Junkyard Find: 2009 Suzuki Equator RWD Crew Cab

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin

There are certain categories of discarded vehicles that I search for before all others during my junkyard travels. French cars and extreme-high-mile machinery are on my list, of course, plus Sawzall roadsters/ pickups, art cars and oddball special editions. But my favorite Junkyard Finds are obscure examples of what-could-they-have-been-thinking badge engineering, and today's truck has lived atop my wish list for nearly 15 years.

Some examples of badge engineering worked out very well for both manufacturers involved, with the Mitsubishi-Chrysler partnership that gave North American car shoppers close to a quarter-century of Colts near the top of that list. GM had a good run with various Geo-badged Suzukis, Isuzus and Toyotas, too.

Others didn't work out so well in the showrooms, even when there appeared to be semi-reasonable business arguments for their existence. The Volkswagen Routan, Saab 9-7X, Mitsubishi Precis, Acura SLX, Isuzu I-Series, 2006-2009 Mitsubishi Raider and 1988-1993 Pontiac LeMans come to mind here. The Suzuki Equator seems to be the most puzzling of them all, though, and now my decade-long search has unearthed one in a Denver-area car graveyard.

The Equator was a Smyrna-built Nissan Frontier with a slightly different grille and Suzuki badges, period. It was available for the 2008 through 2012 model years, and fewer than 6,000 were sold during that span.

Why? Things were unsettled around the far-flung GM Empire during the second half of the 2000s, to put it mildly, and North American Suzuki dealers were moving a significant amount of Daewoo-built iron in the immediate aftermath of Daewoo Motor America's demise.

By the time the Equator hit showrooms, Isuzu's once-mighty presence in the American-market truck business was no more. It had dwindled to just the Axiom and Rodeo by 2004, then staggered on for a few more years selling hastily rebadged Chevy Trailblazers and Colorados. Saab dealers were issued rebadged Trailblazers and Subaru Imprezas, because what the hell, and Saturn offered Opels that few wanted.

Oldsmobile had been taken behind the barn and shot through the head a few years earlier and Pontiac was on the ropes. But Suzuki was still moving some of its (non-Daewoo-derived) Aerios, XL-7s, SX4s and Grand Vitaras here; the upcoming Kizashi looked promising, too. Maybe all those throngs of shoppers crowding Suzuki showrooms (in the minds of GM suits who could have been weeks into a Scotchgard-huffing binge due to job-related stress at that point) might impulse-buy a pickup truck… if one were available!

As we all know, just about everybody ignored the Equator; Suzuki reverted to selling off-highway-only vehicles here after 2013. Disappointingly, Suzuki musical instruments are made by an unrelated company, giving Yamaha employees more reason to sneer at their rivals.

Was it cheaper than a similarly-equipped Frontier? The MSRP for the V6-powered short-bed '09 Equator Crew Cab with rear-wheel-drive and automatic transmission was $23,210, or about $33,821 in 2023 dollars. The '09 Frontier SE Crew Cab with shortbed and the same powertrain listed at $23,260 ($33,894 after inflation).

So, it was a single Grant cheaper than its twin from the same Tennessee assembly line. Suzuki America didn't look so doomed in 2009 (that came a bit later), but Nissan would have appeared the safer bet for those who really didn't want to get what Daewoo owners got after Manny, Moe and Jack were assigned as their providers of warranty service after 2002.

Rare, yes. Valuable, no.

What else could you call a truck rugged and tough enough to take on all the world has to offer? You'd call it "$5,000 off MSRP" by about 2011.

2009 Suzuki Equator in Colorado wrecking yard.

2009 Suzuki Equator in Colorado wrecking yard.

2009 Suzuki Equator in Colorado wrecking yard.

2009 Suzuki Equator in Colorado wrecking yard.

2009 Suzuki Equator in Colorado wrecking yard.

2009 Suzuki Equator in Colorado wrecking yard.

2009 Suzuki Equator in Colorado wrecking yard.

2009 Suzuki Equator in Colorado wrecking yard.

2009 Suzuki Equator in Colorado wrecking yard.

2009 Suzuki Equator in Colorado wrecking yard.

2009 Suzuki Equator in Colorado wrecking yard.

2009 Suzuki Equator 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
3 of 26 comments
  • Zipper69 Zipper69 on Dec 11, 2023

    The actual condition of the remains in the wrecker's yard suggest it was pretty well kept, the interior [or what's left] seems intact and not trashed.

    It was in good enough condition to be effectively robbed of most majot parts, although the engine looks conspicuously untouched!

    • Jeff Jeff on Dec 11, 2023

      It might not have been the engine or the transmission that did this in. The blue book on a Suzuki is very low even a rebadged Suzuki made by Nissan. Truck could have been donated to charity or could have been a trade in with high mileage and run thru an auction with the highest bidder being the salvage yard. I once pulled rally wheels off of a 74 Monte Carlo for my 77 Monte that had been a trade in that was auctioned to the salvage yard. The engine and transmission had been already parted out along with the doors, bumpers, and hood but the interior was worn and there was some rust on it. At the time that car was not that old but it was worth more in parts than as a used car.


  • Pco65752756 Pco65752756 on Jan 08, 2024

    Such a shame. I love rare and obscure cars, as well as GM cars from extinct brands.

  • Matt Posky That's a bummer. At this point, I would very much like to see them just sitting around talking about cars together. May's The Reassembler and Oh Cook were both enjoyable and consisted of little more than him chatting with the production crew. Clarkson's Farm is excellent and usually includes him just making jokes and political points as he goes about the day with a limited number of staged events. Hammond's Workshop has also been pretty good vs most other automotive-related programming because of his personality. Nobody expects them to drive trucks through brick walls or pretend to blow each other up anymore. Why they haven't transitioned over the the Jay Leno's Garage way of doing things is beyond me. Leno has arguably done some of is best work since retiring from Late Night. I'm sure the lads could muster up a few hours per month to get together at a museum or garage to chat about cars and flirt with each other.
  • Alan I would wait and see what the 250 Series offers from a value for money perspective. I do think the Prado will be a better vehicle overall and lots cheaper.I'm not a Toyota fan let alone a Lexus fan as they are overpriced in the bang for buck department.Let's wait and see what the next Patrol will be.
  • Kwi65728132 "Safety wonks at the federal level claim the starter solenoid in these rigs could be contaminated with water if operated in abnormally wet conditions like as a flooded road."Don't drive on flooded roads or "Turn around, don't down"It sounds like just plain common sense to not submerge your fancy vehicle in a body of standing water, unless you're doing it for the insurance money because you bought more car than your subprime credit rating can afford to pay for.
  • Mattwc1 The ban was scrapped. My inherent problem with this ban is just postering. The US collectively has to improve the infrastructure for EVs in order for them to be a compelling alternative
  • Eliyahu Actual combustion requires a burner phone on the wireless charging pad.
Next