Curbside Classic: 1979 Suzuki Jimny (LJ80/SJ20) Pickup

Paul Niedermeyer
by Paul Niedermeyer
curbside classic 1979 suzuki jimny lj80 sj20 pickup

This little truck slays me. It’s just so damn cute and toy-like, my desire to take it home and put it in my playroom is mighty powerful. Have you ever seen anything like it before? I didn’t think so; I never had. But then it’s not exactly a US spec vehicle, not surprisingly, although how exactly these illegal aliens make it through the cracks and get licensed is beyond me. And it’s hardly the only one in town, along with the Nissan Pao. And they’re both almost the same color. Maybe that’s the key. Anyway, someone is fulfilling their desires for toys. Wish it was me.

You’re going to be spared a lengthy CC today, because I don’t really have a whole lot to go on, except that this baby truck is a pick up version of the Suzuki Jimny SJ 20/LJ80, which was the final iteration of the first Suzuki 4×4, which had its roots a a vehicle called the HopeStar ON360, that Suzuki bought in 1968. That became the Suzuki LJ10, the first of a long line of Suzuki mini-4x4s.

Those early Suzukis were built to the Japanese kei-car standards, and had a 360 cc 2-stroke twin. Eventually, larger two-strokes (539 cc) were on tap, but in 1977 a slightly enlarged SJ20 featured the first four stroke four cylinder engine, an 800cc unit with some 41 hp. That’s what’s likely in this truck.

[update:] This particular truck sports DoD stickers from 1979, which thanks to a TTAC reader the duke means it had a pass to be driven on the base, and not that it was actually owned by the military. Although it certainly would have made a perfect parts runner on an Air Force base or the like.

The little LJ two stroke Suzukis were quite fondly adopted as little off-road toys in Germany, introducing a low-cost option to getting the tires dirty in that country. And of course, the “baby Jeep” has become almost a global icon, being produced in other countries and in various configurations. We of course are familiar with the later Samurai versions, but the Suzuki had spread the LJ and SJ around the world before it finally found a home here in the land of the the one and only Jeep. Perhaps coincidence or not, but our CC Outtake on the Samurai was shot exactly here across the street.

The whole family of these little Suzukis are extremely simple but durable and tough little work horses. I would love to have this one as a hardware store parts runner. Someone beat me to it, and it regularly appears around town. But for best effect, it is seen here with this little Isuzu/Chevy LUV pickup, which really helps put its size (and cuteness) in perspective.

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  • Oregon Sage Oregon Sage on Apr 12, 2010

    I used to work at a public University where we had a small fleet of DOT off road only micro vans, and they were bought with that intent. However some of the streets on campus were public streets and the state DMV insisted that we plate them, so we did. Once plated it is no big trick to keep renewing. This used to be common with off-road motorcycles but now states keep lists of legal models and it is becoming virtually impossible to register a bike that was not originally sold for street duty, even if fitted with all the required street equipment.

  • Letanon Letanon on Apr 12, 2010

    Those little Suzukis where sold legally to civilians here in Puerto Rico. New cars sold here must conform with all of the US Federal Government vehicle laws. So they must have conformed with federal regulations somehow or the Federal Government doesn't care so much about what is sold on USA territories. In fact, I have seen here cars that are supposedly for the Canadian market sold legally here. Like for example my first car which I inherited from my dad, a 1987 Nissan Sentra Honeybee. That was a B11 model (1982-1986)that was imported from Mexico and sold as a completely stripper, low cost car, along side the B12 model (1987 - 1991). Those where sold until about 1989. Those cars had the plate that said that they conformed to all of the Federal Government regulations in force for that model year. We also got Pontiac Fireflys (Metro,Swift clone) and other "Canadian" cars. So different laws seems to apply to different parts of the USA and its territories.

    • See 2 previous
    • Porschespeed Porschespeed on Apr 14, 2010

      @letanon, BTW, 'Tis a shame that PR doesn't have Statehood, as it is frequently shortchanged due to it's status. Sorta like the District of Columbia. A couple of guys I went to school with in the US were from PR, as such I did a few spring breaks and holidays enjoying the island. Gorgeous place, and great people, wonderful food. Wish I had the time and spare money to visit more often. I've considered relocating there more than once. My friend's family was one of the very monied types, so perhaps I have a skewed view of what one can get away with if you have the right friends. I know technically that US regs must to be followed, I just remember that the rules were a little more flexible for certain folks.