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Big Block Love: 1980 Chevrolet LUV

I used to subscribe to a theory that when enough was just right, too much was perfect! Well, old age and crotchetiness have, unsurprisingly, changed that view a bit. Take this 1980 Chevrolet LUV compact pickup for example. Somewhat sneered at upon their 1972 introduction (real he-men weren’t going to drive a compact Japanese pickup truck named “LUV”), they eventually found a place in the ever-growing and morphing pickup truck market. Logically, compact trucks received compact engines but that’s no longer the case with this subject truck. Follow along friends and see what the seller hath wrought to this otherwise forgettable pickup. It’s located in Yukon, Oklahoma and is available, here on Facebook Marketplace for $8,500. Thanks are due to T.J. for this outrageous find.

OK, so the LUV (Light Utility Vehicle) is basically a rebadged Isuzu Faster. Chevrolet imported these  Faster/LUV trucks through 1981 and then replaced them in ’82 with the S-10 though the LUV name lived on in the South American market until the late ’80s. This ’80 example was likely powered, when new, by an 80 HP, 1.8 liter, four-cylinder inline engine, considered anemic by the pundits of the time, and it labored along with a four-speed manual transmission. Surprisingly, the LUV was accepted and in ’80 alone, there were 88K buyers for these Japanese/American mashups – not too shabby!

This example doesn’t look like it’s hanging out just waiting to haul its next load of mulch or pine needles. The stance, wheels, tires, exhaust cutouts, missing rear bumper, and traction bars tell you that sumpthin’s up. The plain white wrapper is innocuous too and that’s probably the intention.

The interior has a hot rod vibe to it too. The racing seats, massive center-mounted tachometer, B&M-style automatic transmission selector, and added engine gauges are trying to tell you that this isn’t an everyday LUV truck. It’s a clean and tidy environment – very purposeful looking.

Well, move along to the engine room and there it is, you found it, the major differing component possessed by this light utility vehicle that is probably not to be found in any other example. It’s a 396 CI Mark IV, big block Chevrolet engine, attached to a Turbo-Hydramatic 400 three-speed automatic transmission and driving a Ford nine-inch differential/rear axle that spins 3.70:1 gears. But wait, there’s more, “4 Wheel Disc Brakes, Line Lock, Traction Bars, Weld Wheels, Many extras, Starts, Runs, Super Fast and Fun…  Just replaced oil pump, rear gears, Carburetor, Radiator, Battery, flow master exhaust, etc., etc., etc.“. The seller concludes with, “This truck is very fast!“. Really? I would have never guessed it… Considering the engine and transmission combined weight of at least 900 lbs., I don’t know how in the world he got that powertrain to fit but he certainly did and results talk!

You know, it’s ironic that Isuzu chose to call this truck the “Faster” when it was originally anything but. Sounds like this seller took that challenge to heart and got it fixed, right?


  1. Howard A Member

    I know, seemingly the most unlikely of all modifications, but this was a very common swap. LUV trucks made great gassers and I remember more on the track than on the road. The LUV truck threw most Americans for a loop. By the 70s, it was becoming clear, small, personalized pickups were the next big thing. Trouble was, US car makers had their head where the sun doesn’t shine, and were caught with their pants down. What to do while the S-10/Ranger were being hastily being conjured up, why not sell something from one of our Asian holdings? WHAT? That’s right, GM and Ford were well established in Japan, something, possibly from denial, many couldn’t accept. Then the “bow tie” was added. Hmm, must be a Chevy, no? I’ve long said, the LUV was much better than the S-10, and Isuzu made great vehicles. I think this particular LUV truck will be a handful.

    Like 15
    • Rw

      Had a Luv ,loved it until it rusted in half..

      Like 5
    • jwaltb

      Never had a LUV, but I had a first year (‘82) S-10 pickup with a V6 and a 5-speed (I think). That was a great, peppy rig that handled like a dream, and it served me for 6 years and 116K miles until some idiot slid into me in a snowstorm and totaled it.
      I’d take that over a LUV anytime-

      Like 2
  2. Connecticut mark

    Need wheelie bars and a parachute for that thing!

    Like 5
    • Roland

      Parachute, maybe. Wheelie bars, no – there is not enough weight on the back to gain the traction needed to lift all the weight in the front. My sense is this truck is much more fun from 40-80MPH than off the line.

      Like 4
  3. DW

    You’d think they would’ve used a 400 SBC instead of a 396 BBC. You’d have virtually the same bore and stroke but without the weight in a light truck that already has a major front to rear weight difference. I’ll bet it does go fast…and probably does massive burnouts due to the extra weight over the opposite end of the drive tires.

    Like 1
    • Jack M.

      Or they could have used a 454 since it is has the same external dimensions as the 396.

      Like 6
  4. Howie

    I Luv It.

    Like 9
  5. Howie

    It is gone.

    Like 3
  6. Nelson C

    Funny thing is that forty and fifty years ago the “he-men” were can do guys. The things you did or were able to do spoke for you not your truck. Nobody driving this or other small truck had to defend his image but a good poke in the nose would always back it up.

    Like 8
  7. KC John Member

    Sounds like someone got a great deal

    Like 5
  8. Car Nut Tacoma

    Isuzu “Faster”? ROFFL! That’s a joke. Unless it came with a V6 engine, or a small V8 engine, I fail to see how.

    Like 1
  9. BigBlocksRock

    Any vehicle running a big block is aces with me.

    Like 7
  10. C Force

    In 2013 a neighbor bought a 77′ Chevy Luv with a 327 sbc w/double hump heads,TH350 trans,Ford 9″ rearend.Had an a/c condenser for a trans cooler mounted under the truck by the rear end.He got it for only $2500!The fab work that was done probably cost 3 times that.Even with a 375hp sbc it was a real squirrel on the street.With a big block you could end up in a curb or ditch if it got away from you,a scenario i have witnessed a few times with some S-10 pickups….

    Like 2
  11. John

    Ours (well, OK, my Dad’s) had its 4 cyl replaced with a 289 Ford motor – 2bbl and a four speed. That little motor had all the torque the frame and chassis could handle. I’m surprised the front suspension can handle the weight of a 396. But I’d bet it’s fun on whatever today’s version of Woodward Av might be.

    …til it rusted away.

    Like 2
  12. Roy Marson

    Bought a LUV in 1975 for $2500. Used in greenhouse operation to market tomatoes. Great little truck. Took 100 cases of tomatoes to wholesale market by night.

    Finally after 100K blew a head gasket. Then found a wrecked Toyota Corolla; . Transplanted engine. and be came a “Luvota”. she’s been sitting for 25 years. Now want to get her going again to revive great memories.

    Like 2

    When I was a teenager, my uncle had an S-10 with a 400 sbc, TH400 trans with a B&M ratchet shifter and a 3.73 rearend. He let my cousin and I take it out every once in a while, and it was… exciting? Terrifying? I’m going with terrifying. The S-10 was heavier than the LUV, so I can’t even imagine how insane this thing must be when you floor it. I bet you would need new rear tires once a month.

    Like 1
  14. Skystone Jim

    Had a 1980 LUV. Drove it until the body started to fall apart. Driver side door fell off in the street one morning. No problem, stuck a 32 penny nail in the hinges and off to work we went! As far as the head gasket, that was a common problem with those engines. Aluminum head paired with a cast iron block. Head would warp at about 80 thousand miles. No problem, pull the head, magnaflux to check for cracks, shave it and reinstall. Good for another 100k.

    Like 2

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