Suzuki LJ80 4x4
Reviewed by Unique Cars and Parts
Our Rating: 4
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 car manufacturers.
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 by storm.
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 tyres
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 tyre, 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.