Junkyard Find: 1993 Suzuki Sidekick JX Four-Door Hardtop

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin

The General began selling rebadged Suzukis on our shores for the 1985 model year, with a Chevrolet-badged Cultus called the Sprint. A few years later, GM's Geo brand came into being, with the Cultus becoming the Metro and the Escudo aka Vitara, rolling into Geo dealerships bearing Tracker badging. Meanwhile, Suzuki began selling its own versions of both vehicles here, with the Tracker's sibling known as the Sidekick. Here's one of those trucks, a rusty '93 in a Denver car graveyard.

junkyard find 1993 suzuki sidekick jx four door hardtop

The Sidekick was quite a bit bigger than the Jimny-based Samurai, the first four-wheeled vehicle sold here with Suzuki badges (not counting ATVs, forklifts, wheelchairs, etc.), and it was available in North America for the 1989 through 1998 model years.

The MSRP on the cheapest 1993 Geo Tracker was $11,750, while its Sidekick counterpart cost $10,999 (that's around $24,415 and $22,855, respectively, in 2022 frogskins).

However, the four-door Tracker wasn't available here until the 1996 model year, while the Sidekick could be bought new with four doors starting in 1991. The list price on this truck was $12,999 (about $27,010 today).

Rear-wheel-drive Trackers and Sidekicks were available, but most of them— including today's Junkyard Find— were equipped with four-wheel-drive.

This truck didn't have what we'd now call all-wheel-drive, with center differential or corner-cutting substitute, so the driver had to switch between rear- and four-wheel-drive manually. As was the case with the Toyota Tercel 4WD wagon, plenty of Americans tore up their tires (or worse) by staying in four-wheel-drive at all times.

The JX trim level came between the cheapo JS and the (relatively) swanky JLX. Four-cylinder engines with 16 valves were old news by 1993, but the suits at Suzuki of America Automotive Corporation must have felt that 16-VALVE badges looked cool.

In fact, this 1.6-liter engine had but a single cam, but the 16valve lettering embossed in the timing cover let the world know that you didn't need a fancy DOHC design to run four valves per cylinder (while unusual, some other Japanese manufacturers made 16-valve SOHC designs, and at least one 20-valve type is out there). This one was rated at 95 horsepower when new.

When you're selling your trucks on price and not much else, you brag about the EFI on your engines long after nearly everyone else had dumped their carburetors. By 1993, the only new vehicles Americans could buy with a carburetor were the very cheapest Isuzu and Toyota pickups. I've heard that the '93 Subaru Justy could be bought with a carburetor, but every one I've ever seen had fuel injection (I have found a '92 Justy with a carb, though).

The Full Slushboxization of America had been underway for decades by the time this truck was built, so I wasn't surprised to see that it has the optional GM three-speed automatic. The cost: 600 bucks ($1,245 now).

The interior is pretty well battered, though I've seen much worse.

The odometer shows 221,025 miles, which is higher than what I see on most discarded Suzukis of its era (but keep in mind that the Metro/Swift had a five-digit odometer until 1994).

There's plenty of rust in the usual spots, plus some attempts to keep the worst of the weather out of the larger holes via the use of spray foam.

Suzuki was a bit sensitive on the subject of small-truck handling by this time, so these warning labels went on the driver's door of the Sidekick.

The original owner's manual stayed with it to the end.

For 1999, the Sidekick was replaced by the Vitara and Grand Vitara, built on the same Ontario assembly line as the Tracker (which became a Chevrolet after the Geo brand got the axe in 1997). Suzuki gave up on selling cars here after 2013 (after one last shot at sales glory with the Kizashi)

Don't grow up. Get a Sidekick instead!

In Japan, the Escudo allowed you to leave your boring prefecture and head to… North Africa?

[Images by the author]

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2 of 7 comments
  • Justin Palmer Justin Palmer on Aug 09, 2022

    I know where a 97 1.8l Suzuki Sidekick sport is for sale southwest Virginia location still running needs a little transmission work

  • Tagbert Tagbert on Aug 10, 2022

    I had this JX, though mine was a 5-speed in dark green. Got it when I lived in the mountains in Colorado. That was a fun little beast. Not super fast, but it could go just about anywhere. Put it into the low speed on the transfer case and that thing would just creep forward. The interior was not fancy but it held up well to lots of outdoor activities. I could hold lots of gear.

    Later when I moved away, it still proved useful. I was an unofficial “roadie” for my boyfriend and his band. Could get all their gear into it. The in-town gas mileage was around 25 mph which is pretty good. On the downside, the highway mileage was maybe 26 mph 😊.

  • FreedMike Can the final last call edition be the Secretary Special, with a V6 and a vinyl roof?
  • FreedMike I’ve never heard of this so I’ll have no problem not attending.
  • ToolGuy As I understand it, the Toyota Prius basically lasts forever because the engine gets a gentle duty cycle and the battery gets babied. This seems like the opposite of that.[Impressive tech, not for me, but then neither is the Prius.]
  • Dusterdude Excellent work ! Your stories are always linguistically interesting . Even if you weren’t writing about a quirky car on a long and adventuresome journey - I know your write up would still be interesting ! ( I also have a Soft spot for large cars - as my daily driver is a 2000 Chrysler Concorde )
  • MaintenanceCosts There have always been just two reasons to buy AMG cars: the menacing, hard-edged V8 warble, and the styling with subtle shapes but perfectly aggressive details. This is missing both of those things: the styling has gotten cartoonishly aggressive, and the engine will sound like a fart-can Civic. I don't understand why I should want it.