One of the many vehicles to emanate from Japan during
the late 1970’s and early 1980’s was
the wonderful little Daihatsu F20 4x4, it quickly
earning itself a niche in the Australian marketplace.
Larger than the equivalent Suzuki LJ80
smaller than the more traditionally sized Land Rovers
and Toyota Land Cruisers, the Daihatsu F20 navigated
the middle ground.
Fitted with a rugged and dependable
1600cc four cylinder engine, it used much less fuel
than the bigger off-roaders, but was a much better
day-to-day around town proposition to the Suzuki.
in either soft top or hard top, then as a cab-chassis
and pick-up, the Daihatsu was able to fulfil a variety
of specific needs.
Using a traditional configuration
of front mounted engine driving the rear wheels,
with four wheel drive selected the F20 was driven
through a double-reduction transfer case and four
speed all-synchromesh gearbox.
The suspension was
also conventional, employing the use of semi-elliptical
leaf springs on live axles both fore and aft. Double
action telescopic dampers were used in an attempt
to keep unnecessary spring oscillations to a minimum.
1600cc engine combined with the necessary low gearing
gave the Daihatsu on-road acceleration strong enough
to better many of the inglorious tin boxes that crowded
Australian roads at the time, but the down side was
soon discovered when on the open road.
cruising in the Daihatsu was a chore, the low gearing
restricting the car to a noisy 90-100 km/h top speed
and making any progression down the highway both
painful and tedious.
To further detract from the
experience were the four-wheel drum brakes, which
combined with block-style tires to produce an almost
dangerously low level of braking traction, especially
on wet bitumen.
But off road was a different story.
In the environment for which it was designed, the
Daihatsu F20 proved to be a willing and capable off
roader, the torquey engine ensuring it was always
able to tackle obstacles in high-range that would
stop many lower-powered 4x4’s.
On bush tracks
the Daihatsu really shined, the relatively large
engine size (in comparison to body size) allowing
the performance to be leisurely, and unlike the Suzuki,
not requiring the driver to continually change cogs
to get the best out of it. The achilles heel when
off-road was found with the standard dampers, they
fading rapidly on corrugated and hard-packed ripple
surfaces, giving the car a pitch and bounce ride.
Many owners chose to replace these dampers with good
quality after market units – a
strategy that quickly solved the problem.
the cabin was rather utilitarian, the seats were
uncomfortable and the driving position awkward, particularly
for taller drivers. But these criticisms aside, at
the time the F20 represented a cheaper and more economical
alternative to the traditional 4x4’s on the
market, and was a much easier to live with on a day-to-day
basis than the Suzuki.