Reviewed by Unique Cars and Parts
Our Rating: 1
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
models, but 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.
Available 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,
selected the F20 was driven through a double-reduction transfer case and four speed all-synchromesh gearbox.
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.
The 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.
Simply put, 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 tyres
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.
Inside 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.