Jimny Barn Find: 1972 Suzuki LJ20

It’s easier to buy a loaf of bread rather than to make your own. That’s sort of what Suzuki had in mind when it wanted a 4×4 and purchased an existing company, Hope Motor Co., which had come out with a small 4WD vehicle but couldn’t get traction, so to speak. This 1972 Suzuki LJ20 Jimny is listed here on eBay in Saltillo, Mississippi. The current bid price is $1,500 and there is no reserve.

This LJ20 is an offspring of that little vehicle, the HopeStar ON360. The 360 portion of the name refers to the engine size and tells us that these vehicles were designated as Kei Cars to gain certain tax and insurance advantages in Japan at the time. The Suzuki LJ10 was on the market in 1970 as an air-cooled two-stroke twin-cylinder and in 1972 the water-cooled LJ20 was available.

They’re pretty capable 4x4s with a nice, small size for getting down the trails but they aren’t much for highway use with a white-knuckle 40 or 50 mph being about all there was for a top-end speed. By 1975, there was an LJ50 with a 539cc three-cylinder engine which doesn’t seem like much of a bump in power but it was. Last in the series was the LJ80 with an 800cc four-stroke four-cylinder engine that must have seemed like a rocket at the time compared to the early models.

The seller says that this Jimny was in their family almost from new and that the current owner’s dad drove it to school every day. That’s just cool. It has been in storage inside for over 20 years and it’s basically all original but it needs work in order to be a reliable driver again. The Jimny is rear-wheel-drive and the driver can put it in four-wheel-drive with the shift lever behind the 4-speed stick seen in the photo above.

The engine is the aforementioned 359 cc two-stroke, water-cooled twin-cylinder which had 28 horsepower. It looks like it needs a little help and, unfortunately, it isn’t currently in running condition and the brakes aren’t working. This would be a fun little project for someone who isn’t looking for a monster off-road vehicle. Have any of you owned a Suzuki LJ20?

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Comments

  1. alphasud Member

    It would be fun to do a snowmobile engine swap. Still have your 2 stroke but with over 100 hp. It would be a hoot.

    Like 7
  2. Mr.BZ

    This would be a cool project. I love 2 strokes, having owned 3 and I like alphasud’s idea above but wonder if a 4 stroke motorcycle (or small tractor) engine would be better for much-needed off road torque. When you are off road, there is a huge advantage at times with a smaller vehicle like this one.

    Like 4
  3. Lat Adkins

    I owned a 1976 soft top Jimney when I was stationed in Japan in the early 90’s. I bought it from an old Japanese fella for Y350000, about $350.00 US. Right hand drive with snow tires in the back and NDT’s in the front. That thing would climb a telephone pole.

    Like 3
    • Carlos

      Hi God bless you this is Carlos that you spoke to last time about your 1979 corolla is it for sale please call me at 4135314520

  4. Pat

    I had one of these in 1973 as my first car. Dangerous for a kid. We rolled it several times without trying. It was easy to right with just a couple of football guys. I drove it for about 2 years before I got a real car. I still remember the putt-putt of the 2 stroke and think of it when I hear a dirt bike these days. My family kept it until just 4 years ago when my stepdad died. We sold it for $500.

  5. Car Nut Tacoma

    Sweet looking Suzuki. I’ve heard of the Suzuki Jimny. But I’ve never seen one in person. We didn’t get the Jimny until the 1980s, when it was renamed the “Samurai”.

  6. Erik

    Precursor to the Suzuki Samurai (and later the less rollover prone Geo Tracker)? This Suzuki is very similar to today’s Mahindra Roxor (which sadly is not street legal and is just as pricey as any SXS these days).

    Many of us recall the late 1980s/early 1990s when the market had plenty of pickings for simple Jeeps or Jeep-like vehicles from many different manufacturers.

    Back in 1990 I wanted a Samurai but instead went with an Isuzu Amigo with 5 speed, roll down windows, and vinyl floor covering. Bought it brand new for $13k if I recall. Loved that vehicle, put well over 100k on it delivering pizza to pay my way through college. Met my wife in that Amigo and would love to say I still had it today but like a fool although the Amigo still had a lot of life left in it in 1994 I sold it to some teenager (somebody told me he totaled it not long after) so I could buy a Jeep Cherokee Limited since I was by then a “working professional” and felt a need to join the newly emerging at that time “SUV crowd” that a few years later took over the car world. Sold that Cherokee in 1998 after some transmission problems and after buying our first house so I bought a standard cab Tacoma with 5 speed, roll down windows, and vinyl floor covering. Bought it brand new for $12k if I recall correctly. Put 150k on that Tacoma and it still had a lot of life left when I sold it when children came along. Would love to still have that Tacoma today for running to lumber yard or to get a load of mulch.

    To take a page from ” Why can’t one buy a stripped down single cab affordable pickup these days?” book, the same can be said for stripped down basic Jeep like vehicles like Jeeps once were and like the Samurai and Amigo, etc..

    Unfortunately those of us that want a simple occasional use vehicle (like aforementioned stripped down configurations of a truck or Jeep like vehicle) are “out voted” by the daily driver crowd (and to some extent “wannabe” or “poser” crowd) that buys high-profit highly-optioned trucks and Jeeps that also MSRP in the $30k-$70k or much higher range.

    Oh to have my Amigo and Tacoma back…

    Like 3
  7. Ralph

    These things are tiny, you really don’t get the scale when you see it without any people or other cars around. They were sold through equipment dealers at first before Suzuki had established any connections with car dealers.

  8. James Burns

    Cool little rigs. I love my 1980 LJ80V. I do have to agree, if your not strictly off road only the 4:55 differentials make it rather slow on paves roads. I’m opting to swap out to the SJ410 differentials at 4:10 and a 5 speed trans and see how that fares on drivability.
    Tried to paste a picture of my rig but couldn’t figure it out.

  9. Bill McCoskey

    One of my customers drove a couple of these as everyday cars. He would drive one until it needed parts from Japan, and drive the other one while he waited on parts.

    At the time I had a DKW Munga [the odd looking “jeep” used by the West German army]. The Munga was full-time 4 wheel drive, 3 cylinder 2 stroke. It too was one of those early light weight 4 wheel drive vehicles that were extremely unstable at speeds over 40mph.

    My customer once challenged me to a race, his Suzuki and my Munga. The challenge was to see which car could be the fastest to 60MPH. Well neither vehicle won the race, both were unable to reach 60MPH! That said, the Munga had more power and pulled away quickly on the start. so it was declared the winner.

    I will never forget trying with all the effort I could muster, to keep the Munga going straight after about 35 MPH. Just letting go of the steering wheel with my right hand to shift the gearbox, meant the steering pulled right, then left, as I pushed the clutch to shift. Yeah, it was that sensitive. And as I recall it only had 18,000 miles on it, and the steering & suspension was within factory specs.

  10. Doug

    Back in the early 80’s, I owned an LJ10. The guy I bought it from delivered it in the back of his GMC squarebody 3/4 ton. After removing the truck’s tailgate, the centerline of the rear axle was one inch forward of the back of the truck bed. It took a few minutes to get used to the righthand drive, and with a gear ratio of 6.12:1 , it was redlined at about 44mph. I did some exploring in the area north of Reno with it, and it always got me home. One spring I went to start it, and it just wouldn’t catch.and run. It seems that the crankshaft seals were leaking, and there was not enough compression.
    I called US Suzuki, and was told they no longer had availability on those seals. I had thought of putting a Honda 500/650 V twin engine into it, using the shaft drive and clutch from the motorcycle to turn the input shaft from the Suzuki, which would have given a 5 speed running a 4 speed through a 2 speed transfer case. I was never able to find one of those engines that survived a crash, because the cylinder and head were usually damaged on the side the bike went down on. I eventually sold it to a hunter who had an LJ10 that was too rusted to repair, but ran well.

    Like 1
  11. chrlsful

    these (all Jimneys) are incredibly popular w/the off rd crowd. They really are successful. Like the Toy. FJ – over 45, 50 MPH…no. But w/the gearing (& those that R 2 stroke) incredible tq. The 3 cyl 2 stroke bikes (250 – 750/900) were made by all the Japanese for a reason (tq again) and lawn’n garden equip is 2 stroke for the same reason (you CAN get 4 stroke).
    For me, smaller is better on 4WD ‘personal” vehicles. U can get back further, thru small spaces, on lighter trails, etc. Nuttin wrong wid dese !

  12. Ahmed Al-Khalifa

    Hi. I would like to buy this Suzuki, please let me know your asking price

  13. Ahmed Al-Khalifa

    Hello, how can i place a bid? Or direct purchase as I want to buy this Suzuki

  14. Scotty Gilbertson Staff

    Auction update: this Suzuki sold for $3,315.99.

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