Rare Rides: A Suzuki SC100, Delightfully Tiny
Rear-engine, rear-drive cars are few and far between, limited mostly to excellent things like the Porsche 911, and terrible things like the VW Karmann Ghia and Chevrolet Corvair. But there’s another car with an “RR” configuration that’s a bit more obscure. Presenting the Suzuki SC100.
Suzuki fielded the very first kei-class car in the Japanese market when it hit the ground running in 1955. Though most kei cars emphasized efficiency and useful packaging in their designs, one kei in particular went against the grain. The car in question was the Fronte Coupe, which Suzuki debuted in 1971. A tiny two-seater, the Fronte Coupe had the engine in the back, a small trunk up front, and a design by Giorgetto Giugiaro. Eventually two more seats were added, and the 36.5-horsepower 2+2 Fronte Coupe was sold alongside its more practical siblings in Japan and other selected markets.
The stylish Coupe version of the Fronte was discontinued in 1976. Japan’s government changed the legislation surrounding kei cars and required more safety and stricter emissions. The Fronte line continued on its own without a coupe as Suzuki unveiled a new nameplate: Cervo. The Cervo wore modernized styling immediately familiar to anyone who’d seen a Fronte Coupe previously. And that’s because it was the same car underneath. Suzuki added larger bumpers and a revised fascia to meet new legislation, but kept the rest of the body with few changes. In a nod to the practical, there was a new glass hatch to allow access to a small cargo area behind the rear seats.
The aforementioned emissions regulations did not assist the Cervo’s performance. Though the two-stroke engine’s displacement increased from 360 to 550 cc in the new model, horsepower sank to 27.6. And there were roughly 120 more pounds on board because of safety changes over the previous model.
Suzuki also sold the Cervo in other markets, where emissions and displacement were not of top concern. Early in 1978 the revised Cervo (now SC100) began arriving in Europe. Export cars received a much larger 970 cc engine with four cylinders instead of three. 46 horsepower traveled to the rear wheels via the four-speed manual transmission. European SC100s were identifiable via their large indicator lamps within the grille, flanked by square headlights rather than the domestic Cervo’s circular lamps. The rake of the windshield was also relaxed, which altered the door frames and side windows. Not a simple market rebadge there.
The unconventional Cervo lasted only through 1982, when Suzuki replaced it with a front-engine, front-drive hatchback version of its new generation Fronte. And it was this Cervo which later morphed into a pickup truck called Mighty Boy.
Today’s Rare Ride is located in Washington state, which is south of Vancouver. With rust bubbles here and there, a targa roof, and a spotless interior, it asks $5,900.
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Plenty of older Skoda coupes and sedans had a 4-stroke rear engine and rear wheel drive setup, notably the Garde, the 742 saloon and the Rapid 136 coupe to name a few. And by all accounts, the Rapid 136 coupe was one of the most lively, sporty and pleasurable to drive cars available in the sparse Eastern European market. Even the export models managed to thrill Western European car journalists.
I like the looks, with only 27.6 horsepower it is prolly slow even by my standards but I'd love to give it a go . -Nate