‘A Perfect Combination of Distinction and Utility’
By Dave Turner
The Courier badge first came into the Ford lexicon when it was applied to the sedan delivery version of the base level two door Ranch Wagon for 1952. Although it had last appeared in 1947, Ford had featured the sedan delivery in their range of light commercials since 1932. A sedan delivery basically consisted of the passenger car front end, with the rear section adapted to carry goods. This was a development of what Ford called the Town Delivery and the concept goes right back to light commercial variants of the Model T.
As before, the sedan delivery, now called the Courier, followed the styling of the contemporary passenger cars from 1952 until 1960, then after a nine year gap the name was applied to a slightly Americanised version of the popular Mazda B pickup and this continued until 1982, when Ford replaced it with the Ranger for 1983. Seven years later the name re-appeared, this time in Europe applied to a high-cube and long wheelbase version of the little Fiesta van until 2002, when it was replaced by the Transit Connect.
In the meantime Ford in Brazil used the Courier name on what at first appears to be a much more altered Fiesta variant. Based on the local Ford Ikon, it was a pickup, which ceased production in 2013. At the same time Ford announced a new Transit Courier for 2013 so the story continues. I hope more models of this new version of the Transit will appear than there have been of the Connect; hardly any have appeared. Arguably Ford’s old strapline could be justified for their Courier in all its various forms. Having said that, models of Couriers are few and far between, and even then some of them are relatively obscure in their origin.
The new for 1952 Fords had a 115 inch wheelbase, an inch longer than the 1949-51 series, for which there was no sedan delivery variant. The new Courier mirrored the two-door Ranch Wagon in most respects; no passenger seats, blank side panels and a side-opening rear door were the main differences. Engines were the ohv inline 215 cubic inch six or sv 239 cubic inch V8. These continued with the 1953 version, along with all the same trim changes that the passenger cars received. Again for 1954 the same changes were made all across the Ford line, including the new ohv 239 cubic inch V8 while the six was slightly enlarged to 223 cubic inch.
Durham Classics produced white metal models of both the 1954 Ranch Wagon and the Courier, the latter in numerous liveries. Closer to 1:42 scale, with wheels that are a few inches over scale, these handbuilts were of typical early 1990s technology, nicely finished but with modest detail.
1955 Fords were re-styled to look longer, lower and wider, featuring those extreme wraparound windscreens, while the engines were the old six or a V8 now enlarged to 272 cubic inch. The Courier was based on the cheapest Ranch Wagon, but again it had a side-opening rear door, rather than the split type on wagons. Even so when Bandai produced their big tin 1955 Courier they utilised the lift up and drop down split tailgate that they employed on their Ranch Wagon version. These tin toys are now regarded as among the rarest of their ilk. The two that are most often seen feature designs for flowers and coffee on their side panels. The following year’s Courier adopted the same trim changes as the car line, but for 1957 a completely new car featured another inch longer wheelbase, generally wider and at the same time lower. Now the rear door became a one-piece lift-up tailgate, while optional side windows meant that 1957 Couriers fitted with them were almost a two-door Ranch Wagon without the passenger seats.
The Japanese Collectoy range of diecasts was imported into the USA by Marx and given the name LineMar. A 1:57 scale 1957 Courier was included in this range, with flywheel drive and solid side panels. Somewhat larger is a 1:28 diecast from China sold in the USA under the Spec-Cast and Liberty names. It is a bank with coin slot in the back window and trapdoor under the rear. Even bigger is the 1:18 scale 1957 from Yatming under the Road Legends banner, complete with opening hood and doors, ribbed rear floor, and full length side flash, plus dual colours from the high level 1957 cars. From All American Models in the mid 1990s came a 1:25 resin transkit to be used in conjunction with a contemporary plastic kit to produce a 1957 Courier.
Engine choices remained the same for 1958 with the addition of the option of a 352 cubic inch V8, the Courier being restyled along with the passenger car range. For 1959 the Courier, again styled alongside the passenger range, adopted the same two-piece tailgate as the wagon. The last year for the Ranch Wagon based Courier was 1960, when it grew yet again with a 119 inch wheelbase and an overall length only a couple of inches short of 18 feet. Despite the Courier now being made exclusively with side windows, the two models I have seen so far both have blank solid sides. The smaller of these came from Hubley in their Real Toys diecast range, the base of which is inscribed Country Squire Sedan. By contrast, the big tin toy from Asahi is even harder to find than the Bandai 1955 Courier. An example of the Asahi is known to feature the same Coffee signage as the Bandai 1955.
By the early 1970s, Ford were aware that a demand existed in the US for a slightly lighter and less rugged pickup than the traditional hefty workhorse produced by the US motor industry. This was becoming obvious due to the increasing numbers of Japanese-sourced small pickups on the US roads. To adapt a well-used phrase, Ford joined rather than beat them, adopting the small Mazda pickup into their range. Mazda’s B1500 pickup goes back to 1961, with a second-generation version arriving in 1965. For this version Ford created a grille that resembled that of their beefy F Series, with single instead of quad headlights, and they had their own mini-pickup, reviving the Courier name in the process. These vehicles proved extremely successful; their popularity assisting Mazda in no small way to survive a very delicate financial period that they were experiencing at the time.
The first series of Mazda-based Couriers employed a 1800cc four-cylinder engine. They came into the USA as chassis-cabs to avoid what had been dubbed the chicken tax. The pickup box was added in the USA. Rolling chassis-cabs could be fitted with a variety of aftermarket bodies. So far no model of the initial Courier has surfaced, althoughCorgi offered a 1:38 scale diecast model of the second-generation Mazda B1600, which was subsequently copied by Playart.
A third generation of Mazda B-Series pickups was produced between 1977 and 1985, which became the second generation Ford Courier, available in a choice of two wheelbases and with a 2.3 litre engine option. In 1980 Matchbox offered the 1977 version (1978 onwards had parking lights in the grille) complete with a plastic ‘piggy-back’ camper body, in reality this was a feature more usually seen on the bigger F Series pickups than on the little Courier. A miniscule FORD badge can just be made out on the grille, and the licence plates read COU 113 a hint that this represents the longer Courier with a 113 inch wheelbase. We can’t leave AMT out; they offered several plastic kit variations of much-modified 1978 Couriers in the late 1970s with a mid 1990s re-issue. Revell also produced a plastic kit of the 1978 model, and like most of the AMTs it depicted a severely modified vehicle.
A van version of Ford’s little Fiesta had been in production for many years by 1991, but by extending the wheelbase by ten inches to 106 inches and adapting the front end onto a high-cube box-shaped van, the next Courier was created. Putting windows in the sides and a row of seats behind the driver created the Courier Kombi. Using a 1.3 petrol or 1.8 diesel engine it got the same updates as the corresponding Fiesta; the oval grille for 1996 and the next new-look front end three years later. It was replaced by the new Transit Connect in 2002, and that eventually morphed into the next Courier 11 years later.
Matchbox issued 1:57 scale diecast models of both the Courier van and Courier Kombi in 1992.
|Maker||Origin||Released||Model Code||Year of Prototype||Style and Size||Scale||Material|
|Durham Classics||Canada||1991||7||1954||Various Liveries 119mm||1:42||Metal|
|All American Models||USA||1996||1957||1:25||Resin
|Hubley||USA||551||1960||No Side Windows 90mm||1:60||Diecast|
|AMT||USA||1995||6690||1978||Stepside Pick Up||1:25||Plastic Kit|
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