The History of the Amazing Suzuki Jimny
Added: 09 February 2018
The SUVs and 4x4s of today can be traced all the way back to their ancestral roots of the World War 2 Jeeps from Bantam, Willys-Overland and Ford - originally designed as multi-purpose vehicles for general function throughout war objectives.
When the war ended, the Jeeps of WW2 paved the way for civilian versions which were intended for non-military use. It comes as no surprise that Jeep quickly caught the attention of other car manufacturers around the world. Some early examples of Jeep-inspired 4x4 vehicles to emerge in the 1950s were the Land Rover Series, Toyota Land Cruiser, and the Nissan Patrol.
Meanwhile in Japan, Suzuki were already an established manufacturer of light vehicles, otherwise known as ‘Kei car’. Kei car was a vehicle class which was designed to comply with the Japanese government’s regulations, which included meeting certain dimensions and engine sizes. As this market began to grow in popularity over the years, Suzuki decided to introduce its Jeep-like 4x4 concept to the Kei car category – the final product of which was named the LJ10, sold domestically under the name ‘Jimny’.
The Origin of the Species
First launched in 1970, in an era where most 4 wheel drives were large and heavy, the LJ10’s emergence in Japan’s unique mini vehicle size was seen as refreshing, so refreshing in fact that It became the first widely manufactured 4x4 from the Kei car category.
Due to the external dimension limitations of the Kei car category, the spare tire had to be fitted behind the front passenger seat, making the LJ10 a 3-seater. The eccentricities don’t stop there, the LJ10 only came in one version and that version came with a canvas top with doors that zip up!
The name ‘Jimny’ originated from a word picked up by Suzuki executives during a trip to Scotland. Originally intended to be called the ‘Jimmy’, linguistics errors arose in translation and they ended up calling it the ‘Jimny’.
After a successful 7 years, the final first generation model was introduced – the LJ80. In Japan the LJ80 was called the SJ20 and it was the first Suzuki vehicle to have a four-stroke four cylinder engine. Export figures began to grow bigger than its predecessors as it gained huge popularity in various countries around the globe.
The Story of the Second Generation Jimny
In 1981 the first model of the second generation Jimny series was launched. It was marked as a big shift from the first generation in all aspects. Suzuki had clearly paid more attention to styling and interior space, as well as offering better performance thanks to brand new engines. The second generation series proved to be highlight versatile for commercial purposes, leisure activities, and day-to-day transportation.
The SJ Series Jimny became big hit around the world, and forged a way for Suzuki’s global success. Just like its predecessor, the SJ Series Jimny was available in both Kei-car for the Japanese domestic market, and non-Kei-car versions oriented towards the export market.
Suzuki introduced the model with the slogan ‘Tough & Neat’, which was an attempt to emphasize its improvements on both on and off road performance. The model was also available in various body styles which included: - SJ30F: No doors, metal bar only, folding windshield. - SJ30FK: Metal doors, canvas top, folding windshield. - SJ30FM: Metal doors, canvas top. - SJ30VC and SJ30VA: metal top (hard top van models).
The Nineties Fossil That’s Hard Not to Love
16 years later and the third generation Jimny was launched. This new chunky lightweight off-roader could hardly be more late-Nineties, but considering it comes from a time where the Spice Girls were top of the charts – remarkably it’s remained in production ever since.
What some might find even more remarkable is that there’s still a market for back-to-basic off-roaders with little regard for the niceties we’ve become accustomed to with the SUVs of today. It’s diminutive stature and light footprint off-road is what drives its appeal.
If you’re a proper countryside-dweller where roads for you are sparse and you need a 4x4 that will run for a life time, you can do a lot worse than buying one of these. With a replacement set to be launched this year however, you might want to consider waiting until the new model is launched!