Ford turned out to be a kick to drive. I think the trick was acknowledging that it was a crude conveyance and accepting it for what it was rather than be annoyed by the lack of creature comforts. About 6 months later, he accepted a job offer in Fairfax, VA. The truck got him there with all of his worldly belongings. He held onto the Courier for a few months, then sold it for what he had paid for it in Minnesota, paying us off in the process.


Along about this time we acquired a used Chrysler Mutineer 15. We didn’t actually know how to sail, but the boat was too good a deal to pass up. At this point we owned a 1986 MR2 and 1989 Camry wagon, neither of which we deemed suitable as a tow vehicle.

Coming fresh off our terrific experience with the Courier, we went pickup truck shopping. Mazda’s were much more common than Fords and we quickly found a blue 1987 Mazda B2000 5 speed. The truck had a bit of rust around the bed area but was in otherwise fine condition. We slapped a 2″ ball in the bumper and had our tow vehicle. This truck served us well, again handling yard waste duty when not hauling our boat to one of Minnesota’s 10,000 lakes.

I also used it for daily commuter ride, finding it much more fun to drive than the Camry wagon. About two years into ownership, I was heading home from work, driving through downtown St Paul. Approaching an intersection with the green in my favor, I spotted a car running the light. I managed to hit the brakes and slid halfway through the intersection before colliding broadside. Fortunately there were no injuries.

And while my truck sustained substantial damage to the fenders, hood and bumper, it was still drivable. I received a very favorable estimate from my insurance company and found a local body shop who offered to repair not only the damage but also clean up the rust and repaint the rear. I think this sort of thing doesn’t happen so much anymore. The truck turned out great and we continued to use it as an everyday ride.

Shortly after we got the B2000 back, we found out we were going to have a baby. We had just finished building a house on about 8 acres of farmland in Stillwater, about 20 miles east of St Paul. This complicated our commutes, especially once daycare drop offs entered the picture. While we might have found a way to install a car seat in the regular cab, we decided an extended cab might be a better choice.

I hadn’t been paying much attention, but it was about this time that Mazda had made the decision to start rebadging Ford Rangers as B series trucks. On hearing the news, we went to our local Mazda store to see if they had any of the old-new stock B series trucks still in stock. We found this beautiful B2600i 5 speed extended cab and bought it that night. They had some of the Ranger based trucks in stock as well, but they were priced significantly higher. I guess they were trying to dump the older trucks.

The B2600i was the best of the three Mazdas we owned. This one came equipped with factory air, full instrumentation and the long bed. These 4th gen trucks were produced from 1985 to 1998, although Mazda stopped offering them in the US after the 1983 model year. The B2600i was offered in both 2WD and 4WD variants, but the 4WD models were gone by the time we went shopping. This was the best of the three trucks in terms of creature comfort and utility. The 2.6 liter fuel injected engine made 121 hp, a very nice jump in power for a truck that was not substantially larger than the previous generation.

The compressor on the A/C sprung a leak just after the warranty expired but other than that, the truck was almost perfect. I say almost because along about this time, I noticed a bit of rust around the windshield trim. While I had accepted rust as a fact of life with my older trucks, this was only 3 years old. Mazda’s failure to address their rust issues would eventually drive me away from the brand. Otherwise though, this truck served us well until we got the news our our second child, which turned out to be also our third. We were going to have twins. Fitting three car seats in a small car or truck was definitely going to be a challenge.