Heritage

You've probably never heard of these 11 Mazdas

Mazda has a rich 100 year history that includes a number of less well known models.

Photo courtesy of Mazda Motor Corporation

This year Mazda celebrates its 100-year anniversary, having produced some memorable models along the way (hello, Mazdaspeed3). However, there are a number worth forgetting, and maybe you have. Scroll down to take a walk down Mazda's memory lane.

Toyo Cork Kogyo Co., Ltd. headquarters

Photo courtesy of Mazda Motor Corporation

Mazda began as a cork products manufacturing company in 1920. A year later, Jujiro Matsuda took charge of Toyo Cork Kogyo Co., Ltd. (shown above in 1929) and changed the business to make it a machine tool producer. The company wouldn't be known as Mazda until years later.

Mazda Go

Photo courtesy of Mazda Motor Corporation

A decade after the changeover, the company was transformed again, now making three-wheeled trikes like the 1931 Mazda Go (shown above) and a prototype motorcycle.

Motorcycle racing was a popular pastime in Japan in the late 1920s. However, most of the models were imported, or assembled in Japan from imported parts.

Mazda 1930 motorcycle

Photo courtesy of Mazda Motor Corporation

In 1929, Toyo Kogyo, as Mazda was then known, decided to build a domestic Japanese bike. They began development of a prototype in 1929 and from that a 250cc two-stroke prototype motorbike (shown above) was born. It was revealed in October 1930, winning its first race by beating an Ariel, one of the most-popular bike brands in the 1930s.

Following that success, the company produced 30 more motorcycles in 1930. The company priced the motorcycles at 350 to 380 Japanese yen, which is about $31,800- $34,500 in today's U.S. dollars.

But, a changes was, once again, afoot. The company decided to focus on developing the Mazda Go rather than the two-wheeler.

Then, it was time for a car.

Mazda PKW prototype

Photo courtesy of Mazda Motor Corporation

In 1940, Toyo Kogyo built a small two-door prototype car called the PKW prototype (shown above). By that time, however, the tides were turning. The world was waking up to news from the battlefields of World War II every day and it wouldn't be long before the war expanded to the Pacific Theater. The PKW prototype would never make it to production.

The company, like Volkswagen, Mercedes-Benz, General Motors, and Ford began creating products to help assist the war effort. Japan was on the side of Germany and Italy. Toyo Kogyo began producing series 30 through 35 Type 99 rifles instead of cars.

Post-war, Toyo Kogyo focused on their Type GA and Type GB three-wheeled Mazda Go-inspired three-wheeled trucks.

Mazda Type-CA

Photo courtesy of Mazda Motor Corporation

Along with three-wheelers, Toyo Kogyo produced another prototype, one of the four-wheeled variety. The Type-CA (shown above) was a one-ton four-wheeled truck with a small, open-sided canvas roof and split-screen open deck. It was reminiscent of the Willys Jeep, which helped the Allies win WWII.

The truck pre-dated the company's first production car by 10 years.

A new era at Toyo Kogyo was ushered in with the 1960 Mazda R360 (shown below), the company's first car. The kei car was a two-door, four-seat coupé. Production of the model lasted for six years.

1960 Mazda R360

Photo courtesy of Mazda Motor Corporation

That same year, Toyo Kogyo sold its first bus. The 13-seater was based on the company's D1500 cab-over compact truck and was sold to the Japanese Defense Agency. The bus's interior had seats that folded so the model could be used to transport injured officers on stretchers.

The D1500 was exported to the Middle East where it was equipped with center-opening freestyle rear doors, which allowed it to be used as an ambulance.

1965 Light Bus Type-A Mazda

Photo courtesy of Mazda Motor Corporation

Five years later, the 1965 Light Bus Type-A (shown above) was introduced, based on the concept the company showed at the 1964 Tokyo Motor Show. It featured a curved laminated safety glass windshield and unique styling that set it apart from the traditional bus.

In the 1970s, the automaker continued to produce upscale mini-buses using the Parkway model name. It was in the 1974 Parkway 26 that the company introduced the world's first rotary engine-powered bus.

Mazda CVS Personal Car Concept

Photo courtesy of Mazda Motor Corporation

During that same timeframe, the CVS Personal Car Concept (shown above) debuted, moving the story of the Mazda brand along. CVS stood for computer-controlled vehicle system. The concept had a wheel at each corner box with sliding doors and a spacious interior that was designed for passenger comfort complete with big leather chairs and a telephone.

Mazda designed a rail track to "drive" the model on. The automaker says that, "this 70s self-driving pod looked like futuristic fantasy in 1973, but today strangely familiar to anyone who's ridden on the business parking pods at Heathrow airport terminal five."

Mazda Road Pacer AP

Photo courtesy of Mazda Motor Corporation

The roster of vehicles in the 1970s was rife with oddities. The company wanted to make a a large executive car to be used by Japanese government officials so the Mazda Road Pacer AP (shown above) was launched in 1975. The car wasn't entirely from the company's R&D team.

According to Mazda, " It used Holden HJ bodies, which were shipped to Japan without engines, whereupon Mazda fitted the 135ps 13B rotary engine. Designed to take on the grandly named Toyota Century, Nissan President and Isuzu Statesman De Ville, the Road Pacer AP featured luxuries such as speed related central locking and even an inbuilt dictation machine."

The car was only sold for three years - 1975 to 1977. Just 800 were sold, only in Japan.

Mazda Pathfinder

Photo courtesy of Mazda Motor Corporation

Nissan wasn't the only automaker with a Pathfinder. The Mazda Pathfinder (shown above) was a 4x4 exclusively assembled and sold in Burma. It gained popularity with the military and police who appreciated its rugged off-road abilities. It was powered by a 90ps engine and came with a canvas roof or as a fully enclosed nine-seat model. A few can still be seen on the roads of Myanmar.

Mazda Suitcase Car

Photo courtesy of Mazda Motor Corporation

It wasn't just the 70s that gave the world unique Mazda cars. In 1984 the company officially changed its name to Mazda and in 1991 the Mazda Suitcase Car was born. The Australian-based limousine came about thanks to the 1991 "Fantasy yard" event - an inter-departmental contest to see which group of Mazda employees could come up with the most innovative and creative solution to produce a moving machine.

More go kart than passenger car, the model was the brainchild of seven Mazda engineers from Mazda's manual transmission testing and research group. They purchased the largest Samsonite suitcase they could find and a quarter size pocket motorbike and set to work.

To construct the model, engineers put the rear wheels into slots onto the outside of the case, while the front wheel popped through a removable hatch in the front. The suitcase car took mere minutes to assemble and had a top speed of 19 mph.

Sadly, the original prototype was accidentally destroyed just a few months after the "Fantasy Yard" event, however, one Mazda suitcase car still remains in existence.

London Royal College of Art taxi concept

Photo courtesy of Mazda Motor Corporation

Inn 1993, a collaboration with the London Royal College of Art resulted in a taxi concept (shown above) designed to operate in the future where space would restrict vehicle size. Though it wasn't an official Mazda concept, Mazda assisted by building the prototype, which was a futuristic looking narrow-track pod shaped mini-car.

Intersted in seeing more historical Mazdas? Click here to see 60 years of pretty/pretty ugly Mazda family cars and vans.

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Nuts & Bolts

 
 

The Ford Ranger is a solid entry into the midsize truck segment

Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

The Chevrolet Colorado is a good working man's truck. Want a step up? Get the GMC Canyon. Toyota's aging Tacoma is built for reliably tooling around. The Nissan Frontier is anxiously awaiting an upgrade while the Honda Ridgeline is busy being the best-kept secret of the segment. The Jeep Gladiator is the Wrangler of trucks.

What is the Ford Ranger besides just a slot-filler for the Dearborn, Michigan-based automaker? A week behind the wheel would surely sort that out. Surely.

2019 Ford Ranger Not much changed on the Ranger between the 2019 and 2020 model years. Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

As tested, the 2020 Ford Ranger Lariat is a top-tier option that starts at $38,675 but had a number of add-ons driving the price up to just under $46,000 all-in. While the exterior isn't particularly striking sans lift or beefy tires, the Ranger is, by most accounts, a reasonable looking truck. It's certainly not nearly as polarizing as the Ridgeline.

In the Lariat trim level, the Ranger comes with a long list of desirable features including LED headlamps and fog lamps, front tow hooks, cargo box tie-downs, power-folding side mirrors, and approach lights. The interior features list includes dual-zone automatic climate control, a 110-volt power outlet, cruise control, Ford MyKey, push-button start, eight-way power-adjustable driver and passenger heated seats, and flip-up rear bench storage.

In its cabin, the Ranger begins to show more of its true colors. The truck's dashboard and center console design earn Ford a solid "alright" in terms of design and appointments. It's all functional though not particularly modern and without any revolutionary components. The 8.0-inch touch screen infotainment system, 4.2-inch driver's information display, and steering wheel date the model more than anything else - and that's saying a lot in a segment where the Tacoma and Frontier live.

2020 Ford Ranger The wheel of the Ranger is a bit dated in its appearance, but completely funtional.Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

That's not to say that the Ranger's interior doesn't have a lot to like. The Medium Stone leather-trimmed seats were comfortable and the front row's seat design allow the driver and passenger great visibility.

Ford also gets points for its strong 270-horsepower, 2.3-liter EcoBoost engine. That's the same engine that will power the new Bronco - the two are manufactured at Ford's Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne, Michigan. The engine is paired with the same 10-speed automatic transmission that's is in the F-150 and proves to be just as smooth in the Ranger as in its big brother.

Operation of the switchgear inside the cabin is just as smooth. There's not particularly special about the buttons, knobs, and dials, but they do the job without much hassle.

In their most off-road proficient variety, the Colorado and Tacoma are forces to be reckoned with. The Ranger, though capable off-road, doesn't come in the ultra-proficient Ranger Raptor variant in the U.S. that is sold globally, and that's a shame. So, we're left with the more pedestrian variety and some available add-on packages. Still, it's a good daily driver leaving the average customer little to complain about.

2019 Ford Ranger The interior of the Ranger is not as outdated as the Frontier's, but it's not the most modern either.Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

None of this moves one any closer to deciphering what the 2020 Ranger is. But, what if that's the magic of it? The Ranger doesn't have a defining characteristic or package or specialty. This U.S. model is a well-rounded machine that quickly leaves the impression that maybe what this Ranger is, is really good.

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Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow's foundation assists Ohio residents who are in danger of going hungry.

Photo courtesy of Lordstown Motors

Cleveland, Ohio has been through a lot. The city, on the shores of Lake Erie, was founded 20 years after the American Revolution, served as a crucial hub for the Underground Railroad, became a booming metropolis filled with immigrants from across Europe, and thrived post-World War II as Americans got to work.

Along with economic prosperity came the rise of Cleveland as one of the biggest cities in the U.S. As such, it became a perfect fit to be home to a new club. In 1945, the Cleveland Browns football team became a member of the All-America Football Conference (AAFC), a rival to the National Football League (NFL). When the AAFC folded in 1949, the Browns, along with the San Francisco 49ers and Baltimore Colts, were added to the NFL team roster.

Coach Paul Brown Cleveland Browns 1955 Circa 1955, Portrait of American football coach Paul Brown holding a Lfootball while sitting on a table, 1950s. Brown coached the Cleveland Browns, which were named for him, and the Cincinnati Bengals. Photo by Getty Images

The blue-collar city of Cleveland showed up to watch the Browns, taking pride in the team much in the same way their rival Buffalo Bills and Pittsburgh Steelers were embraced by their working class communities.

In 1961, New York City ad man Art Modell purchased the team. In 1995 he announced plans to move it to Baltimore. This did not go over well with the City of Cleveland nor the fan base. A November 12, 1995 article in the New York Times described the situation: "To the thousands of angry, depressed, bewildered, and determined Browns fans in this city irate about the planned move of their team to Baltimore next season, the owner Art Modell is now Walter O'Malley's peer in franchise-removal infamy."

O'Malley, a layer turned baseball executive, is best remembered for moving the Dodgers out of Brooklyn to Los Angeles and the New York Giants to San Francisco. In a roundabout way, he's also at least partially responsible for the rise of free agency.

A few years before Modell purchased the Browns, General Motors purchased a swath of farmland along the newly constructed Ohio Turnnpike. It was to be home to the Chevrolet brand with most every Chevy designed by the Detroit-based team to be built there except the Chevrolet Task Force and military vehicles. Construction got underway in 1964 and in 1966 the first Impala rolled off the line.

A strike in 1972 lasted 22 days and cost GM $150 million and resulted in many Chevys coming off the line with defective parts. Similar tactics were later used in other strikes earning the technique the nickname "Lordstown Syndrome".

John Kerry Youngstown Ohio 2004 U.S. Senator John Kerry (D-MA) (L) shakes hands with steelworkers outside of the abandoned Youngstown Sheet and Tube Struthers Works factory February 24, 2004 in Youngstown, Ohio. Senator Kerry is touring areas of industrial decay and economic downturn in Youngstown. Photo by Getty Images

The collapse of the steel industry in the late 1970s and early 1980s was tough on the Mahoning Valley. In 1977, one of the area's top employers, Youngstown Sheet and Tube, abruptly closed its doors after 77 years in business and furloughed 5,000 workers.

Lordstown Assembly became the area's largest employer by the early 2000s, the same time that Modell was finally getting his wish and was able to begin a franchise anew. The Baltimore Ravens began playing in 1996 leaving the City of Cleveland without a team for three years until MBNA executive Al Lerner started the team back up, paying $530 million for the rights.

Inn 2006 as the economy contracted and the company began to see the full impact of decades of pension expenditure negotiations come to fruition, GM began scaling back operations. By 2008, they were in need of a bailout and cut two shifts of work at Lordstown. Over the next two years all of those workers were eventually invited to return to work. Just eight years later the plant was listed by GM in plans to go unallocated.

GM Lordstown Assembly Play 2018 An exterior view of the GM Lordstown Plant on November 26, 2018 in Lordstown, Ohio. GM said it would end production at five North American plants including Lordstown, and cut 15 percent of its salaried workforce. The GM Lordstown Plant assembles the Chevy Cruz. Photo by by Jeff Swensen/Getty Images

Like Lordstown, the Browns have struggled over the last decade to find the right formula for success. A few hours away from the home of the Browns, the City of Cincinnati and its Bengals have weathered the economic and football storm of the last century slightly better.

Though its history in the later half of the 20th Century is marked by a series of major natural and manmade disasters (Blizzard of '78, The Who concert disaster, Air Canada Flight 797 accident, and a tornado in 1993), Cincinnati has come out strong on the other side. the city supported a major push to modernize its sports facilities and roster of teams in the first two decades of the 21st Century with new stadiums built and fresh franchises established.

Ohio, from Toledo to Cincinnati to Columbus to Cleveland, and its residents have been busy during that time too, transitioning out of the traditional maunfacturing jobs that had a hold on the state and working to adapt to a rapidly evolving work

Despite the success of reaching Super Bowls in the 1980s, by the 90s and into the 2000s, the Cincinnati Bengals were not able to find positive results. They joined the unsuccessful cum extinct Browns in making Ohio the laughing stock of the NFL.

1988 Bengals Browns fight The referee breaks up a fight during a game between the Cincinnati Bengals and the Cleveland Browns at Riverfront Stadium in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1988. The Browns won the game, 23-16. Photo by Getty Images

For much of the last decade, as the Browns have floundered, Cincinnati rose up quickly then fell just as fast. From 2010 to 2014 the organization made four consecutive playoff appearances but that success was short-lived. The following five seasons spiraled into win-loss column disaster culminating in the 2-14 season in 2019. Those 14 loses were Ohio's gain.

In April 2020, LSU quarterback Joe Burrow was selected by the Bengals as the top pick in the NFL Draft. Six months prior, Lordstown Motors, a new electric vehicle company, struck a deal with General Motors to purchase a part of the Lordstown Assembly site to serve as its headquarters and future production facility.

Now, Burrows and Lordstown Motors are teaming up to launch "Work for it", a new campaign designed to assist the Joe Burrow Hunger Relief Fund, which is dedicated to providing supplemental and emergency food aid to residents of Athens County, Ohio. The Fund supports the Athens County Food Pantry. The 2010 census documented that over 30 percent of Athens County residents lived below the poverty line - the highest of any county in Ohio.

Joe Burrow Lordstown Motors Endurance Burrow checks out the Lordstown Endurance pickup truck.Photo courtesy of Lordstown Motors

The partnership is a natural fit according to Lordstown Motors CEO Steve Burns. "Even before the first machines are turned on, there is a energy that flows throughout every corner of the factory," Burns said. "This isn't just hard work for hard work's sake ... This is work with a dream, a mission, and a goal in mind. An understanding that each of us is part of something bigger than ourselves. Joe Burrow embodies this mindset both on and off the field, and is the perfect representation for when you want something you work for it."

"I am proud to partner with a innovative company like Lordstown Motors," said Burrow. "Their team is putting in a tremendous amount of hard work to achieve some very lofty goals, and that certainly resonated with me and how I approach my job every day."

Lordstown Motors Endurance Joe Burrow Burrow recently spent time with the Lordstown Endurance.Photo courtesy of Lordstown Motors

The partnership represents an ongoing commitment by Lordstown Motors to work to revitalize the Mahoning Valley.

The Lordstown Endurance, the company's all-electric pickup truck is creeping toward production. The company recently launched its first ad campaign for the fleet vehicle and announced 40,000 model pre-orders.

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