Short Car Day: 4×4 Edition – 1980 Suzuki Jimny LJ80


OK so we have had some short cars today but what about a short 4×4? The LJ series truck dates back to 1970 and the LJ10 with its Kei classed sized dimensions and diminutive 359cc engine.

There weren’t any LJ10s sold in North America but Suzuki’s first offering here was the LJ80. You wouldn’t expect to find too many LJ80s around these days. They were cheap when new and led rough lives but amazingly I’ve seen four in the last few years. Two in nice shape and two retired to the backyard or field. Canada’s unique market again gives us another interesting vehicle to discuss. These were sold in 1979 by independent dealers and then from 1980 to 1982 by Suzuki. LJ80 production officially ended with the 1980 model year so the 1981 to 1982 sales would have been left over stock. The SJ413/Samurai replaced it for 1984 in Canada.

The US actually did receive the early LJ20 for a short time but I don’t believe they were officially pitched as an on road vehicle. These had two stroke, three cylinder engines and were imported by International Equipment Co. and given the name Brute.

image from Hugo90 - http://www.flickr.com/photos/hugo90/2512176961/

The LJ80’s engine is not a two stroke like most people think. The earlier ones were but for the LJ80 they are powered by a 41hp , four stroke, 797cc SOHC four cylinder engine. The four stroke engine offered a decent bump in horsepower over the earlier versions but a real boost in torque and cleaner emissions. Weighing in at 1,698 lbs and possessing barn door aerodynamics that 41hp was hard pressed to attain highway speeds. A four speed manual is the only transmission paired to a divorced transfer case with live axles at either end. Leaf springs hold up the axles front and back.

Size wise the closest comparison is probably a Smart car. The LJ80 is more narrow but slightly longer than a first generation Smart car. The wheelbase is a meager 76 inches. These were sold in a few different variations including closed cab, pickup and soft top with a fold down windshield. There was also Special Limited Edition “Prospector” but it was just decals and badges.

The interior was on the spartan side as you can imagine. This dash is missing the glove box cover, optional radio and badge on the steering wheel. The owner of this has added a couple extra gauges to more closely monitor the engine.

I first spotted the blue one in a small town just east of here a while back but it has since appeared in a buy here, pay here style used car dealership. Price? Just under $5K. Seems a little steep but where else could you find one? It is giving me the desire to acquire another 4×4 but the only problem with this one is the trails are at least 100kms away. What would that be? Well over an hour each way traveling by SJ80.