When the four-wheel-drive market boomed
in the late 1970’s, never before had so many people
discovered so much leisure time – and this was
the cue for the full scale invasion of the Japanese light
Almost overnight many turned their
attentions to the manufacture of off-roading style vehicles,
and unlike the established 4WD legends such as Jeep and
Land Rover these new iterations were extremely affordable.
Suzuki were undoubtedly the leaders in this regard, their
diminutive LJ80 fitted with one of the smallest engines
available at the time; and despite its toy like character
it proved to be a huge success, and it took the bush
The 543cc three-cylinder overhead cam engine
was “almost” unstoppable, it being carried
over from the commercial-cum-car Suzuki Hatch. When fitted
to the LJ80 the poor little blighter had to work its
heart out to even get up to touring speeds, but it did
revel in hard low speed work, and when the going got
tough the Suzuki was then really in its element.
Ring the neck of the 3 cylinder and the little lightweight
Suzuki was almost unstoppable, be it a river crossing
or hill climb. The styling was basic, and it certainly
had no frills.
The soft top design proved ideal for those
seeking a cheap entry into the pleasures of convertible
driving, and it fitted so well that when the weather
turned foul it would keep the interior as dry as a bone.
The interior was as utilitarian as the exterior, the
seats finished in a super tough vinyl and the basic dash
affording only the simplest of instrument pods.
The Suzuki LJ80 was fitted with a nicely spaced four-speed
gearbox, while there was also a high and low range selector.
In four-wheel-drive mode the Suzuki could overcome just
about everything in high range, but if the going ever
really got tricky, especially in mud or soft sand, then
low range was the answer.
Because of its off-road design
the Suzuki came with bar tread tires which proved ideal
for scampering up dirt tracks, but the down-side was
that they were incredibly noisy under normal road conditions.
Many owners soon chose to replace these with a more traditional
road holding tire , forsaking the off-road grip for something
a little more easy to live with on a day to day basis.
One thing the Suzuki did have in common with its larger
counterparts was its unsuitability to city and suburban
driving, although it was lighter and more nimble when
navigating the supermarket car-parks.