Project cars often turn into never-ending projects that spend more time in the garage than driving, so it’s only natural that a finished, running project catches our eye. We were at the Holley Intergalactic Ford Festival in Bowling Green, Kentucky, last fall and spotted this unusual beast, and now we’re taking a closer look. This Courier pickup has zero connection to the Ford Couriers of the 1950s, but the Mazda-sourced mini-truck is technically a Ford, and it now features the heart of a true-blue Detroit-sourced SVO 2.3L four.
Jon Hagan (@BoostedCourier), a 30-year-old construction worker from Owensboro, Kentucky, still owns his first car, a Fox Body Mustang SVO. He’s been a lifelong fan of the platform, collecting piles of parts over the decades. Earlier this year, he stumbled across this 1980 Courier pickup. “I’ve always loved them and their story, but they’re hard to find for a reasonable price,” said Jon. He found this one for $1,800, so he jumped on it with no real plan.
The Ford Courier pickups are rebadged Mazda B-series pickups, and some rare models from 1977–82 feature 2.3-liter Ford engines—virtually the only Ford component in the truck. He went to work building a custom header and used an old intake for a Weber carburetor; however, the engine was smoking, and rather than rebuilding the rare original 2.3-liter engine, he looked in his barn and found a spare turbocharged SVO 2.3 covered in 10 years of dust and dirt. “I thought hell, I might as well throw that SVO in it,” said Jon. “So, I cleaned her up and threw her in.” He was even able to reuse the original engine mounts. He performed a cheap rebuild on the bottom end, ported and polished the cylinder head, and put it back together, getting the truck running in less than five months before driving it to Holley Ford Fest, where we found it.
A Holset HX40 replaces the original turbo and is set to produce 17–19 lbs of boost. The otherwise stock engine includes a Bo-Port 2.1 camshaft and Stinger Performance Pimp XS ECU. The fuel system consists of a Holley retro-fit pickup in the stock tank, Sniper 340lph E85 fuel pump, and Holley Fuel Pressure Regulator. FID 2000-cc injectors only see E85 fuel for cool running and additional performance. Jon hand-built the header and used a sheetmetal manifold he picked up from a swap meet 10 years ago.
The body is mostly stock with a good buff on the factory paint and Hankook 215/75R14 tires on Ford 14-inch steel wheels. It’s the ultimate sleeper, as he runs a single 3-inch exhaust with two restrictive mufflers to keep it quiet. Behind the engine is the stock Mazda four-speed and Mazda rear axle—like attaching bricks with Elmer’s glue. It may work, but the drivetrain is undoubtedly the weak point. His next plans are a T56 or TKO600 Tremec transmission and Ford 8.8 rear axle. “Then throw some drag radials on it and have some fun,” said Jon.
Jon hasn’t made a drag strip pass yet, but on the Holley Ford Fest dyno, it made 310 hp and 285 lb-ft with 17 lbs of boost. And he is already dreaming of the next stage for the Courier. He believes the current setup will hold 500 hp before risking the stock bottom end. The turbo is rated to handle more power. Afterwards, he’ll move to a bulletproof bottom end and turn it up even more. Jon’s day job is as a construction worker in Owensboro, Kentucky. He made it out to the Holley Ford Fest in Bowling Green last fall on his own with a couple of chairs and a can of E85 fuel in the bed.
At A Glance—1980 Ford Courier Truck
- Engine: Hagen’s Mazda-built 1980 Ford Courier relies on a Ford 2.3L/2300cc Turbocharged SVO 4 Cylinder with 8:1 compression. The factory cylinder head has been ported by the owner and valves are activated by a Bosport 2.1 camshaft. A Holset HX40 turbo replaces the original stock turbo.
- Horsepower: 310 rear-wheel horsepower
- Chassis & Suspension: stock Ford Courier
- Drivetrain: stock Mazda 4-speed
- Curb Weight: 2,750 lbs (estimated)
- Rolling stock: 14-inch steel wheels with Hankook 215/75R14 tires
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