Tag Archives: ford ranger

1981 Mazda RX-7

Johnny Lightning creates a racy tribute with new Mazda RX-7 …

Mazda has been a favorite car maker of mine since I was fresh out of college and bought a GLC hatchback. Remember the Great Little Car?

Well, it wasn’t great, but it was good and low-priced, which fit a newly minted college graduate’s budget. Plus it was crazy reliable, with a manual choke, so it ALWAYS started.

Just as I was dipping my toes into the car market Mazda was expanding its lineup to include the racy Wankel rotary engine-powered RX-7. You might say it was Mazda’s prescription for speed, helping solidify its sporty image for years to come. Mazda even raced the RX-7, challenging Nissan’s 240Z.

This Johnny Lightning beauty at just 1:64 scale is a tribute to Mazda’s first racer, featuring its markings, but the body work of the 1981-‘85 RX-7s. It’s sharp and moves JL up another notch in fit and finish for the small die-cast market where it leads in realism, especially in the muscle car realm. This is muscle of a different sort though.

The History

Mazda introduced the RX-7 as a 1979 model, replacing the RX-3, which was decidedly less sporty looking. The Wankel rotary engine and the car’s low-slung long-hood design were the big news. The RX-7 was small and light enough to avoid some Japanese road taxes too, making it a popular model from an economic standpoint too. Plus the new engine packed more power.

Mazda, who had raced the RX-3, was quick to get the RX-7 into racing and in 1979 finished first and second in the GTU class at the Daytona 24 Hours, and were fifth and sixth overall, a pretty impressive start. Later in the year the Mazda also won the 24 Hours of Spa in Belgium, although those cars had been tweaked and tuned by the Tom Walkinshaw (TWR) racing team.

In fact, RX-7s won the GTU championship in IMSA eight straight years, from 1980 to 1987, often taking the top two or three spots. Ultimately it won more IMSA races than any other car.

Those racers also had rear a rear spoiler and wide over fenders along with a chin spoiler. The Johnny Lightning car is based on the FB version of the RX-7, which came a bit after the original. This is a street version, which means they have no spoilers, but the 1981 FB models now had integrated plastic-covered bumpers, wide black rubber body side moldings, and wraparound taillights. Engine controls also were upgraded. 

The Model

               This new casting, which retails for just $12.99, uses the two-tone green markings over a creamy white that the original RX-7 sported in the Daytona endurance race. There are big black No. 7s enclosed in black circles on the hood and doors, plus Mazda is printed big on the nose and in a blue bar across the top of the windshield.

               On the rear hatch’s lid is a “Powered by Rotary” decal and there are Union 76 and Bridgestone logos on the rear quarter panels. Another Mazda decal is on the fenders just before the doors, and a circular orange NGK spark plugs decal on each door.

               The FB’s large black side moldings are here, just above the two-tone green stripes along the car’s lower edges.

               Details that make the car look particularly realistic even in this small scale are black door handles, dual black side mirrors with silver faces and black hinges on the rear windscreen, plus a large black wiper at its lower edge. The rollaway headlights are shut to give the car a racier and smoother look, plus the hood opens forward, as on the original.

               Under the hood is a black engine block, but it is flat as was the rotary in the RX-7s, just a blue air filter on top for a little color. The rest of the cast-in details are white under the hood, which does take a bit of effort to pry open the first time. I scratched a tiny bit of paint off, but then this is a race car, so what’s a little race wear? The hood fits beautifully when closed.

               Of course the undercarriage is cast in great detail, as on all JL and Auto World models. Plus the black radiator air intake panel under the nose is nicely detailed.

               But the final bit of fun here are the wheels, which are four twin-spokes each with the spokes being a copper-gold, similar to some models sold in the U.S. that featured gold-anodized wheels. Plus the tires are rubber on JL cars. Bravo!

               A quick note here to call out our Auto World friend, Chad Reid, as the graphic artist on this model, along with a new red Motorcraft Ranger parts truck. The truck uses a Motorcraft logo on each door with a two white and one black stripe down each side as accents. It looks sharp and you can imagine one of these pulling into your repair shop’s parking lot, circa 1983.

 Reid says he chose Motorcraft red for the truck as it seemed perfect for a parts truck, and he also drew on a old Nylint Ford Ranger’s markings for inspiration. Both the Motorcraft Ranger (also $12.99) and RX-7 are limited editions, with just 2,496 being made of each.

The Ranger is a pre-order with shipments expected soon, but the RX-7 is in stock now.              

Vital Stats: 1981 Mazda RX-7 (racer tribute)

Maker: Johnny Lightning
Scale: 1/64
Stock No.: SCM099
MSRP: $12.99

Link: Autoworldstore.com

2022 Ford Maverick Lariat FWD

Ford returns to the compact pickup market with a hybrid …

Finally, finally, finally the nation’s leading truck maker has returned to the compact pickup market as Ford introduces the Maverick pickup.

Oldtimers will recall the original Ford Maverick as an inexpensive compact car that did not distinguish itself, but this Maverick is gonna be great in the marketplace, just like Ford’s previous Ranger. The old Ranger, not the new mid-size pickup of the same name, used to clog up every high school parking lot in both rural and urban America.

Know why? It was affordable and useful, and by golly, it was a TRUCK. And that’s what young male buyers yearn for as they imagine themselves becoming men, starting a work life and well, just expressing their macho dudeness as they crank their country rock tunes.

Maverick’s looks are less macho than all the bulky mid-size and full-size pickups that look prepared to trounce some demon in a Marvel action movie. Maverick is handsome and understated, not that there’s anything wrong with that.

It’s also highly affordable throughout its three trim levels, and there’s definitely nothing wrong with that.

The base front-drive XL starts at $21,490, including delivery. The mid-level XLT lists at $23,855 and the tested Lariat model begins at $26,985. OMG that’s cheap in today’s truck world. Add $3,305 to any model if you prefer 4-wheel-drive, which most folks do these days. However, you’ll also need to upgrade to Ford’s 2.0-liter turbo I4 engine ($1,085) in order to add 4WD.

Still, even this well-equipped Alto Blue Metallic (dark metallic blue that’s $390 extra) checked in at just $29,340. That after adding a sunroof ($795), Ford’s Co-Pilot 360 safety equipment ($540), a spray-in bedliner (a must at $495) and floor mats ($135). All models are crewcabs.

What may surprise as much as the price it that each of these trims comes standard with a hybrid powertrain. That’s right, Ford’s 2.5-liter I4 is paired with a hybrid system to make this compact pickup a sipper of gas around town. The EPA rates it at 42 mpg highway and 33 mpg city. I got 31.8 in a mix of driving in cold, icy, and snowy weather.

Watch Mark’s video review: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dG2hTmpxMMk

Power is smooth and fairly quiet, but modest unless mashing the accelerator. Part of that can be attributed to its continuously variable transmission. If you need more power, that optional turbo I4, coupled with an 8-speed automatic, delivers 250 horses compared with the hybrid system’s 191 and scant 155 lb.-ft. of torque. Again, the hybrid is fine for normal driving conditions, the turbo is only needed if you plan to tow more.

That’s because the hybrid is rated to tow just 2,000 lbs. while properly equipped ($745 tow package) the turbo-powered Maverick will pull 4,000 lbs. Compare that with Hyundai’s new Santa Cruz, my Zoomie Vehicle of the Year, which can tow up to 5,000 lbs. Santa Cruz is Maverick’s main competition, being the only other compact pickup so far, although it is more stylish and tends toward the crossover end of the market for ride and roominess.

While AWD is extra, there are five drive modes adjusted via a knob on the console. Those include Eco, Normal, Sport, Slippery and Tow/Haul. Sport does boost acceleration some.

Handling is certainly fine with Maverick, which rides on the same chassis as the Ford Escape and Bronco Sport, both of which also are nimble. Steering effort is mild and turn-in for corners fairly precise, making it an easy vehicle on the road and in parking lots.

Ride is another thing. While Maverick is unibody construction, not body-on-frame as are most other trucks, the suspension is pretty firm here. That leads to more bounce and jiggle on our winter-ravaged Midwest roads. Maverick is pleasant on the highway, but on crumbling roads passengers will be shaken, not just stirred.

Braking is good as Maverick packs four-wheel disc brakes.

For the record, Maverick’s bed is 4.5 feet deep and the test unit had a spray-in bedliner. The lift-in height is just 30 inches and the tailgate folds down quickly, no easy-drop, or multiple function version here as on fancier pickups. But this is right-sized to haul lumber, bushes and yard waste. Even a couple bikes will fit in back.

Inside is right-sized too for four, or maybe five folks, if at least one is a child. The rear seats are roomy and there’s oodles of storage space under the rear seat whose bottom cushion folds up.

The test truck’s interior was simple but attractive with brown and dark blue faux leather seats. That blue matches the truck’s exterior. I also like the copper trim on the dash, air vents and door armrests, which are abbreviated and quite easy to use in pulling a door shut. The console is wisely a matte blue and brown so no reflections there on sunny days.

Snazzy copper-colored door pulls add some spiff inside.

Controls and screens are fine, the main gauges easy to see and read and the 8-inch infotainment screen seems even smaller, but was easy to read. The Lariat also has dual climate controls and push-button start, but no navigation system. Note that in an effort to keep costs down the base level features a key start (remember those?) and cloth seats.

Seats themselves are comfy enough here, but the front edge seems to have just a tad too much foam, so puts extra pressure on the legs, just behind the knees, of short drivers. Luckily the driver’s seat is powered, while the passenger’s is not. Yet still the front edge could not be lowered enough for this short driver’s long-ride comfort.

Seats also are not heated, nor is the steering wheel, even at this Lariat level. No wireless phone charger is standard here either.

Good news though, the step-in height is like a sedan or small crossover, so no running board is needed.

On the safety front the Maverick includes a pre-collision assist system, rear-view camera, remote keyless entry and with the $540 Co-Pilot 360 adds blind-spot and cross-traffic alerts, lane keeping alert and aid, driver alert and a full-size spare tire.

For off-road heroes there’s also an FX4 package available for $800. That adds 17-inch all-terrain tires, an upgraded cooling system and high-capacity radiator, hill descent control, a 6.5-inch instrument cluster, a hitch, special aluminum wheels, skid plates and exposed front tow hooks Note that you must upgrade to the turbo engine before adding FX4, adding roughly another grand.

There’s storage room below the rear seat.

The base XL of course is a basic low-content truck to keep the price just above $20,000, but the XLT adds 17-inch aluminum wheels, cruise control, a locking tailgate and power mirrors. The tested Lariat includes the XLT’s features and adds the power driver’s seat, push-button start and 18-inch wheels.

One final plus, the hybrid-powered Maverick features an 8-year, 100,000-mile warranty on that system, while the more powerful 2.0-liter turbo has a 5-year, 60,000-mile warranty.

If you want a pickup, but don’t Need a monster truck, or can’t Afford one, Maverick is a sweet new choice, finally.

FAST STATS: 2022 Ford Maverick Lariat FWD

Hits: Right-sized pickup with excellent handling and super MPG due to hybrid system. Comfy interior, low step-in height, lined bed, easy dash function, 5 drive modes, cool copper interior trim, dual climate controls, seats 4/5, power driver’s seat, and sunroof.

Misses: Just OK power, ride is bouncy at times, a bit too firm, front edge of seats is too high for short drivers’ legs, no heated seats or steering wheel, no wireless phone charger and no 4WD.

Made in: Hermosillo, Mexico

Engine: 2.5-liter I4 hybrid, 191 hp/155 torque

Transmission: CVT automatic

Weight: 3,674 lbs.

Wheelbase: 121.1 in.

Length: 199.7 in.

Payload: 1,500 lbs.

Tow: 2,000 lbs.

MPG: 42/33

MPG: 31.8 (tested)

Base Price: $26,985 (includes delivery)

Invoice: $26,475

Major Options:

Co-pilot 360, $540

Alto Blue paint, $390

Floor liner without carpet mats, $135

Power moon roof, $795

Spray-in bedliner, $495

Test vehicle: $29,340

Sources: Ford, www.kbb.com

Photos: Mark Savage

2022 Nissan Frontier Pro-4X Crew Cab 4X4

Horsey Frontier both civilized and off-road ready …

Pickups are becoming so civilized it’s possible that urban cowboys won’t want to sidle up to them pretty soon.

All pickups used to be boxes on big knobby tires with a big ol’ floor-mounted stick shift, a metal bed and rusty (after a couple years) tailgate that flopped down like an exasperated teenager into the family couch. Pickups were strong and he-manly and cheaper than the sports cars that also identified their owners as high-T.

Sorry pardner, but much of that is long gone as crew cabs and modern technology have conspired to soften pickups and make them the family station wagons of today.

Nissan knows that, of course, but isn’t about to let its Frontier slide into sissydom. Last year it poured a new 310-horsepower 3.8-liter V6 with 9-speed automatic into the mid-size Frontier (a near clone to Ford’s Ranger in size and function). That gave Frontier the horsiest engine in class, plus a smooth-shifting tranny to boot, so a saddlebag full of power, but with refinement.

For 2022 the entire Frontier, outside of that engine and tranny, have been restyled and rethought to take on this growing market of mid-size pickups ruled by Toyota’s Tacoma.

Unlike last week’s smaller, stylish and refined Hyundai Santa Cruz, a compact crossover/pickup, Nissan went for the muscular manly styling that has dominated the market since the 1960s. It works, but isn’t so tall as to make a feller jump up into its cab like mounting a horse in one leap. Oh, this one added the fine off-road style step rails ($750), but they were hardly needed. No, the tested Frontier Pro-4X Crew Cab, designed for off-road loving pickup owners, sits low enough to make daily access easy.

Related video: Mark Savage reviews 2022 Nissan Frontier Pro 4x truck – YouTube

Where the hooves should be Frontier offers nubby R17 All-Terrain tires on painted alloy wheels, yet coupled with Bilstein off-road shocks the on-road ride is surprisingly supple and easy on the gluts. A rear suspension stabilizer no doubt helps too. The fam won’t mind riding in Frontier because of usual pickup ride quality (bouncy), and the driver will appreciate the giddyup provided by that V6 while so many other mid-sizers go with turbo 4-cylinders. Nissan Only offers the V6.

Handling is surprisingly quick and responsive as Nissan engineers revised the steering ratio for more precise handling, an aid especially in avoiding highway lane fade. Not a lot of play in this wheel. Downside is the steering is quite heavy in Frontier, very trucky, not crossover-like at all. Gym rats may like this while the rest of us could use a little lighter feel.

Useful, sure! Frontier has a 5-foot bed including spray-in liner, part of the $1,990 Pro Convenience Package. That package also adds Nissan’s snazzy Utili-track system with four adjustable tie-down cleats. That tailgate also is dampened so it doesn’t flop down too quickly, plus the tailgate locks, but no tonneau cover like the Santa Cruz has.

This one did add a grizzly bear-strong Sport Bar ($1,095) just behind the cab. It adds off-roading panache, but also includes a light on top to make bed loading easier at night. Nissan also includes side bed lights here. And while I loved Hyundai’s bumper infused steps this has a fold-down step on the driver’s side tail below the bumper. It’s easy to fold down and flip back up.

Frontier’s interior looks trucky, meaning muscular, black and off-road useful. There’s a knob on the dash to engage the 4-wheel-drive system, a big 9-inch touchscreen, large radio and climate control knobs and the usual steering-wheel hub with cruise and info screen controls.

I liked the functionality of it all and the black (really more of a charcoal gray) leather seats were soft and fairly comfy for city driving. Hip support was good, but the seats could use more lower-back support and the rear seats, while roomy enough for a couple adults could use some seat-back adjustments. The backs are nearly straight up and down and could be tiring after a short ride. The previous week’s Santa Cruz had a much more passenger friendly rear seat despite being smaller.

On the plus side though are heated front seats and heated steering wheel, plus the driver’s seat is fully powered while the passenger’s seat is manual. The back seats also fold and there’s storage beneath the seats.

I liked the open wireless phone charger on the console’s tail by the driver’s seat and center storage box. That’s easy to reach and easy to see if the phone is charging. The charger and heated seats are part of that Pro Convenience package that also includes a 120-volt power outlet in the bed.

Oddly the space between seats and door panels is incredibly tight. I couldn’t easily get my hand between the two to retrieve an item in the door pocket. Not real user friendly!

On the safety front there’s automatic forward collision warning, but to get more safety gar you need the Technology Package for $990. It includes lane departure warning, blind-spot warning, rear cross-traffic alert, a rear sonar system, rear automatic braking, high beam assist, smart cruise and traffic sign recognition. I feel blind-spot and rear cross-traffic alert really should be standard on all vehicles today.

Some useful electronics are standard though, including Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, Bluetooth, satellite radio, navigation, NissanConnect, Wi-Fi hotspot and voice recognition for audio features. There’s a rear-view camera of course, hill start and descent assist and a trailer sway control system, all pluses when towing or off-roading.

Speaking of which, the Frontier will pull 6,720 pounds, not quite the 7,500 that Ranger pulls, but sufficient for most average trailers and gear.

Making the Tactical Green ($395 extra) test truck a little nicer was the Pro Premium Package that adds a Fender premium audio system with 10 speakers, the leather seats, auto-dimming mirror with Homelink, sunroof and beadlock alloy wheels. Cost is $2,790.

I wasn’t a fan of the Army-style green, but the militarization of pickups seems a natural step at this point. Gun racks are still extra though.

Sadly gas mileage is pickup poor at 17 mpg city and 22 highway. I got 18 mpg in about 60% highway driving.

Pricing is higher than Ranger, mostly. A base 2WD Frontier S starts at $29,340. That’s for the crew cab with full-size rear doors, and let’s be honest, that’s what most folks want, and need. An SV crew cab goes for $32,140. Both also have a $1,175 destination charge.

There’s a Pro-X model that is 2WD only, but looks tougher like the tested Pro-4X, so blacked out grille with orange Nissan logo, and another on the steering wheel.

The 4WD Pro-4X lists at $38,415 including delivery and the tested truck hit $46,965 with all its options. That’s pretty steep for a mid-size pickup. But again, that’s where the market is headed for mid-sizers. Note too that mid-size pickups are as large as full-size pickups were 15-20 years ago.

I like the open running boards, made for off-roading, but easy to climb on.

A King Cab with small rear doors that open backward is also available and will save buyers a few bucks, but is far less useful for family hauling. And even most urban cowboys have a couple little outlaws to corral for soccer practice.

FAST STATS: 2022 Nissan Frontier Pro-4X Crew Cab 4×4

Hits: Useful family pickup, right size, good power, shifts, ride and handling. Lined bed, easy-lower tailgate, deployable step, strong tie-downs. Trucky interior but big screen, heated seats and wheel, big radio and climate knobs, smart cruise and safety suite, wireless phone charger.

There is an easy-fold step in back.

Misses: Heavy steering feel, seat backs need more side support, back seat backs too straight for long rides, low mpg, a bit pricey.

Made in: Canton, Miss.

Engine: 3.8-liter V6, 310 hp/281 torque

Transmission: 9-speed automatic

Weight: 4,709 lbs.

Wheelbase: 126.0 in.

Length: 210.2 in.

Cargo bed: 5-foot

Tow: 6,720 lbs.

Payload: 1,460 lbs.

MPG: 17/22

MPG: 18.0 (tested)

Base Price: $38,415 (includes delivery)

Invoice: $37,788*

Major Options:

Premium paint, $395

Off-road style step rails, $750

Bed access package, $540

Pro Convenience package (spray-in bedliner, Utili-track system, 120-volt power outlet in bed/rear console, heated outside mirrors, heated seats, heated steering wheel, LED under rail lighting, remote start, trailer hitch w/wiring, intelligent around-view monitor w/moving object detection and off-road mode, wireless charging), $1,990

Pro Premium package (Fender premium audio w/10 speakers, leather-appointed front/rear seats, auto-dimming mirror w/Homelink, tilt/slide sunroof w/manual shade, 17-inch beadlock alloy wheels), $2,790

Sport bar, $1,095

Technology package (lane departure warning, blind-spot warning, rear cross-traffic alert, rear sonar system, rear automatic braking, high beam assist, smart cruise, traffic sign recognition), $990

Test vehicle: $46,965

Sources: Nissan, www.kbb.com, *KBB Fair Market

Photos: Mark Savage

2022 Ford Maverick pickup preview with photos

New compact hybrid truck starts at $19,999, on sale this fall …

Ford recently announced a new compact pickup, surprising the market by not calling it Ranger, as its compact had been known for years. Today it shows off the new Maverick pickup.

Boomers will remember the Maverick name from a compact car Ford sold in the 1970s, but for today’s intended buyer Maverick may seem appropriate for a pickup that isn’t the norm, mainly huge. Nope, this one is full-efficient, full of current (hybrid) technology and more.

But it also will be affordable for Gen X, Y and Z buyers, starting at just $19,999. That’s the market the old Ranger inhabited until it disappeared in 2011.

Maverick doesn’t go on sale until fall, but Savageonwheels.com hopes to test drive one ASAP when these get out into the Midwest journalist fleet.

Here’s what Ford tells us the new Maverick has going for it.

  • Fuel-efficient: Maverick is the first standard full-hybrid pickup in America and promises to be the most fuel-efficient truck with a targeted EPA rating of 40 mpg in the city.
  • Compact yet roomy: Its compact size will make it easy to maneuver and park, but Ford says there’s room for five adults and plenty of storage space (see the accompanying photo). The interior is stylish and spacious, with thoughtful features and the versatility for city and rural lifestyles.
  • Smart technology: Includes a standard 8-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, standard FordPass Connect with embedded modem and Ford Co-Pilot360 technologies like automatic emergency braking and automatic high beams.
  • Functional: Maverick offers a unique FLEXBED, which is packed with standard features and opportunities to transform the cargo box into a complete makerspace to fit owners’ lifestyles. The flexible bed offers a multi-position tailgate, slots for lumber to be inserted to subdivide the bed, 12 anchor points, two 12-volt 20-amp pre-wired sources plus two 110-volt outlets are available.
  • Ford Tough durability and capability: 1,500 lbs. of payload capacity–equal to 37 bags of 40-pound mulch. The standard hybrid provides 2,000 lbs. of towing to haul personal watercraft to the lake, while the optional 2.0-liter EcoBoost gas engine can tow up to 4,000 lbs., enough to bring a typical 23-foot camper on a weekend getaway.

For those looking for high-powered intro excitement Ford says actress Gabrielle Union (She’s All That and 10 Things I Hate About You), will show off the Maverick on her Instagram and TikTok channels, and on Ford’s social media channels. Maverick will be Ford’s first vehicle to debut on its new US TikTok channel.

2020 Jeep Gladiator Overland 4×4

Gladiator: Finally, a midsize pickup with style …

You’ll either want a Jeep Gladiator pickup, or you won’t.

What I mean is the long-awaited Jeep pickup is an image vehicle as much as it is a pickup. That’s not to say it doesn’t function well as a pickup, it certainly does. But it looks like a Jeep, and that’s really all that matters.

Case in point, my sister-in-law declared it an “ugly thing” while another female rider, who loves and owns Jeeps, said it looked “fantastic.” Continue reading 2020 Jeep Gladiator Overland 4×4