Two days ago, my life was nothing—26 years of pure and utter emptiness. But yesterday, that all changed when I set my eyes upon the hilariously quirky Mazda Pathfinder XV-1. It’s an off-roader built specifically for the Burmese market in the early 1970s, and my god is it wonderful.
This green, strange Land Cruiser-ish machine sits on display at Frey’s Mazda Classic Car Museum in Augsburg, Germany. It is undoubtedly the most random off-road vehicle I’ve ever seen, displacing from the top of the list even that ARO 244 I drooled over in Romania last month. Yeah, this Mazda is that weird.
According to the museum, Mazda built these Pathfinder XV-1s from 1970 to 1973 in an assembly plant in Burma (though Curbside Classic member Tatra87 thinks the “Mazda Jeep,” as it was called locally, may have remained in production until the 1990s).
The SUVs were used mostly by military, police and government officials, came as either soft-tops or hard-tops, and could seat up to nine people thanks to a pair of giant folding benches in the rear.
Underneath, I see a lot of similarities to World War II-era Jeeps. There’s a leaf-sprung solid front axle with two closed-style knuckles on either side attached to drum brakes. Those knuckles turn a pair of nondirectional tires via a steering setup that—minus the damper—actually looks similar to that of a Ford GP or Bantan BRC prototype (the drag link comes from the back and turns the left-side knuckle, which pushes and pulls the other knuckle via a tie rod).
Under the belly, there’s a two-speed transfer case (with a big skid plate underneath it), a thick steel frame, a fuel tank, an exaust pipe, and a pair of driveshafts—just standard old-truck stuff.
As for what’s under the hood, honestly, I don’t know. Frey’s Mazda Classic Car Museum says it’s a 90 horsepower four-cylinder gas engine of unknown displacement. Curbside Classic says that four-banger is probably a Mazda-sourced 2.0-liter, and that a diesel engine was also available. The transmission, based on what I could see through the window, looked like a floor-mounted three-speed manual.
The engine’s displacement isn’t the only mystery surrounding Pathfinder XV-1. Searching online, I found reference to a model called the X2000. YouTuber k360t600 uses this term to reference a right hand drive SUV that appears to be just a shorter version of the XV-1 Pathfinder I saw at the museum. I’m not sure if X2000 might just be the Mazda-internal designation (and Pathfinder the actual model name), but here’s the clip:
The XV-1 Pathfinder was allegedly designed by Mazda in Hiroshima in the late 1960s, and then shipped to Burma in the form of knock-down kits. Those knock down kits, according to Curbside Classic, got put together at the “Ministry of Industry’s No. 2 Automobile Factory” in Htonbo, and the world became a better place.
A much better place. Because, I mean, just look at the design on this thing. It’s all over the place—just a hodgepodge of random lines and curves. First, there’s that curve starting at the fender “flare,” running along the bottom of the door, kicking up over the wheel, and ending at the center of the back of the bedside.
Then there’s the shoulder line, which starts at the top of the enormous front fenders, changes direction just above the front wheels, and rises up to the door, where it remains level until the back of the bedside.
The front is its own brand of special. There’s a split front windshield (with opposing style wipers), a hood that—along with parts of the fenders—looks like the top part of a cardboard box (but does, in fact, line up with the beltline). There’s also a weird-shaped grille with an old-style Mazda logo at the center, an awkward chin that jots from that grille out to the bumper, and round indicators on the fenders that seem a little too spaced out from one another.
The whole thing is just bizarre. An off-roader by Mazda? Built for Burma? With a mysterious engine (and perhaps model name) and ridiculous—but amazing—styling?
I’m absolutely, positively, head-over-heels in love.