Curbside Capsule: 1988 Suzuki Samurai – Jimny Cricket

1988 Suzuki Samurai. Rogers Park, Chicago, Illinois. Friday, July 9, 2015.

I watched a fair amount of animated Disney films when I was growing up.  The ones I liked best usually had some dark overtones or truly frightening characters.  I can’t think of any Disney cartoon flicks I actively disliked, but “The Rescuers” from ’77, featuring a greedy, sinister Madame Medusa and the chain-smoking, dog-hating Cruella Deville from “One Hundred And One Dalmatians” from ’61 were two of my favorites.

My grandparents owned one of the first VCRs of probably any people I knew, and every once in a while when my family was visiting, they’d pop in some Disney movie they had taped off their local TV station for us grandkids.  Their choice of movie, Disney or not, was never simply about us being entertained, though.  It had to feature some kinds of morals or values or something they wanted to low-key teach us kids.  Enter “Pinocchio” and his lesson about truth-telling.

It never really occurred to me back then that “Jiminy Cricket”, the name of Pinocchio’s little, green sidekick who acted as his conscience, was a minced oath and less impolite way of (not) taking the Lord’s name in vain.  How was this gotten away with?  To be clear, my intent here is not to drag Disney.  (And there were worse offenses, for which corporate apologies appear to have been made.)  It’s just that I wonder if Suzuki, realizing the similarity between “Jiminy” and “Jimny” the latter being the name of their tiny SUV in its home market of Japan and in many others, globally, decided to rename it the “Samurai” for U.S. consumption to avoid offending potential customers.  It’s not as big a stretch as one might think.

1988 Suzuki Samurai. Rogers Park, Chicago, Illinois. Friday, July 9, 2015.

This little all-wheel-drive machine was sold in the United States starting with the 1986 model year, disappearing from this market after ’95.  What’s funny is that before I had confirmed the model year of this example as ’88 by a license plate search, this year was going to be my guess based on the wheels and pictures of other Samurais I had found on the internet.  This example would be powered by a 74-horsepower, 1.3L engine, mated to a five-speed manual gearbox.  Over 200,000 Samurais were sold in the United States during its decade-long run.  Its super-low price of entry ($8,195 in 1988, or about $18,000 in 2020) had me saving the money I earned as a paperboy back then in the hope of being able to afford one in a few years.  This plan did not come to fruition.

Even if Jiminy Cricket was a different shade of green than this Jimny Samurai, the association between the color of this Suzuki and that of a certain cartoon insect immediately came to mind when I spotted it.  Jiminy Cricket may have been a little feeble for my tastes as my favorite Disney characters go, but he was a dapper dude, and also clearly invested in helping those close to him make good or better decisions from within.  That’s good enough for me for him to earn a free pass for the rest.

Rogers Park, Chicago, Illinois.
Friday, July 9, 2015.