When you’re out looking at used trucks for sale, you’re sure to see the usual suspects pop up repeatedly. In recent years, we have started to see more variety thanks to the rise of off-road-focused models and a resurgence of midsize and compact pickups. Still, once you get to know the main players in the truck market, things can start to feel a little monotonous. But don’t worry — if you dig a little deeper, there are plenty of obscure gems waiting to be found.
Today, we’re highlighting five used trucks that you don’t see every day. Some of them have a cult following of beloved fans, while others are probably best left in the past, but they’re all fascinating in one way or another and are at least worth remembering, if only as a cautionary tale. Let’s dive in and see what we can find if we venture beyond the nameplates all truck fans know and love.
1. Mazda B Series
Young Americans who are only familiar with Mazda’s current image may be surprised to learn that the automaker ever had a truck in its lineup at all. The current vehicles being produced under the Mazda banner are leaning toward the luxury market, with lush interiors and modern styling, not exactly trying to evoke the idea of getting to work with a pickup truck. But from the early ’60s through the 2000s, the Mazda B Series was available in North America and allowed Mazda loyalists to get access to all the benefits of a solid pickup truck.
The B-Series wasn’t necessarily the most unique truck out there. In fact, for many years, it was literally a re-skinned Ford Ranger, though this was more due to working around tariffs than any issue with the Mazda-built model. But throughout the truck’s run, it got a good dose of Mazda styling inside and out and always brought a respectable amount of power to the table with capable engines that delivered plenty of horsepower and torque.
Mazda’s compact pickup was discontinued in 2006 in the US and hasn’t made a return since. If you want a truck with the Mazda logo here in North America, you’ll have to keep your eyes peeled for a used one. But it’s a different story if you go abroad. In some Asian countries, the B-Series was merely replaced by the BT-50, which is still in production today.
2. Isuzu i-Series
Just about any Isuzu vehicle aimed at everyday drivers is an obscure vehicle these days. The automaker’s presence in America is limited to commercial trucks, with no pickups in sight. But go back in time, and you’ll find the Isuzu I-series, a compact truck that boasts a capable powertrain and solid fuel economy figures. One of its biggest advantages back in the day was its long-lasting powertrain warranty, but it’s been more than double the seven-year period that the warranty lasted since this truck was available new in the States, so that’s pretty much a moot point now.
While the i-Series hasn’t been around for a while, it probably looks familiar to modern drivers who are familiar with GM’s compact pickups. The Isuzu truck was built on the same platform as the Chevy Colorado and GMC Canyon. Of course, those are solid trucks that are still popular today, so while the i-Series may not be terribly original, it’s got a solid foundation. Its now-obscure badging and unique front grille give it a little extra flair, distinguishing it from its counterparts that have stood the test of time.
3. Lincoln Mark LT
Ford clearly knows how to sell a pickup truck — its F-150 has been the best-selling vehicle in America for decades now. But under the banner of Lincoln, the company’s luxury division, it’s a completely different story. Lincoln’s first attempt at making a truck was a failed experiment that sold so poorly that it lasted for only a single model year. While the now-infamous Lincoln Blackwood was built on the solid platform of the F-150, something got lost in translation.
The biggest issue was probably the bed, which was covered by a permanently attached hard cover that restricted bulky cargo, featured polished aluminum side panels that were just asking to be scuffed up with any real use, and had a set of barn doors in the back instead of a liftgate that can double as a work surface. It went so far down the path of luxury that it forsook practicality almost entirely.
Well, if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again, right? Lincoln did a few years later with the Mark LT truck. This model kept the luxurious interior and unique front-end styling of its predecessor but actually had a usable bed in the back, making it a better mix of lush and practical. While it didn’t quite meet its target sales on its debut, it performed much better than the Blackwood and was sold for a few years in the US. It hung on for a little longer in Mexico, where it was considerably more popular, but was also discontinued after the 2014 model year.
4. Chevy Avalanche
What do you get when you mix an SUV and a pickup truck? General Motors decided to answer that riddle in the early 2000s with the Chevy Avalanche, which paired the cavernous interior of the Suburban with the open cargo bed of a Silverado. You’d be forgiven for assuming that this odd combination was a flash in the pan that was quickly discontinued, but the Avalanche remained in production for over ten years. Seven years after the last new Avalanche had rolled off the production line, the model was named number six on Consumer Reports’ list of the “10 Most Reliable Used Pickups” for the 2012-2013 model years.
While the Avalanche’s main defining characteristic is definitely that it’s very big, it did have a few more subtle advantages as well. The most unique and highly-praised feature of the SUV/truck was its “midgate,” which could be opened up to connect the cargo bed to the backseat of the cab. With the rear seats folded down and the midgate open, Chevy claimed that the Avalanche could carry 4’x8′ sheets of plywood with the tailgate closed. Of course, the truck also had a solid towing capacity, so any cargo that still didn’t fit could be tossed into a trailer and taken along for the ride.
5. Cadillac Escalade EXT
If you didn’t think the Avalanche’s concept could get any weirder, just wait until a heaping helping of luxury gets thrown into the mix. While the Lincoln Mark LT couldn’t hack it in the States for more than a few years, the massive yet elegant Cadillac Escalade EXT lasted almost as long as the Chevy it was based on, debuting a year after the Avalanche and continuing to be produced all the way through the 2013 model year. This shows that the Lincoln model didn’t fail simply because drivers weren’t ready for a luxury truck; there was clearly an appetite for a pickup with a dash of class.
While the Escalade EXT managed to hang on for a solid run, it’s not surprising that it eventually faded away. While it has some of the benefits of the Avalanche, like the midgate, and some of the benefits of the Escalade, like a lush interior, it was sort of the worst of both worlds in other aspects. The Escalade EXT has a smaller cabin than the regular Escalade and a lower towing capacity than the Avalanche or Silverado.