17 jun. 2013

The old little Mazda trucks from Burma

Burma - Blue Mazda Taxi
Some Chevrolet buses are being
preserved. Photo: prweb.com.
Finding a video (below) on the replacement of WWII Chevrolet trucks transformed into buses from
 the streets of Burma's capital, reminded me of a post I had long the idea of writing...

A post to show you the amazing little old Mazda trucks used as taxis in various cities of the now officially-called Myanmar.

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Burma has been under a socialist military dictatorship for decades, just been opening up little by little in the last few years. The economic policies imposed by the country's rulers have resulted on widespread nationalisation and isolation, and overall economic disaster, so much so that Burma is considered one of the "Least Developed Countries" by United Nations. 

All that isolation, economic failure, and the lack of either a proper national industry or a buying market for cars, has preserved the WWII buses you could see in the video, and other old vehicles like lots of Mazda minitrucks.

Disclaimer: I've never been to Burma, so all the following pictures are from Flickr or Youtube and belong to their owners! 
Teeny Taxi's
Mandalay - Blue jeep taxi (Mazda)

Those Mazdas are the motivation of this post. Years ago I found that these old Mazdas existed in Burma and I thought it was awesome that they had been preserved for so long. Prohibiting most imports and an extremely small car industry made that happen. 

But with the opening up of the Burmese economy, and the increasing interest of global carmakers like GM, Nissan, Hyundai and Chery to get in there, these little Mazdas are bound to quickly dissapear from the streets. Chinese companies are already getting import permits for batches of cars, for instance. And the sell like crazy, Cherys being already part of the everyday street scene in the capital.

But back to the Mazdas! There are some very old Mazda K360 used as taxis, like this one at service in Mandalay...

Mandalay Taxi

But most examples are of the bigger B360, that as you could see before, are often serving as taxis, painted in blue. The B360 was produced in Burma until the mid 90's, after some years of Mazda importing the cars from Japan.

Back in 1962 Burma, Japan and truck maker Hino agreed to set up a plant in Yangon. They started to also assemble Mazdas in the same factory in 1973 or 1972. But when in 1988 the international community imposed economic sanctions on the country (because of the represion of the 8888 Uprising), the factory was left without the possibility to import further parts and continue with its production.

Myanmar Automobile and Diesel Engine Industries (MADI) is the state conglomerate that manages this plant today, and lists it as one of their production facilities.

What you see on the right is other vehicle produced on the country. The old Suzuki Carry, was built by DBM Myanmar Suzuki, a joint venture established in 1998 between the Japanese company and MADI. Production was halted in 2011 but is set to resume in 2013 (2). Still, reports speak of an annual production of 550 vehicles. That is nothing! I'm guessing that numbers for the Mazdas might have been similarly low.

As I said before, MADI still lists these plants on its website, so something might still be produced there. The site mentions "XVA 44L, EW-1 & SW II" 4x4 vehicles as some of its products, but I couldn't find anything about them. I also read about there being an Isuzu truck plant, too.

After that little investigation, let's go back to the Mazda taxis: They seem to be mostly a Mandalay thing, as many of the pictures below state being taken there. These remind me of when I was en Havana. Photographing their old taxis is a must, and so seems to be the case in Myanmar. I didn't think I'd find so many pictures!
Myanmar Taxi 緬甸的士,藍色小小的:)

There are even videos about this vehicles, on Youtube:

Krystian Czado on Youtube.

This is from AutomobileOtaku , and shows one Burmese Mazda from the Sepia Collection in Japan. That is a really good museum with lots of Japanese classics in a huge warehouse. More info on the Collection here and here.

This is a newsclip by MyanmarTalk on a regulatory change in 2011, that gave car owners the right to change their vehicles for a permit allowing them to buy a new car (really a newish, second hand import from Japan). 

That made old cars valuable, if only as a way of getting a new set of wheels... because old cars are reportedly turned in for scrapping, which really breaks my heart. You can see a gallery of the effects of this scheme on Burmese roads in this excelent Bestsellingcarsblog report.
Blue Taxi - Myanmar Style

Mazda was, as we saw, one of the few carmakers interested in producing their vehicles in the country, going so far as to making this fantastic Land Rover-like Mazda Pathfinder. These were reportedly made in 1972.
Mazda Pathfinder Station Wagon XV-1 SW 4x4
This one was pictured in Germany...

... but these were in Yangon.
Mazda Pathfinder Station Wagon XV-1 SW 4x4 Myanmar (Burma) Military Mazda Jeep 6

And here is another very nice picture (link only): http://flic.kr/p/c2ZChG

Below, I'll leave you with more pictures of this Mazda taxis, and also a mystery truck. Hope you liked this little article!

mandalay railway station
Burma - Blue Mazda Taxi
Amarapura - My hired blue taxi
Yangon, Myanmar.
Mandalay Taxi
Myanmar (Burma) Taxi (Mazada)
Blue Taxi
Red Taxi Mazda B500 | Yangon
The streets of Mandalay, Myanmar / Burma
Blue taxi (IMG_1494)

The person that took this picture claims the truck is a Mazda, but I can't identify the model. Can you?

Cabbage Truck

3 comentarios:

  1. Just returned from there. Sadly everything has gone. In two weeks I saw one abandoned blue Mazda, two Pontons in a dealership, and two abandoned Volkswagen T1s. There is literally nothing else interesting on the streets. A huge shame to have seen such mass disappearance in only a few years.

    1. That's very sad to read. I like that the Burmese have more and better cars now, but it would have been cool if someone would have saved the old Mazdas and buses instead of turning them into Chinese washing machines :(

    2. Well... The truck of the last photo is a Mazda T2000 truck, i think. ¡Saludos desde Argentina!


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