Pretty or pretty ugly? 60 years of Mazda family cars and vans

Mazda has made a number of people haulers over the years, including this model, a concept van.

Photo courtesy of Mazda Motor Corporation

Though the best cars often are described as drool-worthy models with abundant power and high price tags, there's something to be said for the competent family hauler. For the last 60 years, Mazda has been making vehicles that prioritize seating capacity and cargo space above style and performance. The last one on the list, however, fights that trend.

Take a look back at some of those family cars that put the brand on the map.

1964 Mazda Familia

Mazda Familia Wagon, 1963

Photo courtesy of Mazda Motor Corporation

Mazda's first go at a true family car in the 1960s was the 1963 Mazda Familia. The wagon version, seen here, joined the lineup for the 1964 model year and was better-appoinnted than the Familia van.

1966 Mazda Bongo

1966 Mazda Bongo

Photo courtesy of Mazda Motor Corporation

The Mazda Bongo debuted as a 1966 model (shown here). It was powered by a rear-mounted 782 cc water-cooled four-stroke engine. The Bongo was named after the animal by the same name.

1971 Mazda 818/Gran Familia

1971 Mazda 818/Gran Familia

Photo courtesy of Mazda Motor Corporation

Mazda's 818/Gran Familia model was also sold as the Mazda 808 in Asia, Australia, and New Zealand. It was only offered as a four-cylinder but came in a variety of body styles. The model shown above is a 1971 edition.

1976 Mazda RX-4/Luce

1976 Mazda RX-4 Luce

Photo courtesy of Mazda Motor Corporation

Mazda exported the Luce as the RX-4 through 1977. It was marketed as being a sporty and luxurious personal car. The wagon variant launched in 1973, replacing the Savanna Wagon. The '76 Mazda RX-4/Luce is shown here.

1977 Mazda 818/Gran Familia

1977 Mazda 818/Gran Familia

Photo courtesy of Mazda Motor Corporation

The Mazda 818/Gran Familia has a short seven-year lifespan. The 1977 model in the photo above has rectangular taillights that set it apart from previous years' versions of the car.

1978 Mazda Capella/626 1800

1978 Mazda Capella/626 1800

Photo courtesy of Mazda Motor Corporation

This midsize car was manufactured by Mazda from 1970 to 2002. It is shown here as a 1978 model, the first year of its second generation.

1979 Mazda 323/Familia

1979 Mazda 323

Photo courtesy of Mazda Motor Corporation

For the 1979 model year, Mazda gave the 323/Familia a facelift. The car's round headlights were done away with in favor of rectangular ones. Those lights now were part of a single unit with the grille. The '79 wagon version is shown above.

1984 Mazda Bongo/Traveller

1984 Mazda Bongo Traveller

Photo courtesy of Mazda Motor Corporation

Mazda sold the third-generation Bongo as the Traveller in Australia. Rebadged versions of the van were sold as the Ford Econovan and Ford Spectron. Shown here are 1984 versions of the model.

1980 Mazda 929/Luce 2000

1980 Mazda 929/ Luce 2000

Photo courtesy of Mazda Motor Corporation

The LA4 series of the Mazda 929/Luce debuted in 1977. In this new iteration, Mazda still delivered the large car experience to customers. This generation of the sedan was not sold in North America. The 1980 model is shown here.

1985 Mazda Bongo Brawny Sky Lounge Concept

1985 Mazda Bongo Brawny Sky Lounge Concept

Photo courtesy of Mazda Motor Corporation

This unique concept model pushed the envelope as far as Mazda luxury vans go. Presented in 1985, the Mazda Bongo Brawny Sky Lounge Concept, seen above, has a host of amenities including an oven, mobile telephone, and VCR. The floor between the passenger seats rose when the vehicle was moving.

1991 Mazda MPV 4WD

1991 Mazda MPV 4WD

Photo courtesy of Mazda Motor Corporation

Mazda launched its multi-purpose vehicle (MPV) minivan in 1988. The seven-seater Mazda MPV (shown above) featured a four-wheel drive option and, when it arrived in Europe in the mid-1990s, a fuel-efficient turbodiesel as well as a rear door on the driver's side. The first generation lasted 10 years. Pictured here is the 1991 model.

1995 Mazda CU-X Concept

1995 Mazda CU-X Concept

Photo courtesy of Mazda Motor Corporation

The Mazda CU-X concept car (pictured above) was first shown in 1995. That same year, Mazda showed the RX-01 concept car.

1997 Mazda MV-X Concept

1997 Mazda MV-X Concept

Photo courtesy of Mazda Motor Corporation

Mazda moved closer to its modern SUV lineup with the Mazda MV-X Concept (seen above). The concept car was shown at the Geneva and Tokyo auto shows that year.

1998 Mazda 626/Capella Hydrogen Vehicle

1998 Mazda 626/Capella Hydrogen Vehicle

Photo courtesy of Mazda Motor Corporation

In Japan, Mazda offered the world's first electric-hybrid version of the 626/Capella though a leasing program. The model featured a rotary engine that could run on hydrogen or petrol.

1999 Mazda Premacy

1999 Mazda Premacy

Photo courtesy of Mazda Motor Corporation

The Mazda Premacy, shown here as a 1999 model, was offered as a standard five-seater with a seven-seat option. Its second- and third-rows were foldable and removable. There were dual rear sliding doors. The Premacy was the predecessor to the Mazda5.

2014 Mazda5 Venture

2014 Mazda5 Venture

Photo courtesy of Mazda Motor Corporation

The Mazda5 arrived in 2005 delivering more efficient people moving and cargo storage ability. The 2014 Mazda5 is pictured above.

2020 Mazda6 Tourer 165ps Sport Nav+ 

Photo courtesy of Mazda Motor Corporation

The 2020 Mazda6 estate model is the most modern, natural successor to the family haulers of the past. The car comes equipped with the latest Mazda engine and safety technology as well as a Soul Red Crystal paint job.

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Nuts & Bolts


The Ford Ranger is the company's midsize truck option.

Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

Before there was the modern midsize Ford Ranger, there was the Ford F-100 and F-250 Ranger. It debuted as an option name on the fourth-generation F-Series. That first variant, a name given to models with bucket seats in 1965 and 1966, featured a curtain over the gas tank, which was located behind the seats in the cab. Fancy!

Before Ford even know if the bucket seats were a success, they already had bigger ideas for the Ranger name. In 1965, Ranger received its own place in a larger document requesting approval for the name of the a new member of the Bronco family. In the brief, prepared for members of the Ford Engineering and Product Planning Committee on August 9, 1965, Ford executives learned of the proposed details for the 1967 F-Series Ranger - details that would make it an upgraded version rather than just a bucket seat model.

In its archives, Ford has a copy of the memo that approved the Ranger name for use and shows the other options the company considered.Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

It was proposed that the '67 F-Series Ranger would have a chrome front bumper, bright grille, bright headlamp doors, and bright reveal moulding. On the sides there would be bright rocker and wheel opening moulding, bright hub caps, bright ornament, and bright drop moulding. Details at the rear would continue the trend. There, Ford put bright backlite moulding, bright taillight moulding and tailgate handle, and bright tail light bezels.

Pleated vinyl seat trim, matching door trim panels, bright headlining moulding, custom instrument cluster, cigar lighter, horn ring, instrument panel moulding and plaque, and carpet would be unique in the cabin.

The nomenclature and trim level were approved for the fifth-generation F-100/F-250 and the rest, they say, is history.

The 1975 Ford F-150 Ranger XLT trim level added a level of refinement to the workman's truck.Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

Before you get too hung up on thinking about how far Ford has come since then, think about what might have been. The Dearborn, Michigan-based automaker considered 10 other names for the Ranger as part the trim level's development process, which is documented in the brief. Scroll down to see the full list, including one name that currently is taken by a different Ford vehicle.


Ford didn't use Centurian but Buick did, albeit for a brief period. From 1971 to 1973, the Buick Centurian sat between the LeSabre and Electra in the lineup. Before that, Buick used the name on a concept car that was presented at the 1956 General Motors Motorama. That model now resides at the Sloan Museum, which is part of the Flint Cultural Center in Flint, Michigan.


2020 Ford Explorer Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

Ford passed on the Explorer name for its truck, but the Explorer would still become a part of the Ford family. The Ford Explorer debuted in 1991 as a replacement for the two-door Bronco II. It's currently one of the best-selling SUVs in the country.


So far, no automaker has used the word constellation on a car, truck, van, or SUV. The closest may be the word subaru, which is the Japanese word for Pleiades, the name of a small cluster of stars northwest of the constellation Taurus. The Subaru brand logo has six stars in it - one for each of the stars in the Pleiades cluster.


2020 Toyota Highlander

Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc.

Well, we all know who ended up with the Highlander name. The popular Toyota Highlander three-row SUV is one of the best-selling SUVs currently available for sale. It's been a top choice for decades now, with a long list of family-friendly features. Toyota completely redesigned the model for the 2020 model year.


The Coronado name sure gets around. Well, it used to. These days, most of the brands it was linked to in the early and mid-1900s are defunct. Chrysler used to use the term to describe mid-year cars that came out in the spring with refinements to drive sales, halfway through a model year.

The Plymouth Coronado was a run of extended wheelbase eight-passenger sedans made in Belgium. They were built using the body of the Plymouth Belvedere with the middle cut open and extended to seat eight.

DeSote used the Coronado name to denote a trim level on its 1954 Firedome and 1955 Fireflite cars.

Plymouth Valiant cars were sold with Coronado branding for years in South America and Australia.


1978 Dodge Diplomat

Photo courtesy of FCA US LLC

Dodge originally employed it on a two-door hardtop model from 1950 to 1954. From 1946 to 1961, DeSoto used the name on models it exported. In the mid 70s, the Royal Monaco was available in a Diplomat trim level.

From 1977 to 1989 the Dodge Diplomat used the name that was rejected by the Ford team. It was a rebadged version of the Plymouth Gran Fury. The Gran Fury became popular as a police car while the Diplomat preferred to live as an upmarket alternative to the Dodge Aspen.

Gran Luxe

Gran luxe roughly translates to big luxury. Perhaps somewhat shockingly, with all the Gran Sport, Gran Turismo, and Gran Coupe models that have come and gone over the years, Gran Luxe has never made it onto a vehicle. It does feel a bit like Maserati would be the natural choice for its home now through.


The Sovereign name was used by Daimler for rebadged Jaguars from 1966 to 1983. Daimler Sovereigns were built from various generations of the Jaguar XJ and was available in a variety of body styles.


2018 Buick Regal

Photo courtesy of Buick

Ah yes, the Buick Regal. The Regal was recently discontinued by Buick in North America but up until the late 2010s it was a formidable choice for Baby Boomers looking for a comfortable ride. The Regal nameplate was first introduced by Buick in 1973. The Regal lives on in China where it recently underwent a mid-cycle update.


Over the years, the Westerner name has been given to a few models. The Nash Metropolitan Westerner was displayed at auto shows across the western U.S. in 1961 and 1962 as a show car. It features a Palomino Beige Pearlescent paint job and California saddle leather upholstery.

For the 1967 model year, AMC sold a number of specialty wagons that were designed to appeal to specific parts of the country where they were sold. The limited edition luxury AMC Rambler Rebel Westerner featured a Frost White paint job, wood plank body side inserts and tailgate, a "Pony Express" medallion, and Stallion Brown and White Antelope vinyl upholstery that was paired with "richly tooled" leather on the seats and door panels. Buyers could only purchase theirs from dealerships west of the Mississippi River.

F-100/250 Ranger Nomenclature Alternatives

Exhibit II of the document shown at the top of this article reveals a list of the alternate names considered for the Ranger.

Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

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From haunted hotels to beachfront properties and spas, this list has it all.

Photo courtesy of Mission Inn Hotel & Spa

Ready for a classic American road trip? Staying at one of America's historic hotels can compliment the experience by providing a unique stay at a property that doesn't fit the standard hotel chain box, all while providing first-class amenities and charm.

USA Today readers chose these top hotels during an online poll. Some have appeared on the list in previous years though rankings have shuffled. The youngest hotel on this list is 91 years old. The oldest celebrates its 173-year anniversary this year.

Scroll down to see the winners.

No. 10 - The Langham, Huntington – Pasadena, California (1907)

The Langham, Huntington

Photo courtesy of The Langham, Huntington

The Langham, Huntington dates back to the Gilded Age, but its has generations of unique history, including a rough start - the original hotel property closed after just one season of service. Still, it lives on today, much refreshed and revived. The hotel sits in the Los Angeles metro but offered a peaceful respite from the hustle and bustle of the crowd. Historical Property tours are offered daily at 2:00 p.m.

No. 9 - Congress Hall – Cape May, New Jersey (1879)

Congress Hall

Photo courtesy of Congress Hall

Named as America's First Seaside Resort", Congress Hall traces its roots back to the early 19th Century with the property starting as a boarding house in 1816. A fire destroyed that property, but the owners rebuilt. The new lodgings became a frequent destination for U.S. presidents including Ulysses S. Grant, Franklin Pierce, and James Buchanan. It was President Benjamin Harrison that made Congress Hall his "summer White House" and conducted the affairs of state from the hotel.

No. 8 - The Hermitage Hotel – Nashville, Tennessee (1910)

The Hermitage Hotel

Photo courtesy of The Hermitage Hotel

The Hermitage Hotel in downtown Nashville sits at the intersection of old meets new in the booming Southern town. The 122-room luxury hotel has played host to a long list of famous Americans including Babe Ruth, President John F. Kennedy, Patsy Cline, and Johnny Cash. The pet-friendly establishment has its huge painted glass lobby skylight as just one of its standout architectural features.

No. 7 - Grand Hotel – Mackinac Island, Michigan (1887)

Grand Hotel

Photo courtesy of Grand Hotel

Located on Michigan's Mackinac Island, the elegant Grand Hotel is steeped in history and tradition. It's home to the world's longest porch, which comes fully stocked with rocking chairs, that allows for views of the Straits of Mackinac. No cars are allowed on the small island so you'll take a ferry from the mainland then travel via horse-drawn carriage, bicycle, or on foot to the hotel.

No. 6 - Deer Path Inn – Lake Forest, Illinois (1929)

Deer Path Inn

Photo courtesy of Deer Path Inn

Halfway between Milwaukee and Chicago, on the Illinois side of the border, sits the Deer Path Inn, not too far from Lake Michigan. The design of the newly restored hotel is reminiscent of a 15th century Tudor mansion, complete with roaring fireplaces and English gardens. Guests can book afternoon tea or grab something stronger in the on-site pub.

No. 5 - The Francis House – Calistoga, California (1886)

The Francis House

Photo courtesy of The Francis House

The Francis House is unique, not just for Napa Valley, but also for a hotel. It boasts just five guest rooms and is the only stone building with authentic French Second Empire architecture in Napa County. It was shut in 1965 and remained vacant for 52 years until it was given a new life in 2018. The hotel is located near a number of tasting rooms.

No. 4 - Mission Inn Hotel & Spa – Riverside, California (1876)

Mission Inn Hotel & Spa\u200b

Photo courtesy of Mission Inn Hotel & Spa

The Mission Inn Hotel & Spa in Riverside, California is easy to overlook with all the hustle and bustle of the Los Angeles metro area. However, it stands worthy of consideration with spaces filled with fine art (it houses the oldest bell in Christendom, dating back to 1247), its link to Hollywood movie history (it's been featured in numerous films), and ties to U.S. Presidents (Presidents Roosevelt, Taft, Hoover, Nixon, Reagan and George W. Bush have all stayed there). The hotel also has an award-winning spa and breathtaking architecture, which help it stand out from the crowd.

No. 3 - Grand Hotel Golf Resort & Spa – Point Clear, Alabama (1847)

Grand Hotel Golf Resort & Spa

Photo courtesy of Grand Hotel Golf Resort & Spa

The Grand Hotel Golf Resort & Spa in Point Clear is part of the Autograph Collection of hotels. It sits just south of Mobile on Mobile Bay, right on the edge of the Gulf of Mexico. The resort features two golf courses, a 20,000-square-foot spa, tennis courts, and white sand beaches.

No. 2 - Historic Hotel Bethlehem – Bethlehem, Pennsylvania (1922)

Historic Hotel Bethlehem

Photo courtesy of Historic Hotel Bethlehem

The Historic Hotel Bethlehem has only been around since 1922 but the tradition of hospitality began at the site of the current hotel in 1741. The historic accommodations recently added a 5,000-square-foot convention center. Each year, the town goes all-out during the Christmas season, but year-round, you'll find that the Historic Hotel Bethlehem is celebrating its ghosts.

No. 1 - The Peabody Memphis – Memphis, Tennessee (1869)

The Peabody Memphis

Photo courtesy of The Peabody

The Peabody is also known as the "South's Grand Hotel" and is known the world over for its elegance and five resident ducks, who march through the lobby daily at 11 a.m. and 5 p.m., something that has been happening since 1940. The hotel is located in downtown Memphis, just steps from the Mississippi River.

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