Rare Rides: Grab a Pair of Suzuki Jimnys From 1972

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis
rare rides grab a pair of suzuki jimnys from 1972

The occasionally sane group of people known as Car Twitter elevated the new Suzuki Jimny to superstar status recently, as soon as it debuted in its home market of Japan. Immediately, it received the Forbidden Fruit Award, followed by the Why Can’t We Have blue ribbon. It’s not coming here, though, and that’s really all there is to it.

But don’t lose hope, because today we take a look at a couple examples of the old Suzuki Jimny — which you can buy in America right now.

Throughout its history, Suzuki didn’t have any experience with four-wheel drive cars — so it bought some. Suzuki acquired the Hope Motor Company in 1968. The small manufacturer produced 15 different tiny off-road vehicles, with all variants called HopeStar ON360.

After purchasing the company, Suzuki put a new body on top of the ON360 and swapped out the Mitsubishi engine for a Suzuki two-stroke unit. Within engine and size regulation, the new three-seat LJ10 received a kei car classification (making it affordable to the masses.) The new model was ready in 1970, and the LJ10 Jimny became the first four-wheel-drive kei car to go into mass production.

An updated Jimny debuted for 1972 (LJ20), with revised styling and new two-cylinder, 28-horsepower water-cooled engine. This generation was the first available in left-hand drive, as Suzuki prepared for Jimny distribution outside its home market. Also new, the Hard Top version provided real doors and a roof, where coverings previously were of the fabric variety.

The first generation lasted through 1980, bowing out for an all-new version in 1981. Americans would come to know this Jimny as the Samurai. Sold widely around the world, the boxy new SUV was produced in several factories in Asia, the Middle East, South America, and Africa.

After 18 years of second-gen production, a third generation debuted in 1998. Jimny the third wore Suzuki, Chevrolet, or Mazda badging, dependent upon its point of sale. The new model sported softer Nineties styling that maintained a strong connection to its predecessor. Generation three lasted a full 21 years, until 2018 heralded a new Jimny to much fanfare. Suzuki even brought one to the United States for World Car of the Year testing.

Today’s Rare Rides hail from the 1972 and 1974 model years, meaning they’re members of the LJ20 class. Suzuki never brought them to the United States, but another company had a bright idea at the time. In the early Seventies, the International Equipment Company imported them for sale alongside farm equipment and ATVs. Both of today’s Hard Tops have the 28-horsepower engine and four-speed manual found in all period Jimnys.

While the red example from 1972 is a right-hand drive model, the yellow 1974 is a left-hand version. The pair is yours for $6,500.

[Images: seller]

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  • Gedrven Gedrven on Dec 21, 2018

    Age-old gearhead's oversight: prominent mention of the power (which has little to do with anything except speed), no mention of the weight (which has just as much to do with speed, plus handling, braking, economy, durability, off-road ability, and more). 28hp sounds scary/unusable until you see that these weighed between 590 and 720kg, or 1300-1600lb. For context, a WW2 Jeep weighs 1113kg. The Jimny somehow managed to be rated for 250kg of payload, same as the Jeep, which suggests a rather firm ride. For more context, that power/weight is comparable to a diesel Isuzu Pup, or a somewhat loaded Ford F-series with the 300 six, or a lot of other vehicles that are no hotrods but manage to be perfectly usable all the same. I'd love to see/read a comparison of this with a Lada Niva.

  • Pwrwrench Pwrwrench on Dec 21, 2018

    I saw a Jimny out in the Mojave desert in the early 1970s. Heard a 2 stroke engine and thought it was a dirt bike. When the Suzuki came around the hill went to look at it when it stopped. Saw the Suzuki badge and had a brief chat with the driver. He said it was much lighter weight than a Jeep (CJ5) and would go "anywhere".

  • SCE to AUX A friend once struck a mounted tire that was laying flat in the middle of her lane on the PA Turnpike. She was in a low late-90s Grand Prix, and the impact destroyed the facia, core support, radiators, oil pan, transmission, subframe, and suspension. They fixed it all.
  • Dukeisduke Lol, it's not exactly a Chevrolet SS with Holden badging.
  • Dukeisduke Years ago, I was driving southbound along North Central Expressway (south of Mockingbird Lane, for locals), and watched a tire and wheel fall out of the bed of a pickup (no tailgate), bounce along, then centerpunch the front end of a Honda Accord. It wasn't pretty.
  • Dukeisduke If these were built in the US, they'd probably be plagued with recalls, like everything else Ford makes now. It's just as well they don't bring them here.I've owned one Ford, a '95 F-150 (drove it for 17 years and 214k miles) and it was fantastic. But you couldn't run fast enough to get me to buy another Ford. Quality used to be Job 1; now it's an afterthought.
  • Dukeisduke "side-to-side taillights""Across-the-border" is the phrase you're looking for - it's what Ford called the taillights on the '67-'68 and '70-'71 Thunderbirds.