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Weekly Treasure: 1974 Mazda Rotary Pickup Truck

Car Culture / Comments

Guess where its rotary was sourced from.

Mazda has been out of the pickup truck business for a decade now. That's a shame because it previously sold its B series line of pickups from 1961 until 2009. A total of 48 years in the pickup truck business is impressive, though it's important to note the last generation B series was a rebadged previous-gen Ford Ranger. In many ways, it was the Japanese that pioneered the compact pickup, one of the best examples being the Datsun 620. Datsun, now Nissan, is still very much in the pickup business with its Frontier and Titan. Mazda, however, currently has no immediate plans to re-enter the truck market, though never say never.

One of the unique things about Mazda is its history with the Wankel rotary engine. This a type of internal combustion engine that utilizes a rotary design to convert pressure into a rotating motion in only one direction. A piston engine, for comparison, has pistons instantly and rapidly changing direction at 180 degrees. The Wankel rotary is a simpler, more compact design with a high power-to-weight ratio.

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The problem, however, is low fuel efficiency and high emissions, and that's the reason why rotary engines are gone. Mazda's long history with the rotary is perhaps most famous because of its RX line of sports cars, but some other segments also received this engine tech. A pickup truck was one of them, although for a limited time only. The B series Rotary Pickup debuted in 1974 as the world's first and so far only Wankel rotary-engined pickup truck. Interestingly, it was sold only in North America and not Japan. A total of around 15,000 examples were built before it was discontinued after 1977.

Compared to other B series pickups, this one featured flared fenders, unique front grille, and round taillights. Its dashboard design was also different and its battery was mounted under the bed. Power came from a 1.3-liter four-port 13B rotary, the most popular Mazda Wankel engine built and in production for over 30 years. Although the Rotary Pickup was noted for its solid power, it returned only 16.5 miles per gallon. It also went racing, capturing third place in the 1976 Mojave 24 Hour Rally.

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Not surprisingly, the Rotary Pickup has found an enthusiast following, and we happened upon this 1974 example up for grabs on Bring A Trailer. However, its 13B rotary is not original but rather sourced from an RX-7. This 1974 Mazda Rotary Pickup was originally built as a rotary variant, proven by those flared fenders and round taillights. The seller, who acquired the truck from its original owner only last summer, did the engine swap. No reason was given as to why, but the seller works at a specialty rotary workshop in California called Lucky7 Racing, Inc., so it's good to know the work is solid. Like factory-spec versions, this one features a five-speed manual sending power to the rear wheels. Output was not specifically mentioned, but the 13B of the time produced around 135 hp and 133 lb-ft of torque.

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Other features here include a split rear window, Alpine AM/FM/Cassette, a Racing Beat intake, and a Dell'Orto side-draft carburetor. The removable factory rear window is a one-piece unit. Total mileage comes to only 52,000 miles. There are some other clear cut signs of this truck's age, specifically some exterior dings and rock chips, and some corrosion on the battery cover door. Obviously this is all repairable. As of this writing, the highest bid was $7,500 and the auction is due to end on Saturday.

Is this truck perfect? No, but it is special because, chances are, no one else you know has a rotary-engined pickup truck.

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