To mark the beginning of Mazda Week, I thought I'd post about one of my favourites. See, you look at a T-Series truck and think, "Yeah, great, a stupid little half motorcycle half truck thing that they made five of…definitely something Banovsky would like."
You'd be wrong. Very wrong.
See, the T-Series, when optioned up in its Big Boy clothes, is longer than a Chevrolet Suburban.
Let that sink in. Or, if you're having trouble picturing a Suburban, think of a Toyota Camry…then park a Smart fortwo behind it. That's how long the T-Series is.
You can actually fit a K360, Mazda's smaller 3-wheeled truck, in the bed of the T-Series. I suppose it'd be great for roadside assistance.
Mazda's first vehicle, the 1931 DA, was a three-wheeled trike with a small truck bed mounted behind the driver. Integral to work rebuilding Japan, these small vehicles are what helped give several manufacturers their start.
Fast forward more than 20 years and the T-Series (T1100 and T1500), introduced in 1959, would become the ultimate evolution of the genre.
First, if you're wondering how they packaged an engine in there—considering where the front wheel sits—it was mounted underneath the front seat, with the radiator mounted behind the front wheel.
Sadly, no rotary engine was fitted, but the base model had 46 horsepower from an 1139cc four-cylinder engine and the 1500 rocked a tremendous 60 horsepower.
So how much could these beasts of burden carry? The base model could hold 1000 kg (2200 lbs) and the 1500 had a payload of 2000 kg (4409 lbs.)
That's in the ballpark of a non-dually regular cab 2014 Ford F-350 Super Duty 4x2…
Upgraded for 1962 and now with the T1500 as the base truck and a T2000 added—with a 1985cc four-cylinder engine making a stout 81 horsepower. Payload? Still a maximum of 2000 kg.
OK, so how could these machines have such a huge payload? First, they're incredibly simple—ladder frame, semi-floating (T1100 and T1500) or fully-floating rear axle to handle strong loads. Second, it's essentially a truck bed that happens to have a cab in front of it—there's no fluff. Just put a bunch of crap in the back and get on with it.
All T-Series trucks had three-channel brakes, and, eventually, power brakes were added in 1965. For city use—perfect for Japan—it turning circle is an incredible 19.5 feet.
That's about what you'd get from a mid-sized sedan like the Honda Accord.
A place you don't expect would have a lot of these kicking around is Greece, but many were manufactured there on license. (Try finding one while on vacation!)
Production in Japan continued until 1974, which is quite incredible. I'll put it this way: the T-Series is basically the Bugatti Veyron of three-wheeled trucks.
There were other Japan-only Mazda trucks, and dozens of other three-wheeled trucks. But that's a story for another day.