Junkyard Find: 1997 Suzuki X-90 4x4

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin

Suzuki introduced the Samurai in the United States as a 1986 model, just a year after the first Chevrolet-badged Suzukis went on sale. Samurai sales ceased here after 1995, and most of us thought that nothing could replace that magical combination of cuteness and high center of gravity.

Then the Suzuki X-90 appeared as a 1996 model, and it was one strange little two-seater.

This is what American Suzuki dealers parked next to their Esteems and Swifts in their 1997 showrooms.

This is from the Netherlands-market brochure. European X-90 sales were even weaker than North American sales.

It was too big to be considered a kei car in its homeland, legally speaking, but it tapped into a rich vein of kei-like cuteness.

American car shoppers, who were craving ever bigger and more menacing SUVs as commuter machines by this time, weren't quite sure what to make of the X-90.

It was lots of fun with its removable T-top roof and it was about the same overall length as the minuscule (and Suzuki-made) Geo Metro and thus easy to park.

But, well… just look at it. Sales in the United States were poor, to put it mildly, with just over 7,000 shipped here for its two model years of 1996 and 1997. A couple of years back, Motor Trend declared the X-90 to be the worst car of the entire decade of the 1990s.

MT's Aaron Gold describes this seat upholstery as "Crayola vomit" in the aforementioned article. But was this car really worse than, say, the Yugo GV or the Daewoo Nubira?

This is the third X-90 I've documented in a car graveyard, after a '97 in Southern California and another '97 in Colorado. Today's Junkyard Find now resides in a yard near Denver.

As everyone who was around during the late 1990s remembers, Red Bull bought a bunch of X-90s and turned them into promotional vehicles with built-in coolers and giant Red Bull cans mounted in back. These were replaced later on with Mini Coopers.

These photos aren't of a genuine Red Bull X-90. This is Jeff Bloch's aka Speedycop's X-90 24 Hours of Lemons race car, which achieved much greater fame a couple of months later for racing while mounted inside a camping trailer. After that, it became the "Speedy's Weenies" road-racing hot dog stand.

The engine is a 1.6-liter straight-four with 95 horsepower, which was enough for a car that weighed about 2,300 pounds.

The U.S.-market X-90 was available with either two- or four-wheel-drive. Transmission choices were a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic; this car has the manual.

It made it to 200,000 miles during its life, which gets it pretty close to the final odometer reading in the best-traveled Suzuki I've ever documented in a junkyard ( a 2000 Esteem wagon with 237k miles).

Spitting X-90s out of a Pez dispenser is gonna make the Nineties a lot more fun!

If you'd prefer your X-90 ads in French, here's the Québécois version.

That song sure seems litigiously close to " Rock Lobster," if you ask me.

The B-52s did make this JDM ad for PARCO. There's a lot of history in the junkyard, if you know where to look!

1997 Suzuki X-90 in Colorado wrecking yard.

1997 Suzuki X-90 in Colorado wrecking yard.

1997 Suzuki X-90 in Colorado wrecking yard.

1997 Suzuki X-90 in Colorado wrecking yard.

1997 Suzuki X-90 in Colorado wrecking yard.

1997 Suzuki X-90 in Colorado wrecking yard.

1997 Suzuki X-90 in Colorado wrecking yard.

1997 Suzuki X-90 in Colorado wrecking yard.

1997 Suzuki X-90 in Colorado wrecking yard.

1997 Suzuki X-90 in Colorado wrecking yard.

1997 Suzuki X-90 in Colorado wrecking yard.

1997 Suzuki X-90 in Colorado wrecking yard.

1997 Suzuki X-90 in Colorado wrecking yard.

1997 Suzuki X-90 in Colorado wrecking yard.

1997 Suzuki X-90 in Colorado wrecking yard.

1997 Suzuki X-90 in Colorado wrecking yard.

1997 Suzuki X-90 in Colorado wrecking yard.

1997 Suzuki X-90 in Colorado wrecking yard.

1997 Suzuki X-90 in Colorado wrecking yard.

1997 Suzuki X-90 in Colorado wrecking yard.

1997 Suzuki X-90 in Colorado wrecking yard.

[Images: The Author]

Become a TTAC insider. Get the latest news, features, TTAC takes, and everything else that gets to the truth about cars first by  subscribing to our newsletter.

Murilee Martin
Murilee Martin

Murilee Martin is the pen name of Phil Greden, a writer who has lived in Minnesota, California, Georgia and (now) Colorado. He has toiled at copywriting, technical writing, junkmail writing, fiction writing and now automotive writing. He has owned many terrible vehicles and some good ones. He spends a great deal of time in self-service junkyards. These days, he writes for publications including Autoweek, Autoblog, Hagerty, The Truth About Cars and Capital One.

More by Murilee Martin

Comments
Join the conversation
2 of 27 comments
  • Canam23 My old boss had a Seville STS with the Northstar that he would lend me when I wanted to drive from LA to Vegas. I have to admit that I loved it. Compared to my father-in-laws FWD Deville with the 4.1, the Seville was smooth, fast, comfortable and nice handling. It also was stingy on gas. Fortunately he never had a problem with his Northstar motor and I still think fondly of that car today.
  • V16 I'm sure you could copy and paste most of the "NO" responses to 1960's Japanese sourced vehicles.
  • Canam23 I believe the Chinese are entirely capable of building good cars, BYD has shown that they are very forward thinking and their battery technology is very good, BUT, I won't buy one because I don't believe in close to slave labor conditions, their animosity to the west, the lack of safety conditions for their workers and also the tremendous amount of pollution their factories produce. It's not an equal playing field and when I buy a car I want it made with as little pollution as possible in decent working conditions and paying a livable wage. I find it curious that people are taking swipes at the UAW in this thread because you can clearly see what horrific labor conditions exist in China, no union to protect them. I also don't own an iphone, I prefer my phones made where there aren't nets around to catch possible suicide jumpers. I am currently living in France, Citroen makes their top model in China, but you see very few. BYD has yet to make an impression here and the French government has recently imposed huge tariffs on Chinese autos. Currently the ones I see the most are the new MG's, mostly electric cars that remind me of early Korean cars, but they are progressing. In fact, the French buy very little Chinese goods, they are very protective of their industries.
  • Jerry Haan I have these same lights, and the light output, color, and coverage is amazing!Be aware, these lights interfere with AM and FM radio reception with the stereoreceiver I have in my garage. When the lights are on, I all the AM stations havelots of static, and there are only a couple of FM stations that are clear. When Iturn the lights off, all the radio stations work fine. I have tried magnetic cores on the power cords of the lights, that did not makeany change. The next thing I am going to try is mounting an antenna in my atticto get them away from the lights. I contacted the company for support, they never responded.
  • Lou_BC Are Hot Wheels cars made in China?
Next