Suzuki is a brand of contrasts.
While the Japanese brand’s motorcycle business spans from scooters to the Hayabusa supercar, its auto business – with the exceptions of the XL-7, Grand Vitara and Kizashi – is concentrated focus on smaller, more affordable cars.
The Jimny is a prime example of this, and arguably the most iconic car of the brand.
Conventional wisdom used to assume that consumers had to strain into models like the Land Rover Defender or Toyota LandCruiser 70 Series to have a vehicle that would serve those who demanded beyond the beaten track.
Jimny, however, takes a different approach. By offering the same body-on-frame layout as these models but in a significantly lighter and smaller package with excellent approach and departure angles, Suzuki has long been able to rival their capabilities. with lower prices.
Let’s see how Jimny was born. This is part one, we will finish the series by the end of next week.
Perhaps surprising given Suzuki’s near-comprehensive focus on small, light and affordable vehicles, the original concept was not produced by Suzuki directly but from a niche Japanese auto brand. The version was titled Hope Motor Company in the 1960s.
Although Suzuki investigated the possibility that an off-road vehicle could still meet kei regulations, the purchase of Hope Motor in 1968 gave the real impetus to the project.
At the time of the acquisition, Hope Motor had expertise in the creation of compact three-wheeled automatic rockers that are still commonly used in India and many Southeast Asian and other developing countries today.
However, facing stiff competition from rivals including Daihatsu, the company discontinued the majority of these three-wheelers in favor of a model called the Hopestar ON360.
This is the company’s final roll of the dice, which is a simple, open-top 4×4 that combines parts from rival Daihatsu, as well as wheels from the American version of the Jeep that Mitsubishi is making. manufactured under license at the time, along with other Mitsubishi parts.
Unfortunately for Hope, its precarious financial situation meant that only a handful of the cars were produced, as efforts to convince Mitsubishi to produce the design on a larger scale failed.
Suzuki came to the rescue instead, and as part of the company-wide acquisition, they were able to purchase the ON360’s design for 12 million yen (current value equivalent to only $460,519).
Although Suzuki purchased the rights to design the ON360, the early models produced by Hope Motor were rudimentary prototypes, lacking even basic features such as a fuel gauge.
For the first generation, Suzuki focused on making the car suitable for mass production and replacing parts borrowed from competing Japanese companies with Suzuki-made items.
To this extent, the previous Mitsubishi engine has been replaced by a two-cylinder 359cc air-cooled engine that produces just 18kW of power, but the car has the necessary features for a 4×4 like a box Two-speed gear with low range and body-built on frame.
Notably, having to keep the total length under 3m to comply with Japanese kei-car regulations at the time meant that the spare wheel was mounted inside, restricting the vehicle to vehicle-only use. three seats.
This early version was called the LJ10, with the LJ standing for ‘Light Jeep.’ An upgraded LJ20 variant had a more powerful water-cooled engine for a top speed of 80 km/h and was introduced in 1972.
The Australian market first got a taste of Jimny in 1975 with a more powerful version of the LJ50 (also known locally as the Stockman 4WD). With kei car regulations in Japan now allowing vehicles with a maximum engine size of 550cc, importers found the suitably equipped LJ50 to be suitable for Australian roads.
Despite the more power, the LJ50 retains a very modest power output of just 25kW and 57Nm of torque, allowing it to reach a top speed of 97 km/h.
1978 saw further improvements, with Australian LJ80 models now using a more powerful 797cc four-cylinder with 31kW of power. These models are available in a range of body styles, including softtop, softtop with steel doors, as well as chassis and hardtop iterations.
Australian prices ranged from around $3000 (equivalent to $22,462 today) for an LJ50, to around $6000 (equivalent to $32,682 today) for the next LJ80 in hard configuration.
The second generation Jimny was perhaps the model that really started its global popularity.
Retaining the same ladder frame layout of its predecessor, the second generation has added countless improvements such as the addition of air dampers for the leaf spring suspension, a larger range of new engines for the market. exports, more cohesive styling and a new (albeit still agricultural) engine Domestic.
Most importantly, the off-road capabilities of the model are retained.
Models intended for sale in Australia first began appearing in late 1981 and the model is now known simply as the Suzuki Sierra (in other markets the name Suzuki Samurai will also be used).
Like its predecessor, convertible softtop, convertible and hardtop variants will all be offered, but the Jimny will now be powered by a larger 1.0-litre engine, producing 39kW, for allow you to reach a maximum speed of over 100 km comfortably. /h for the first time.
The 1985 cars would enhance this with improvements like a 5-speed manual transmission and power-assisted front disc brakes, while increasing engine capacity by adding a powerful 1.3-liter engine.
A rear-wheel drive only softtop version, called the Sierra Samurai, was also introduced, but regardless of variant, the larger engine means power is increased to 49kW, so that the Jimny can now pass. 110 km/h speed limit in most Australian states.
Interestingly, the second generation also brings a badge-engineered version from the 1985 model year, called the Holden Drover. Sold for just two years until 1987, the Drover was identical to the Sierra, except for the lack of a cabin chassis or rear-wheel drive.
Generational enhancements often drive up the price as well, but the Jimny’s pricing is quite in line with its predecessor, with a 1981 starting price of $6,220 ($25,747 today).
Meanwhile, a 1985 Holden Drover two-door convertible with a larger 1.3-liter engine, meanwhile, starts at $10,647 ($32,416 today).
This is part one, we will finish the series by the end of next week.