Compact pickup trucks are nearly gone from the US market, but there was a time when they were very popular.
We’ve made no secret of our fondness for small pickup trucks, a segment that was once hugely popular in the US but has now all but been replaced by full-size offerings. There are many reasons for this but there still remains a loyal base of owners who have little option but to either hang on to their current ride, buy a used one, or settle for a new Toyota Tacoma or Nissan Frontier. Even those latter two trucks are significantly bigger than what compact pickups used to be back in the day, such as the Ford Courier.
First launched in 1952, the Courier was originally a sedan delivery, meaning it looked like a cross between a conventional station wagon and a panel van. This generation lasted until 1960, the final year in which the Courier was car-based. But it wasn’t until 1971 that the Courier nameplate reappeared, only this time it was attached to a new compact pickup built by Mazda. Full-size pickups such as the Ford F-Series were already a massive hit in the US, but the Japanese were also building compact pickups that sold very well in its home and other Asian markets. Automakers such as Toyota and Datsun also had small pickups of their own that also found their way stateside.
By partnering up with Mazda, Ford was able to have its own US market compact without having to develop it from scratch. The Courier was powered by a small 1.8-cylinder engine with just 74 horsepower and 92 lb-ft of torque. It was paired with either a four-speed manual or three-speed automatic gearbox. The overall setup was beyond basic but the truck still managed to have a load capacity of 1,400 lbs. It was also cheap, costing just a little under $3,000 thanks to Ford getting around that always pesky "Chicken tax" by importing the cab chassis without the bed and attaching it later on.
If you haven’t guessed by now, the Courier was the identical twin of the old Mazda B-Series only with Ford badges. In 1977, Ford gave the Courier a styling refresh along with a more powerful engine. By the end of that decade, however, the truck was clearly becoming outdated so Ford began work on its eventual replacement. That truck came in 1982 and it was called the Ranger. The Courier managed to remain available in other global markets, such as Australia, until 1985. Although the Ranger became a huge success, the Courier was the vehicle that proved to Ford a compact pickup was a good model to have in its lineup.
It’s a shame this market segment is now all but gone. This 1974 Courier was recently being offered on eBay and it’s nearly all original from the exterior paint down to the interior. There are a few nicks and scratches and small bits of rust here and there, but this is unquestionably one of the finest Couriers on the market. With just 55,000 miles on the clock, it had a winning bid of $4,350.