Tiny 4X4 Barn Find: 1972 Suzuki J20

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We’ve featured a version of the small Suzuki off roader before, but this one is exceptionally solid and has the benefit of what looks like a genuine 18,000 miles. It’s located in Paradise, Michigan and is listed here on craigslist for $5,000 or as the ad says, “have a look and make an offer.”

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From everything I can tell, rust is the most critical thing about picking out a good one of these tough little vehicles. You can find out more detailed information here, but basically the J20 is a further development of the J10. I was struck by the trailer hitch in this picture; I’m wondering what exactly you could tow with something this small, especially given the braking ability of the tiny four-wheel drum brakes.

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The inside looks as solid as the outside, although ingress must be a little difficult with those side bar bracings in place. At least there’s a convenient handle on each one of them. The soft doors appear usable although it looks like the windows may need to be replaced. I’m guessing that could be done by a competent convertible top shop. You sure don’t have to worry about dirtying up any carpet in this vehicle!

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Moving to the underhood area, you can see the two-stroke, two-cylinder engine. Various sources quote between 36 and 40 horsepower, so don’t take on many cars in a drag race! It’s said to have run four years ago, but I’m sure you will need to do some judicious system cleaning and maintenance before putting this one back on the road (or off-road!).

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The underside looks as solid as the rest of the vehicle, with surface rust but nothing looking serious. I would plan on replacing the original (!) Bridgestone tires, although the unused spare might be worth keeping for the “wow factor.” It will need a new vinyl top, but if it were mine, I think this would be a sunny-day toy only. We have a 4×4 playground not that far from home; this would be a great vehicle to take there for a fun day!

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Comments

  1. RayT Member

    I’ve driven two or three Samurais, never one of the two-cylinder J-models. Even with the extra two pots, the Suzuki was desperately slow, rode poorly, and was absolutely no fun to drive. That said, it wasn’t bad off-road (wouldn’t take it on the Rubicon Trail!) or for extremely short urban runs. And it was fairly cheap, which is why a lot of them wound up being towed around by motorhomes.

    I was going to say $5K strikes me as a bit much — just because a vehicle’s rare doesn’t mean it’s desirable — but I saw the line in the ad claiming “not much rust for a Michigan car.” I’d start the bidding at $0 and work up.

    • grant

      Actually, the Samurai while terrible on the road, was quite capable off. You would have no issue on the Rubicon, properly set up and with a reasonable driver.

    • toolbox

      Ray,

      This is located in Northern Mi and they use salt sparingly in winter, mostly left over stamp sand from the mines. It is in a 1 light town near some great outdoors activities. That vehicle looks super solid for being from anywhere.

  2. Chris

    The door bars are removable. I used to service these as a young apprentice.
    These were oil injected 2 strokes, so we’d always check the flow rate each service.

    Like 1
  3. Bobsmyuncle

    Use a marina for the top it’ll be way cheaper.

  4. Paul B

    I too have driven the Samurai — in the Virgin Islands. Truly one of the most awful-driving vehicles I’ve ever operated, even worse than the Subaru 360. Terrible steering and brakes, and the one I was driving was quite new. Very high-effort vehicle for something so small. However, a two-stroke J-model. Hmmm … I actually want to give it a try! But won’t. Good luck to the eventual buyer!

  5. MeToo

    A friend of mine bought one of these in 72 or 73 in Minot ND (we were in the AF). Very net for running around, quite nimble, and a real attention getter. But certainly not good for long distance travel. He drove his home to Ohio. He described the trip as “hell”. LOL

    Like 1
  6. JamestowMike

    It looks like a baby Jeep! The grille, headlights and body shape look very similar to the Jeep!

  7. gunningbar

    I think i see plenty of rust starting… not sure.

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