Timeline - Development of the "Light Jeep" LJ80

Obviously the idea was taken from the World War II (1939 - 1945) Classic Jeep

Yes, the Willys jeep with its foldable windshield, the outrigging front fenders, flat side body panels, big tires(compared to the body).

These are the typical off-road vehicle traits that mark a classic 4wd vehicle.

A Japanese miniaturization of this would become the LJ80

Hope Motor Company - The Japanese Department of Transportation approved the Hopestar.

The power plant was an

    air cooled, 2 stroke, 2 cylinder, (from Mitsubishi Type ME24D), 359 cc in size and developed 21 hp at 5500 rpm and maximum torque of 31.4 Nm at 3500 rpm.

    Only one version was available; convertible with a soft top.

    Wheelbase:1.95 meters

    Overall dimension: 2995 x1295 x1765 mm (length x width x height).

    Weight: 625 kilos.    

Hopestar starts selling but only 15 vehicles were made (by hand) before the company decided to stop production.

LJ10.com website says:

    In a magazine published in Japan about the history of the Hopestar it reads as follows "During the one year that the Hopestar was produced (1967-68) 50 were made, with 20 of those remaining in Japan and the other 30 exported for use in south east Asian countries."

Suzuki Motor Co. Ltd, an already renowned motorcycle producer with some domestic Japanese automotive experience acquired production rights to the Hopestar.

Suzuki built its one millionth car. 
Production of the Jimny 4WD started.

Before the first Suzuki 4WD rolled of the assembly line, (no longer to be hand made) the engineers took a very close look at the Hopestar. All vehicle components were either reworked or newly designed.

In Japan the Jimny had to be classified in the "mini-car" market segment due to tax issues.

    The engine size was limited to 360 ccm.

    Overall length could not exceed 3 meters

    Maximum width 1.3 meters.

LJ10.com website says:

    1970 is the first year for the LJ.

    It was called the LJ10 also known as Jimny or Brute IV. LJ stands for Light Jeep.

    The name Jimny came from a misunderstanding of what was told to some Japanese Suzuki delegates visiting Scotland for the first time. They decided to call their new jeep Jimmy, but somewhere between Scotland and Japan  they lost the translation and so they called it Jimny.

    It was the only 4x4 mass-produced in Japan's domestic mini-car category.

LJ10 - rolled of the assembly line.

It's body lines were very similar to of it's successors, like the LJ80 which 10 years later influenced the 4WD boom worldwide.

The LJ10 was manufactured strictly for the Japanese market.

    Air cooled 2 stroke, 2 cylinder 359 ccm engine with 25 hp at 600 rpm and a maximum of torque at 33.4 Nm at 5500 rpm. 

To keep up with the mini-car guidelines, interior space ended up being somewhat scarce as the spare tire had to be installed behind the driver's seat making it a 3 seater. The LJ10 and it's successors were built this way until 1976 when the Japanese government made some changes to the transportation guidelines. 

   LJ10.com website says:

    LJ's were never exported from Japan to the USA by Suzuki.

    IEC )Intercontinental Equipment Corporation of California) imported the LJ’s to America.

    They were sold mostly in California, Nevada and Arizona.

    Compared to the LJ20 the LJ10 is very rare in the USA. 

    Suzuki USA hadn't thought there would be a market for them in the USA so did not want to import them and that is when IEC stepped in.

    Mexico bought a few LJ's from IEC.  

    IEC was a family business of two brothers Tim and Steve and their dad Don Sharp. The father ws one of the first VW/Porsche dealers in the USA .

LJ20 — The main difference was the power plant.

    Watercooled, 2 stroke, 2 cylinder 359 ccm engine with 28 hp at 5500 rpm and a maximum torque of 37.3Nm at 5000 rpm.

    Metal hard top version were introduced

Minor body refinements introduced:

    The combined single indicator parking light and turning signal were separated into two independent lights — one on top of the other, on the front on the fenders

LJ10.com website says:

    LJ's stopped coming into the USA in late 1973

    Approximate LJ Sales in US of LJ10's and LJ20's by IEC

    • 175 - first year
    • 800 - second year
    • 2500 - third year
    • 3500 - fourth & final year
  • At this point Suzuki USA saw that there was a market for the LJ's but instead of continuing the development politics and emission standards stopped the sales of LJ's
Japanese"mini-car" guidelines were changed again to a maximum engine size of 550 ccm, overall length was changed to 3.20 meters and the maximum weight was upped from 1300 kilos to 1400 kilos.

Finally, the spare could be moved were it should be; on the outside gate, which meant that the interior had room for a forth person.


    Watercooled, 2 stroke, 3 cylinder 539 ccm engine with 26 hp, (less than the smaller 360 ccm engine, but with a higher torque output of 52Nm at 3000 rpm.)    .

LJ10.com website says:

The LJ20 stayed in production till 1976,

Since IEC (Intercontinental Equipment Corporation — the company that imported the LJ's to America) stopped importing the LJ's at the end of 1973 you will not see any LJ50's in America (We haven't heard of ONE being in the USA at all). 

Up till The Samurai none of the following models LJ50, LJ 80, were exported by Suzuki to the USA.

Australia was the main country that the LJ50 was exported to. They are very popular there. 

Suzuki began to export its Jimny series.

Parallel to the LJ50 (SJ10) Suzuki started to build the SJ20 with a 4 stroke 4 cylinder engine, later introduced to us as the LJ80.


    Watercooled 797 ccm with 42 hp at 550 rpm and max torque of 61Nm at 3500 rpm (German specifications).

    Fuel capacity is increased to 40 liters from 26 liters

    Axle housing width was increased by 10 cm to 119 cm up front and to 120 cm at the rear.

You can tell the 1977 model apart from the older ones by the raised hood with air inlets up front and the rear lights and bumper are integrated to the body. The LJ50 and LJ80 can only be differentiated by looking at the speedometer, as the LJ50 tops at 90 Km/h and the LJ80 at 110km/h.   

LJ10.com website says:

    The LJ80 came out in 1977 and was the last of the LJ's. There were not to many changes in the body but they did add a larger power plant, a 4-cylinder, 4-stroke 797cc SOHC engine with 41hp

    This was a nice increase in horse-power over the LJ50.

    Suzuki was developing and testing this engine for years. There were rumors that they were working on a 4 stroke, their first ever, but Suzuki denied the reports trying to keep it a secret so they could fully develop it before it's release in the LJ80.

    With this new engine they were able to get more torque plus better fuel efficiency and cleaner emissions than all the other LJ's before. (Maybe this is why they were allowed into Canada. As far as I know LJ10s, LJ20s, and LJ50s never came to Canada)

In the LJ80 Suzuki added a higher ratio in the transfer case for greater road speeds but kept the low end ratio where it was. This is the point where Suzuki became a favorite in the 4x4 community.

Last facelift for the LJ80

    Headlight positioning — widened / lowered

    Grill slightly modified

    Steel doors were offered for the first time

Suzuki Canada says: In 1979 Suzuki itself was not selling automotive products in Canada. These were brought into the country by independent distributors.

Suzuki began selling the LJ80 in Canada.
Suzuki stops selling the tough ilttle LJ80 in Canada.

Suzuki Canada told me they have no idea how many LJ80s were brought into Canada or how many were Special Limited Edition "Prospectors" How's that for keeping records!

There are many web sites devoted to the LJ80. I typed — Suzuki LJ80 —into Google and got 21,900 hits.

Here are a few I liked:

Suzuki LJ80 Index

People are always asking. Where did you find that little jeep?

Its use — Following Historic Trails - researching for various publications & books

What was so special about the Special Limited Edition "Prospector"

Look what else you get!

You never know what you are going to come across.

A closer look — including the blemishes

Our Heritage Home Page