Mazda T3500 Titan and the Minibus Culture

People often regard the likes of Suzuki Mehran as The Boss, for its success in the small car segment mainly due to its rugged performance and lower maintenance cost. Or Bolan for its success in the small commercial hauling market. Toyota Corolla is often regarded as the most reliable sedan in Pakistan but there is something that’s probably the least talked about than it deserves.

It’s the Mazda Titan/ T3500 truck that literally ruled the commercial truck market for over three decades and is still considered a benchmark of performance & reliability in the medium-sized commercial truck market.

Mazda T3500 Titan

Mazda Titan is currently in its 6th generation globally, however, the ones most common in Pakistan were the second generation (1981-89) and the third generation (1989-2003) models. The truck however was still being imported into the country under various schemes after 2003.

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It served its duties as a multi-purpose truck capable of performing various tasks such as cargo delivery, or ladder van for electric supply & telecom companies but its most commendable duty has been its role in the public transport sector (mainly in Karachi).

Back in 1971, the government introduced a transport policy, known as ‘The Free Transport Policy’ which was introduced due to the ever-increasing demand for transport from the various katchee abadis (suburbs) developing on the then periphery of Karachi since government transport only operated on the main corridors of the city. This policy created the concept of minibus in Karachi.

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Initially, during the 70s, the first-generation Ford Transit van or the first & second generation Toyota Hiace were being used as minibusses, but when the Mazda T3500 stepped in the early 1980s, the aforementioned options quickly faded from the commercial transport scene. The Mazda Titan was not only larger than the Ford Transit or Toyota Hiace in comparison but had a practical advantage due to the fact that it had a powerful engine with robust performance, while its smaller turning radius allowed the truck to maneuver in tight spaces.

A typical Mazda minibus in Karachi, loaded with traditional truck art

While the commercial loader trucks maintained their original look, the minibusses adorned the traditional truck art theme by wearing huge ornaments all over their bodies. Initially in the 80s, the decoration was rather simple, but towards the late 1980s, the design work became extensive and became pretty much the identity of these Mazda buses. People visiting Karachi from other parts of the world look towards these Mazda busses in awe & inspiration.

The so-called “coach” based on Mazda T3500

By the 1990s, another iteration called ‘coach’ was introduced in the public transport sector. These initially had just 1 door for ingress & egress and carried passengers seat by seat. The fare was relatively higher than conventional minibusses as they tend to reach their destination in a shorter span of time. But later on, the ‘coach’ versions became more like the traditional mini busses and the concept of carrying passengers per seat vanished too. Though the fares remained on the higher side which had no justification whatsoever.

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Although there is a large number of these busses still running on our roads, the number is diminishing rapidly in presence of smaller rickshaws which offer cheaper mobility compared to minibusses and allow passengers to travel while seated, something which people badly miss while traveling in minibusses.

Regardless of the sorry state of public transport, particularly in Karachi, the Mazda Titan/ T3500 has stamped its authority due to its efficiency & reliability as no other commercial truck doesn’t even come close to its performance & affordability. The Mazda Titan hauls much more than its capacity but never refuses.

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If Bedford trucks are still considered an icon in the large truck segment, the Mazda T3500 without a doubt rules the medium truck market in Pakistan. Although there are newer and perhaps more efficient options available in the market these days, however, due to their higher price tag, these are not yet able to replace the T3500 in the public transport sector on a mass level.

Various iterations of 2nd and 3rd gen Mazda T3500 trucks performing the toughest of their duties

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