The Other GTI: 1989 Suzuki Swift GTi

Jeff LaveryBy Jeff Lavery

There are certain cars that I will absolutely concede are past the point of saving – even cars that I love. It’s easier to make this determination when thinking about production volume, and how many of a certain model are likely left on the road. That’s why despite its condition and rust issues, this 1989 Suzuki Swift GTI here on eBay should be saved – seriously entertaining as a driver’s car and very few left on the roads today both put this one firmly in the Rescue! column for me. 

The Swift in stock form was an uninspiring and thoroughly disposable car. With the GTI, however (well, it was a GTI before Volkswagen of America levied a lawsuit and it was changed to just GT) featured Recaro seats, an aluminum block and cylinder heads, high-compression pistons and deft handling thanks to factory-supplied anti-roll bars and a fully-independent suspension. The GTI also received a factory body kit in the form of different bumpers and side skirts, along with a hatch spoiler.

Even the three-spoke sport steering wheel looks saucy, and note the GTI-specific hubcaps sitting in the cabin. The seller says the engine is not frozen but it’s also not getting fuel; the driver’s side Recaro seat isn’t installed but is included, and will need re-stitching. I have my suspicions that the interior is quite water-logged, as it looks like a thin film of mold permeates the surfaces (or it has at least been left outside with the windows down for some time.)

That could also explain the awful-looking rust in the floors, but this is Florida and this is an economy-minded Japanese import built by an obscure manufacturer that was likely to rust before it resided in a humid, hurricane-prone climate. I suspect the seller will soon realize no one is throwing a $1,000 bid at this thing, but for $500 you could justify rescuing this rarely-seen competitor to the original GTI.

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Comments

  1. Gunner

    I bought one of these brand new in 93. I believe it was the last year for the GT. It was a fun and nimble car. It was Ocean Ice Blue. It sure was pretty, but it had issues with the synchronization on the manual transmission. Even though I had the dealer look at it several times, it was never quite right. I traded it off, but I miss it. I honestly never saw another one. They are indeed few and far between.

    1+
  2. Jeffro

    Would be a fun engine to hook up behind a VW Bug. KEP makes an adapter plate for it.

    1+
  3. XMA0891

    They were hard-won, but I wrung just under 197,000 miles out of my Suzuki before I reluctantly gave up on it. I tried replacing it with another, but could not locate. Hopefully some dedicated Tuner saves this one.

    0
  4. AMXSTEVE

    junk

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    • Steve R

      As the author suggests $500 is more realistic, but not as a project, it might make a viable parts car at that price point.

      Steve R

      0
  5. whippeteer

    Find Sprint convertible with excellent shell. Move all the components over…

    I test drove one when they were new. I scared the hell out of the salesman as I took it for a test drive. The want was great, but I had an 85# dog to consider so I ended up getting a 626.

    0
    • Miguel

      Did you mean Metro Convertible?

      1+
      • D

        Chevy Sprint was the predecessor to the Geo Metro. Sprint started in 86 or 87 I think, then they were rebadged to Geo Metro

        1+
      • Miguel

        The Sprint started in 1985 and ran to 1988. The Metro took over in 1989 as a Geo, but the Sprint never had a convertible model.

        They did have a Turbo model that was a kick to drive.

        0
      • Nrg8

        Uh no. In Canada you could have a Sprint and Firefly in a convertible. Just a rebadge to bring in quick 10000 sales to a crappy generation at dealerships

        0
      • whippeteer

        Yep

        0
      • Miguel

        Since this car is in the US I thought we were talking about the US market.

        0
  6. jw454

    A friend had one of these that was a three cylinder and nearly new at the time. While moving to Georgia from Ohio, he had it loaded with household goods. Heading south on I-75 he barley made it over Jellico mountain entering Tennessee. He had to move onto the shoulder of the road and could only make about 40 mph. After hearing that story I stayed away from these and their GM badged cousins. I may have passed up what looked like good deals over the years but, I had to consider that being an old fat man, I didn’t want to be stuck on the side of the road.
    The up side was that it got tremendous fuel mileage.

    0
    • carbuzzard Member

      I doubt that car was the GT with the turbo engine. And unless your friend was moving his anvil collection, he shouldn’t have been slowed down by the grade on an Interstate even going through the mountains.

      0
      • Mark-A

        Sounds like a Charade GTti with 3cyl & Turbo 99hp from 1ltr & <1800lbs

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    • whippeteer

      Same body shell, way different mechanicals. The GTI/GT was a 4 cylinder rocket car. 100 HP if I recall correctly. Nearly double the horsepower in the same car.

      0
  7. Superdessucke

    Agree it’s cool but oof. It would cost a fortune to bring this back, if you even could. All those fading and deteriorating plastics on the inside would be be especially difficult, unless you were very good with a 3D printer.

    0
    • whippeteer

      I have a friend with a 3D printer that he likes to play with…

      1+
  8. Miguel

    Is there a cover on the dash and steering wheel or am I seeing things?

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    • grant

      I think it’s either mold or sun damage? This thing is wasted.

      1+
    • Superdessucke

      Yea, there’s bumps all over those items. Weird. Never saw that kind of decay before in a car.

      0
  9. AMCFAN

    I always had respect for the GEO Metro as it was on the lowest part of the GM dealer food chain. Often someone with credit issues who could barley afford a new bicycle could own one. What seemed like a throwaway car to most it didn’t take too long that to both thrifty and savvy owners to figure out the little car offered the best fuel economy of any gas powered vehicle. Could cruise 70 mph on the highway. An XFI 50 MPG No matter how poorly the little car was treated most lasted nearly 300K miles with minimal care. If you didn’t own one don’t call it junk. Despite the condition I believe it deserves a second chance.

    3+
    • Scotty Gilbertson Scotty Gilbertson Staff

      Amen, brother – I agree 100%.

      0
  10. Michael

    Back when the Metro Convertible and this GTI came out, I rushed to the Suzuki dealer expecting news of the forthcoming GTI convertible. Disappointment. But I too always thought it would be fun to combine these two sisters: the Bad girl and the Debutante. Here are all the important parts, and the lil’ Metro Convertibles are plentiful. If someone does this, please share pictures and details.

    0
  11. Miguel

    Imagine the body flex on that car.

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  12. That Guy

    I have a ‘92 Swift GT and a ‘96 Metro 3-cylinder. I love them both. The Swift is seriously quick and nimble; I’ve done a couple of track weekends with it and it surprised the heck out of a lot of people. The Metro isn’t quick but is still nimble and fun, and in 176,000 miles and 20 years I think I’ve spent less than $3K on repairs and maintenance. It’s a far better car than it needed to be.

    0
  13. ACZ

    Robert Prosky in Christine…….he’s polishing a turd.

    0

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