Junkyard Find: 1978 Chevrolet LUV

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin

Small Japanese pickups became increasingly popular in North America as the 1970s went on, with plenty of Hiluxes and 520s/ 620s rolling out of Toyota and Datsun showrooms. Detroit wanted some of that minitruck money, and so each of the Big Three turned to a Japanese partner to make it happen. Today's Junkyard Find is the GM player in that game, found in a self-service boneyard near Reno, Nevada.

junkyard find 1978 chevrolet luv

The Chevy LUV (which stands for Light Utility Vehicle) was really an Isuzu Faster, built in Kanagawa Prefecture. The first LUVs arrived on our shores in 1972.

Ford began importing Mazda Proceeds with Courier badges at around the same time. Eventually, North Americans could also buy these trucks with Mazda badges (and even with Wankel engines).

Chrysler was a little slower to join in, importing Mitsubishi Forte pickups with Plymouth Arrow and Dodge D-50/ Ram 50 badging starting in 1979. Ram 50s could be bought new here all the way through 1994, more than a decade after Mitsubishi began selling the same trucks with Mighty Max badging.

This truck has a battered camper shell that seems to be nearly as old as it is.

Made by Parker Industries in Arizona.

A junkyard shopper bought the engine, which would have been a 1.8-liter SOHC straight-four rated at 80 horsepower. The Chevrolet Chevette got smaller-displacement versions of this engine (or a 1.8-liter Isuzu diesel).

Starting in 1979, LUV shoppers could get four-wheel-drive. This one is a rear-wheel-drive truck with a good old four-on-the-floor manual. A three-speed automatic was available.

The LUV's days were numbered from the moment GM began planning the Chevrolet S-10. The S-10 first hit showrooms as a 1982 model, and that ended up being the LUV's final year of sales.

Isuzu was selling its vehicles in North America under its own name by that time, so new Fasters remained available here (first as the P'up and later as just the Isuzu Truck).

It appears that someone tried to sell this LUV for a hundred dollars, but found no takers. It's thoroughly battered but not rusty.

How many packs of Pyramids was it worth at the end?

When equipped with the optional automatic transmission, you can tow a 172-ton freight train loaded with LUVs.

GM really pushed that automatic. I've found exactly one junkyard LUV with two pedals.

[Images: The author]

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2 of 13 comments
  • Jeff S Jeff S on Jan 24, 2023

    Spookiness--Many more people would own a Maverick as well. Ford underestimated the demand for a compact pickup and by the time Ford gets production of the Maverick up to where most people can buy and test drive them without paying above MSRP or ordering one other manufacturers will have entered the market with their own compact pickup. Toyota has plans to introduce a hybrid compact pickup using the Rav4 platform and even Ram has plans for a compact pickup in the next year. Even though Maverick is outselling the Santa Cruz people who have waited for a Maverick are buying the Santa Cruz. Both the Santa Cruz and the Maverick are good and the more manufacturers that make their own compact pickup is better for all. More choice is always better.

  • Lou_BC Lou_BC on Jan 24, 2023

    A restomod project for those who think all pickups are too big.

  • Fred You think it's cold here, go to You Tube and check out the video for "How We Drive a Car at -50°C (-58°F) | Yakutia, Siberia"
  • Fred I haven't paid attention, but my local dealer is no longer Buick or Cadillac. Just Chevy and GMC. Probably where the money is in a small town rural area. Tough to compete with the prices in Modesto or beyond.
  • FreedMike It'll do 24 seconds to 60 for all eternity.
  • SCE to AUX That's pretty sweet, and seemingly in decent condition. I have a lot of respect for cockroach cars, although I never liked following one of these old diesels.
  • Matzel "Andretti and Cadillac’s bid to enter F1 has faced strong headwinds as the existing teams balk at the prospect of an immediately competitive American shop".Why would the existing teams be worried about Andretti-Cadillac being immediately competitive? What makes you think they would be competitive out of the gate? The existing teams do not want the prize money pool to be diluted.