(first posted 3/9/2017) So how about a really 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.
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.
We got the 2stroke version amazingly capable off road but agonizingly slow everywhere most had Corolla engines implanted to improve performance
lol i feel you i had one for 2 years slow as hell but would climb a wall
I used one for my rural route mail job for a while, though mine was the Jimny version that I imported due to wanting a rhd. Unbelievable little truck; the only reason I gave it up as I transferred to a route requiring more parcel capacity. Just curious if you took the photos in the Wetaskiwin area, they look suspiciously like ones that live with a guy on my old route…
This was Southern Alberta in Canada – Coaldale to be exact. These seems to be most common in BC and Alberta.
For some reason these were incredibly popular back when I was a kid in Indonesia. Probably the first really successful mainstream SUV. Amazing that these were deemed OK to be sold in the West, where people are bigger and used to more comfort, and speeds were higher too. They were just about acceptable to the much slower third world traffic and comfort level.
“The first really successful mainstream suv”…. You’re kidding, right? Ever heard of…oooooh, I don’t know…Jeep?
I actually saw one of these in the parking lot at a summer cruise-in in Iowa City, at Sycamore Mall. We were heading back to the car and walked right past it. It was a yellow hardtop much like the one in the brochure picture above.
Wonder if there’s anyone that owns both a Jimny and a Plymouth Cricket ;~)
These were U.S. EPA certified and were sold new in Guam (by Atkins-Kroll) and by SERVCO Pacific (in Hawaii). I know – because in 1980, at Service Motors in Wahiawa, I wanted one. They were all back ordered (as was the stripper Tercel 2 door sedan; the Tercel deluxe sedan and 2-door hatch in ’80 oddly enough was n/a in the Aloha State in ’80-’82). I ended up with the Tercel because the back order date was only 30 days. Although these Suzukis were EPA certified, there was no dealer/service/parts network on the mainland, so you would’ve been on your own. Plus, with the tiny four-banger and the low axle, these would’ve been a struggle to motor on an interstate – even with the 55 mph mandate at the time.
Fast forward to 1990 – ex brother in law had an ’82 or so SJ410 Jeep – made for a good dive vehicle (this was in Guam).
I have a hard top lj80 in pieces Always wanted to rebuild but money is tight and wife is putting pressure on me. Will sell for parts or rebuild. 500$ for everything
Have a /80 lj80 looking for parts.
got body?what shape is it?
Do you still have the LJ80 parts for sale??
If so where are you located?? I might be seriously
interested. Hopefully this message gets to you John Grant
My email is email@example.com
you still have the Suzuki Sj80 for parts?
Great article! A few corrections: LJ10’s were also sold in the U.S., though not by Suzuki directly. Intercontinental (not International) Equipment Company in San Diego imported the LJ10’s and LJ20’s that are found in the U.S. (I have two LJ10’s and an LJ20 currently, as well as an LJ81K pickup.) LJ80’s were produced through 1981; they were replaced by the SJ410 in 1982. LJ20’s had a two cylinder (water cooled) engine, not three; it was the LJ50 (built from 1974-77) that had the three cylinder engine; this engine was used in Japan through the mid ’80’s, so you can find an “SJ410” with one stock (although this was not called the SJ410, but rather the SJ10.)
Here’s a little article about the early development and U.S. import of these: http://www.fourwheeler.com/features/0302-4wd-1970-suzuki-lj10/. I definitely remember a Motor Trend review of a Brute IV from that era.
In the very early ’70’s, our little town in Arkansas had a Chrysler/Plymouth/GMC Truck dealer (not a misprint — the Cadillac-Oldsmobile-Pontiac dealership did NOT sell trucks and the C-P dealership did NOT sell Dodges) that sold a few of these. I remember them in the showroom. As a 12 year old, I really wanted one. Last time I was there puttering around the side-streets, I noticed one under a carport in my old neighborhood. I hope it’s one of the originals sold by Talkington Motors.
I have a LJ-81 manufactured in 1979 purchased New in Peace River Alberta Canada. It is registered for on road use. Its blue with 32,481 KLM original everything including spare tire that has never been used. They were imported and sold by Suzuki Canada.
Do you still have it, would it be for sale.
Hi im from Puerto Rico.i have a lj80 and need the rear turn signal .is the signal in form of L. If you sell this please tell me thanks
I want to buy the car suzuki gimny LJ samory
I have what I believe is either a 79 or 80 lj80 is working order. 86,000km.
We’ve been told that the transmission is on its way out, but the little guy starts up immediately every time after sitting cold for nearly a year.
Interested in finding a new transmission and/or selling it. We are in the Thompson Okanagan, BC, Canada.
Pictured below in 1990 and 2013
I remember these in Canada. I don’t know if the body ribbing went beyond rugged-looking aesthetics, but the retro exteriors of these helped make the concurrent Lada Niva look fully modern. 🙂
My very first vehicle. Parents split the cost with me… Think it was $1200 combined. Actually drove it off road a lot in the Rocky mountains. Packed 7 of us in like sardines to go to McDonalds all the time!! Those were the days… Blew a head gasket and cracked the rear diff (prob due to all the teenagers packed in) and that was it! It was banana yellow and simply awesome!! Great memories tnx! 🙂
There was a retired farming couple who lived on the outskirts of Murfreesboro, TN in the 1970s and ’80s. After selling the farm (but not the house) they took up art, either as a serious hobby or for extra income. They had a rather shabby Brute, apparently their only car, in which they would drive maybe once a week the 30-some miles to Griffin’s Art Supply in Nashville, situated conveniently just off Murfreesboro Road, buy their paints etcetera, and then drive home. I should also mention that they were both of prodigious girth, and still managed not only to sit side by side but to shut the doors as well. A couple of times I noticed employees and customers trying to watch them get into that tiny thing without being too obvious about it.
I would love to have one of these to putter around town in. Not that there’s much to climb in Chicago, but it’s way cooler than a Smart car!
I really like these. Had a buddy with an 84 samurai and I’ve been hooked on these ever since. We even pulled out a stuck jeep once.
I owned a LJ80, and a Samurai. LJ80 is waynto underpowered to be of any use, and it rusts like a tin can in the surf.
Samurai actually made it to the speed limit most times when there was no wind blowing, and both are great cars off-road. Just don’t think about a LJ80 as a daily deivee.
My buddy had the next version sj410 I think it was bigger than this one but not as big as the samurai. His was a soft top. The starter looked about the size of the solenoid on my VW van. I swear you could take the think apart with only a large Phillips screw driver (and maybe a couple of metric wrenches). It was great around town and off road but a bit scary on the highway.
Don’t know the last day I saw one of these in the wild, but they were quite plentiful in the early 1980s, and I do remember some with the two-stroke engine (they made a ‘putt-putt’ sound when the clutch was engaged). The Samurai is an extremely popular “starter” 4 x 4 in Barbados, with many of the surviving ones sporting lift kits and the bigger Vitara-sourced (Sidekick to you Americans) 1600 engines. The newer Jimny that replaced it in the mid-90s is popular in rental car fleets in soft-top form. It’s a peppy little vehicle, but always feels like it’s about to tip over. But like all its predecessors it’s a great off road trucklet.
My Lovely LJ80
These are the best for off road, and I have managed highway driving. Mine is currently under a frame off restoration. Bought new in 1979 in Penticton BC by my father and used on our ranch. Hope to have restoration done and back on the road by end of 2018.
Anybody got parts?
Are you interested in selling it ?
Estoy buscando piensas para un suzuki Jimmy 1980 conbertible
My 81 Lj80
picked up a 79 LJ 81 might be selling if there is interest
I’d like to see it compared to a 1950-52 Crosley Farm-O-Road
Very common in Australia back in the day. A house in the next town from me has the carcass of one as yard art.
Mine’s the open version.
Very nice! 🙂 The vintage turbine wheels are a great touch.
The elder “Ed” on Matt’s Off-Road Recovery channel, apparently owns an LJ20 that decades ago became stranded, landlocked behind a rockslide, by his gold claim in California. Matt & crew recover the vehicle & resto-mod it. Here’s a playlist of related videos that someone else assembled: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DEM3YITOsgQ&list=PLl52wPdNjj_kwMFRfHWNvm4Np_n2CPP4y
Given the light weight and low gearing, one of these would be ripe for a Mazda rotary engine swap.