Grandma’s LUV’n Spoonful: 1980 Chevrolet LUV

Driven by a variety of factors, both Ford and Chevrolet introduced Japanese-built captive import small pickups in 1972. Ford had the Mazda-built Courier, while Chevy rolled out the Isuzu-sourced LUV (short for Light Utility Vehicle). Both trucks (and later the Mitsubishi-based Dodge D-50) found a comfortable niche with American buyers up through the mid-1980’s. Given their low prices and utilitarian design, not many of these first-gen trucklets are still on the road today. But this 1980 LUV has survived comfortably in a garage in Beatrice, Nebraska, and is for sale here on eBay with a current bid of $3,700 and reserve not yet met.  

One of the last of the first generation of LUVs, this truck represents the height of the truck’s popularity. Rising gas prices and a second place finish in the Motor Trend “Truck of the Year” awards in 1979 pushed sales to an all-time high. But they quickly fell out of favor after a 1981 redesign, and by 1983 it was gone. This example survived, as many vehicles do, thanks to a thrifty older relative for whom the vehicle met her needs and was well taken care of. The seller states “This is my wife’s Granmothers [sic] truck which she has owned for 25+ years…talking with her she believes she’s the third owner and has always been garaged except for one year while she’s owned it.”

Powered by a 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine driving a four-speed manual transmission, this powertrain generates a whopping 80 horsepower.  It won’t win any races, but according to the seller still starts right up despite not being driven for the past year. Because of their long global production run (in the rest of the world these trucks were known as the Isuzu Faster or the Isuzu KB), parts are still readily available. Underneath, LUVs are built on a ladder frame with unequal A-arms in front and a leaf-spring rear axle in the back, a familiar and easy-to-work-on arrangement.

The turquoise cab maintains a stock appearance and seems in good shape overall, with the exception of the bench seat bottom. This must have been one of the last models to migrate the ignition switch to the steering column.

The body and undercarriage appear quite solid, and the paint, while not perfect, appears very good for a 38-year old mini hauler. The seller’s statement that the truck has traveled only 41,506 original miles appears reasonable based on the overall condition. And while the financial upside for this little blue Isuzu-Chevy is limited, that doesn’t mean it couldn’t continue its original mission as basic, economical hauler. Are you feeling any Luv for this little guy?

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Comments

  1. chad

    any of the numerous Pacific minis that have the single walled bed, the integral tie downs & the ol style tailgait hitch get me goin. Long bed’n diesel would B a plus 4 me. I know they made this 1 w/4WD. The smaller the better in a 4 WD 4 me so all that is up-a-level from this one.

    Also 4 me (may B as the only 1?) the less than 4 grand price is right too.

    Good find Steve!

  2. Poseur Member

    had a yellow 2wd one as first work truck. Manual Mikado with the bed perpetually filled with rotting grass clippings, hot green juices dripping from the tailgate on rainy summer days.

    It handled well on 70 series radials as we zipped around town from lawn to lawn & backfired from the exhaust when we held gears to help slow down. Learned to drive stick in it & love it.

    Lots of long days, working til dark, listening to (what is now known as classic) rock on the Kraco head unit.

    We abused that thing for a few years & it took everything we could dish out with no complaints until the frame eventually failed, more likely a result of salt & rust than overloading.

    This’d make a nice occasional use truck/backup vehicle for somebody.

    11
  3. Rick Rothermel

    Might that be the LAST SURVIVING Trimline 3-color stripe set anywhere?
    That company’s lack of style and imagination is the reason I got into the car dealer trim business.

  4. Terry L Johnson

    Not too hard to put a SBC in these. Just enough room, torsion bar front suspension can be tightened up, use a 350 turbo or a powerglide. Aluminum intake & even a pair of aluminum heads for weight savings. FUN. :-) Terry J

  5. Larry

    Miles better than anything GM would deliver for years. The Japanese knew how to build small vehicles. Ford and GM gave us the Pinto and Corvair.

  6. Gay Car Nut

    Sweet looking LUV. I remember when the compact truck was indeed compact. It’s a damn shame that the compact truck has gotten so large. This would be perfect for most work that you neither need, or want a much larger truck to do. For the most part, this truck looks like it’s ready to do some work. The only serious thing that needs repair is the seat. Duct tape won’t cut it. I’d find an upholster to either repair, or replace with a similar materiel, or I’d have a new seat installed, with new upholstery.

    • Zapp

      The ’02 Ranger I once owned–granted, it’s a midsize truck compared to this–was all the truck I ever needed. It frustrates me to no end that I can’t buy a new one.

      Why most people even bother with full-sized trucks is beyond me. The great majority of pickups never tow anything and are running around completely unloaded or with one bag of dog food, softener salt, or kitty litter in the bed–wasting money and resources. It’s madness.

      News flash–if whatever you’re trying to haul doesn’t fit in the LUV, you can always make a second trip, or use a trailer. Factor in the cost of fuel and especially tires these days, and a compact truck makes more sense than ever.

      • Andy

        The car manufacturers are missing out, AGAIN! I recently had to buy a new/used vehicle after the engine went on my minivan. I would LOVE to have a small pickup for my home depot runs, and back and forth to work. Biggest thing I wanted to make sure next vehicle had was 4wd/awd, followed by some sort of utility for either hauling bulky items home or to be able to hook up the trailer if needed. I don’t think any of the manufacturers are making small pickups anymore…

      • connbackroads

        I think that VW hit that nail on the head with their Rabbit truck. I owned a gas one, and it gave me 30 mpg, and hauled light-duty. The diesels gave 40+ mpg. Those were front-wheel-drive also, and great in the snow.

        Too bad they only sold them in the USA for 5 years.

  7. Little Cars

    Wheeler Dealers did one just like this a couple season’s ago…I think it even had the stripe. I was flipped to a distillery to haul barrels of sour mash to cow pastures. Season 15 • Episode 5 Synopsis “When Edd gave Mike the task of finding a classic American truck, Mike traveled to Sonoma County where he met his first hipster and her Chevy LUV. This truck is ‘loved’ but needs a lot of TLC from Edd to get it into a condition that a buyer will love.”

    44 min|TV-PG|Premiered 07/27/2016

  8. Justin

    I had a buddy in high school that had one- he(we) bear this truck up, probably tried to destroy but never did- never wrecked it, but many desert donuts, and power shifts… if you can call it that!! Anyway, seeing this brought back many memories, what a fun , tough little truck it was… wow. Cool!! 88-91, terrorized High School and Tucson Deserts in the “Luv”!!

  9. Little Cars

    As a previous owner of two Ranger compact pickups (1983 and a 1997) along with a 1983 Datsun 720 truck I can concur with you Zapp. It kills me that I had to buy a full size 1500 Chevy with special order rear end just to pull a horse trailer twice a month. I will say, however, the technology in its 2017 V8 motor makes it possible for me to achieve 21 mpg all day long. Until the price of gas exceeds $4 a gallon and stays there indefinitely, the manufacturers will not be building compact pickup trucks for the US market.

  10. Bradleyh Member

    Nice vehicle. I agree with most of the comments. For the life of me i cant see yhe point of the new Colorado. Nearly as large as the half ton, but no where as capable, and almost just as much money. Original ranger, s10, or import trucks were just the right size

  11. Dom Colucci

    These were fun trucks a home owners truck if you will. The factories I heard got spanked for them not getting enough gas mileage for their size, Now look at the new four door freight trains and there mileage is better than the little guys were, and there fast too, more comfortable and ride better, their just too damn big..

  12. Country Joe

    My first pickup was a 1978 Mazda B1800. I would love to have something very similar to drive once again. It was an amazingly tough little pickup that survived a teenage gearhead for a surprisingly long time….

  13. Rustytech

    Based on the condition of the seat, floor, and brake pedal pad, I’d say 141,000 miles is more accurate. Still I like it. I had one that looked just like back in the 80’s. Mine was a 4×4 and was a excellent off road driver. Fun but not fast. The price here seems reasonable too.

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