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Two-Stroke 4×4: 1972 Suzuki LJ20

The Toyota Land Cruiser gets a lot of love in the vintage truck community, often propped up as the ultimate old-school SUV. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with those claims, as it is a beast off-road and a smart investment given the steady valuations. But there’s a little known alternative, and it’s arguably more charming than the venerable Toyota: the Suzuki LJ20, such as the example listed here on craigslist as a recent barn find with a rare “tin top” for $8,200.

The LJ20 can be seen as a precursor to the Suzuki Samurai, which was obviously a scrappy 80s rock-hopper. Surprisingly capable off-road, it served as a reminder that a plucky little company like Suzuki actually knew a thing or do about building rigs that could go off-road, and the LJ20 was its first significant foray into the space. This one is incredibly solid condition and comes with the rare hard roof option, as many were sold with a soft top and doors.

Controls were laughably simple and the controls as basic as it gets. I have a soft top LJ20 for sale on my friend’s property in north Georgia but it’s in fairly rough condition after years of sitting outside, exposed to the elements; however, one quality it shares with this barn find survivor is the bare-bones configuration. While I’m sure finding spare parts for one of these is a challenge (and then some), I’m guessing the total number of parts needed in fairly low given this is basically a go-cart on stilts.

The liquid-cooled two stroke, two cylinder engine is good for about 28 horsepower which can achieve a max speed of 50 miles per hour. This is not a car you buy for regular road use, which is always my struggle with these early off-roaders: where on Earth do you use it? If you have a cottage near the beach in a quaint seaside town in Maine, sure – grab an LJ20. But if you live anywhere that requires maintaining sustained highway speeds, an FJ40 may be a better choice for a vintage SUV.


  1. Mark

    Used by farmers before quadbikes & Canams came along. Heaps were sold in Australia. Completely different class of vehicle to a Landcruiser.

    Like 5
    • SirRaoulDuke

      Yeah, I was just thinking this would be cool to drive around a farm or ranch, just to do something different.

      Like 3
  2. Scrapyard John

    This is the first one of these I’ve seen. A buddy of mine had a Samurai back in the late 90’s that he drove all over the place while he was in the army. Nashville to Tupelo, MS for one – must’ve been a long ride, but he was in his early 20’s and in the army so I guess he could handle it. This rig sounds like it’d be better suited to off road only, or maybe you could drive it on campus or something if you were in college. Kind of similar to a really old truck in that regard – can’t keep up with modern traffic. I wonder what the top (reasonably safe) speed of a more modern Samurai is?

    Like 2
    • Stan Part

      I had a Samurai around the same time your friend did and drove it every day to school and back. Can’t really say what the top speed was, but I had no trouble keeping up with city highway traffic back then. I’d regularly drive it at 70-75mph.

      Like 2
  3. Terrry

    Suzuki also came out with the “Brute”, another 4×4 forerunner to the Samurai.

    Like 1
  4. scott m

    Had a Suzuki 250 motorcycle 2 stroke, when that thing ran out of oil it stopped. Period. Happened in the middle of the Alameda tube, a tunnel under the estuary from Alameda to Oakland Ca. The Tunnel crew emergency truck got behind me as I was pushing it uphill towards Oakland (this is while it was still two way, before the second tunnel), and would blow its horn anytime I slowed down! Thought I was going to have a heart attack! Apparently I made it out alive and now +/- 50 some odd years ago…. LOL! Also, my parents had a little Suzuki Sedan (of unknown vintage) that they put a lot of miles on. Thanks for the article!

    Like 4
  5. The Truth

    I find it funny thst he says the tin tops are rare, yet I’ve seen 5 tin tops and only 1 soft. The soft top was a factory right drive as well, while the tin tops were lefthand drive.

    Like 1
  6. justpaul

    Having never seen one in real life, it’s difficult to judge dimensions, but I’d think there’s enough room under that hood for something with a bit more power and an easier parts supply chain. Once you tackle that and suspension bushings, it should be good for another 40 50 years.

    Like 2
  7. James

    Look up Matt’s Offroad Recovery on Youtube. There’s a guy named Ed on there that used one on mining roads out in the middle of nowhere California, has a stake out there. It fell down a hill and sat there for what, 40 some odd years? They found it, yanked it out and restored it, swapped in a later Samurai or Geo 4 cylinder. Neat build, check it out!

    Like 2
  8. Timothy Vose

    Perfect for the grandkids to ride around in the backyard!

    Like 1
  9. Chris Londish Member

    These were much loved by station owners as shooters buggies and general workhorses because of their weight, when the four stroke version was released they really got popular in Australia my sister had a LWB model soft top but a hardtop came out not long after

    Like 1
  10. Don LaFaver

    I was a Salesman at a Ford dealership in 1971 when the owners bought about a falf dozen of the things. The canvas tops were air cooled engines while the “tin tops” were water cooled. We priced them at $1395.00 with no takers at first. We then gave one a way at a drawing and the winner wanted to take cash instead. I once backed a pickup up to a curb and was able to drive one into the bed with no assistance! We finally sold them all.

    Like 0

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