Suzuki Jimny 1970-1981
The first Suzuki 4×4 was also the first mass-production 4×4 in Japan’s domestic mini-car category. With development starting in 1968, the first Suzuki 4×4 lightweight vehicle became available in 1970 and was marketed with only three seats. In order to comply with limitations on the class’s external dimensions the spare tyre had to be fitted behind the front passenger’s seat. It was a simple vehicle with zipped canvas doors and leaf springs to cope with big loads for the light and tiny 4×4 (it weighed just 600kg and had a wheelbase of 1930mm). A separate chassis allowed the use of lightweight body panels. The first LJ was powered by a new but equally small twin cylinder air-cooled two-stroke turning out 25bhp from its 360cc.
The LJ was updated in May 1972 as the LJ20. The grille bars were changed from horizontal to vertical for the LJ20. The engine was swapped out for a water-cooled unit (the L50), and its 28 hp (21 kW) enabled the LJ to reach 80 km/h (50 mph). A special version with the spare tire mounted behind the passenger seat allowed for two small rear seats, facing each other. The introduction of left hand drive was a major switch and signaled Suzuki’s worldwide ambitions for the truck. The Hard Top (Van) was also introduced when the LJ20 arrived, equipped with smaller, 15 inch wheels. Suzuki themselves did not export them to America; a US company called IEC (International Equipment Co.) imported them. Export Jimnys had the spare tire mounted on the outside, as there was no Kei regulations demanding the car are kept shorter than three meters.
The LJ10 achieved success in the domestic market but Suzuki knew that other countries, without Japan’s mini-car category, would need a bigger engine. Countries don’t come any bigger than Australia, so when the LJ50 was exported there it had a 550cc three-cylinder, water-cooled two-stroke unit that gave better power. The spare wheel moved to the outside, on a hanger at the rear allowing two rear passenger seats, both facing each other. Hard and soft-top versions were available in Australia, where the LJ50 soon gained a reputation as a fun go anywhere vehicle.
The development up market for what was originally a utility 4×4 continued with the last LJ model, the LJ80. Body changes were minimal, with larger front wheelarches and flared rear wheelarches to offer a more stylish design. The bonnet, still held down with two spring clips like on earlier LJs, was slightly raised to make room for the biggest change – a new engine. This was a four-cylinder, water-cooled 800cc four-stroke unit producing 41bhp. The LJ80 sold well in Australia, where it went on sale in 1978, but that was just the start. When the LJ80 was first exported to the Netherlands in 1978 followed by the rest of Europe it created and firmly established a whole new market sector for fun 4×4 recreational vehicles.
Suzuki Jimny 1981-1998
Suzuki Potohar SJ410
In 1981 Suzuki continued to enjoy a developing level of success in the domestic market, but it was with the export of the SJ410 that the company really broke into new markets. It was an all new design for a 4×4 vehicle that offered a new statement in fashionable styling. True to the utility heritage, it still featured leaf-spring suspension although this had been softened with gas dampers at the rear and improved approach and departure angles. Under the new bodywork, which featured a sloping grille, there was a new interior and a brand new engine, a four-cylinder 1000cc four-stroke delivering 45bhp. The separate chassis and small dimensions combined with a bigger engine to make the SJ410 a real giant-killer off-road, and it continued to expand further the leisure 4×4 market created by Suzuki.
Suzuki Potohar SJ413
SJ413 – Suzuki launched an upgraded SJ model which, as indicated by the model name, featured a lightweight 1.3-litre four cylinder engine that produced 66 bhp. Inside, the comfort levels of the SJ413 were developed in-line with customer requirements and included a five-speed gearbox. The body and interior were also redesigned, with a new dashboard, seats, and grille.
Suzuki Potohar JA71
The JA71, a four-stroke, turbocharged and fuel-injected (F5A) 543 cc three-cylinder engine was introduced to complement the two-stroke SJ30. It used the upgraded interior from the Jimny 1300, which was simultaneously introduced to the SJ30. Power was 42 PS (31 kW), although this was increased to 52 PS (38 kW) in a November 1987 facelift by adding an intercooler. A non-intercooled, 38 PS (28 kW) engine was offered in the lowest spec Van version.
Suzuki Jimny 1998-Presnt
Having evolved from the SJ30 to the Potohar, Suzuki’s lineup of compact 4×4 vehicles gained a new model in 1998 in the form of a completely redesigned Jimny. Comprehensive updates to the body and chassis meant that the new Jimny marked the beginning of a new era of compact 4×4 motoring. Separate shock absorbers and coil springs for the front wheels gave the Jimny longer suspension travel than Suzuki’s earlier compact 4×4 cars and realized smoother response. And the adoption of three-link rigid-axle suspension with coil springs meant greater off-road stability and better traction, resulting in a more confidence-inspiring ride even during enthusiastic driving. Other features of this ground-breaking model included a newly designed ladder frame and newly adopted air-locking hubs, which allowed the driver to switch between two-wheel drive and four-wheel drive on the move. Jimny features a part time 4WD system. On its dashboard, there are three buttons – 2WD, 4WD and 4WD-L. The 2WD is default when it runs as RWD. When 4WD is pressed, the front wheels are also engaged as drive with high gears. The 4WD-L engages front wheels as well as low ratio gears. Being a part time 4WD, there is no center differential or viscous coupling. The Jimny should not be driven on normal road surface in 4WD mode.