Oh boy… here I go again. Searching Craigslist for used trucks for sale near me, hopped up on Coca Cola and hope. Digging in the dregs of the sub ten thousand dollar ads is often like digging for gold in a septic tank. Sometimes, however, I find something that I simply have to share, and today, I draw your attention to a truck with one of the coolest names I have ever read. Ladies, gentlemen, and everyone in between… Drumroll please…
May I present the Sundowner Sport. How cool is that?! It brings to mind the type of truck you’d see either driving into the sunset with a steel guitar playing in the background or dodging lasers in a wonderfully 80s ad on an old VHS copy of Logan’s Run you found in your Dad’s basement. One might be surprised to find this name on a rather unassuming little pickup known as the B2000, made by Mazda.
The gas crisis remains one of the most influential events in all of automotive history. 1973 saw the price of oil shoot through the roof, and domestic automakers were caught with their pants down in a way that no one could see coming. No one, that is, except the Japanese. Toyota had begun offering the original Hilux, and Mazda began selling their domestic trucks on American shores to much popularity. These trucks were tiny, powered by four-cylinder engines with four and five-speed manual transmissions. They had respectable carry weights of slightly under 1,500 pounds with the benefit of getting great fuel economy, leading Ford to partner with Mazda during this time. In exchange for giving Mazda a foothold in the American market, Ford was allowed to sell Mazda’s truck with Ford badging and took a controlling stake in the Japanese company. Ford released their homegrown Ranger in 1982, but they let Mazda carry on offering the B2000 alongside cars like the GLC (Great Little Car) and the legendary RX-7.
Today’s Discovery: Bodystyle
Today’s truck is an example of the first year of the third generation. The truck’s body style is sturdy and simple, without all the chrome and flappery of full-size models. Two character lines span the truck as the only ornamentation. One is a beltline crease going from the leading edge of the hood all the way around the truck to the top of the bed. The second is a line that goes around the bottom of the truck, curving up around the wheel wells. The bodywork remains simple and handsome. The paint is a dull, gunmetal gray, aged by years of the elements battering at the thin sheet metal. Patina has developed on the top of the cab and all across the hood. Four tiny headlamps peer out from a simple grille that is just above a small splitter. Running across the length of the bed are convenient tie-downs on the outside which are a feature I wish more trucks of every size came with today.
On the bottom edge of the body on both sides is a beautiful western scene decal running the length of the truck. It features the silhouettes of buttes and cacti surrounded in the warm orange color of a setting sun, with the trim name spelled out in its own distinctive font. Even at 42 years old, faded and sunburnt, the decal is a bright sunny reminder of the types of decorations small trucks used to have. It gave them a character and charm not matched by the overly aggressive designs seen today.
The Sundowner trim name was reserved for the long bed models, and Sport meant a long wheelbase with special side view mirrors and the aforementioned decal on the sides. It is not known how many trucks were built with this unique combination of options, making this little truck quite rare, if not exactly worth much. This is the case with many cars. Hard to find does not mean valuable. My 1985 Ford Escort base hatchback that I drive each day is a diamond in the rough at only 130,000 miles. I’m not likely to ever come across another in as good a shape… if I ever saw another again, anywhere. But much like this truck, it will never be worth more than about five thousand dollars. Such is the life of a car enthusiast.
Unfortunately, having the moniker of “Sport” doesn’t mean it’s any faster than a base model. All B2000’s came equipped with a 2.0-liter four-cylinder that made a whopping 80 horsepower. All came with a four-speed manual as a base, though this model came with a five-speed as its one and only concession to the notion of “Sport.” This combination of engine and transmission is renowned for being reliable, if not exactly the quietest ever installed in a truck of its type.
While the interior of this truck would’ve been considered somewhat upmarket by the standards of the day, it would be seen as laughably basic by truck owners of today. The floor is covered in thin blue carpet, and the seats are stiff, one-piece units with integrated headrests upholstered in thick, hard-wearing, blue-gray vinyl. There are three-point seatbelts, though I can’t tell if they are aftermarket just from the pictures in the ad. Between the seats is a nice little center divider with a storage tray and a plastic surround for the shifter boot. While it’s a long way off from the modern, tech-heavy center consoles found in trucks like the Ford Ranger, it’s a nice little reminder of the pickup truck’s steady growth to become the all-rounder family hauler of our modern day.
The gauge cluster and tops of the door panels are coated in wood donated from the finest plastic trees. The gauges of the cluster are little more than a speedometer and fuel monitor, but you’ll find that’s all you really need. One strange but welcome addition to this little truck is factory air conditioning. You can see the large vent system under the passenger dashboard. While the ad doesn’t mention if it works, I’m sure it would be quite easy to get back up to snuff with a bit of TLC and some new parts to ensure the system can run modern coolant, always tricky with older HVAC units. It even has a feature coveted on full-size trucks, the sliding rear window. Someone must’ve really ticked the options sheet back in the day. This is almost as nice as what you’d find in a full-size Ford F-100!
Buy This Truck Before I Do
See, this is why I shouldn’t be allowed internet access. I find myself daydreaming about cars I don’t need and can’t afford. It would be nice to cruise down to the local diner, step out of my little truck in my worn leather jacket (that I’m sure is located somewhere inside – you can’t have a truck as cool as that without a matching wardrobe!), and step inside to order a burger. If someone were to ask:
“Is that your truck, Miss?”
I’d look over my aviator sunglasses and say with all the dazzle of a roguish space captain.
“What? The Sundowner Sport? Yeah, she’s mine, alright.”
Huh. Maybe I’ll email the owner and see if he’d like to get his hands on a nice little Ford Escort… Wish me luck!