The original Ford Bantam launched in 1983 was based on the Ford Escort Mk III. It was produced at the Ford plant in Port Elizabeth and later in the Samcor plant in Pretoria, when Ford divested from South Africa. It was replaced by the second generation Ford Bantam, with a Mazda 323 sixth generation-based Ford Laser front end, and was also branded Mazda Rustler. The second model had a 1.6-liter inline-four engine.
The third generation Ford Bantam was launched in 2002, using the Ford Fiesta Mark V (code-named BE91) front end, but still with the original Bantam loadbox and basic rear suspension. It was produced in the same plant in Pretoria (now belonging to Ford again). Engines were a 1.3-liter 8-valve and a 1.6-liter 8-valve Rocam petrol and a 1.8-litre idi normally aspirated diesel engine. The third model shares only the front end with the similar Brazilian-developed Ford Courier, with totally different rear ends. In 2006, it benefited from a mild front end and interior facelift. The 1.8-liter idi diesel engine was dropped from the line up. In early 2009, the Bantam was facelifted again with a new bonnet, headlamps, bumper, rear lights, nomenclature, instrument cluster and interior trim. A modern diesel engine was also introduced to the range, the 1.4-litre DV4 (or DLD) engine.
The Bantam was sold successfully as a compact rugged commercial vehicle as well as a leisure oriented privately owned vehicle. Ford discontinued the Bantam in 2011, with no immediate replacement. The last Bantam ever built left the production line at 11:50, 17 November 2011, at the Ford plant in South Africa. It was a Bantam 1.3I XL A/C "Colorado Red", Job Number RRB07972. It now resides in the Lazarus dealership's museum in Centurion, Gauteng, just south of Pretoria.
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