Suzuki Jimny

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Suzuki Jimny

 

The Suzuki Jimny is the true survivalist’s 4X4.

It’s the 4WD for the guy who delights in tooling around off road and challenging himself and his machine: “Can we get there? Can we get back? Let’s give it a go!” It’s for the man who appreciates simplicity of design targeted to a clear purpose: Highest capability and lowest running cost. It’s for the hunter, the farmer, the forest man, and for you and me when we just want to get away from everybody else.

But when you start to look for a good used Jimny from Japan you find that there are so many models that it’s difficult to decide what’s best for you. So….

Available Models

Let’s look here at the various available models of the Suzuki Jimny; and a nicer bunch of highly capable and cheap to run small off-road cars you’ll never meet. Round ’em up, Boys!

Now, having said “available” we’ve got to point out right from the start that some are more available than others, and some are downright rare collector’s items now (summer of 2020). But the good thing is that the Jimnys that are more readily available for direct export from Japan are, overall, the best models and are the least expensive units to buy second hand (at either the Japanese used car auctions or at the used car dealers that we buy from here in Japan). So, unless you are focused exclusively on one of the super-rare collectible units, don’t cry for what “might have been,” and just sink your teeth into a good, clean, cheap used Jimny that will happily take you out to the back of beyond and, more importantly, get you back to civilization again.

And if you’re one of those guys that would rather just stay out there, far and away from civilization, with its yearly crop of new regulations, rules, fines and demands, then the Suzuki Jimny is the perfect off-road car to stay out there with you, since a Jimny needs little maintenance, and just sips its fuel (rather than guzzling it, as most off-road iron unfortunately does). Yep, you can stay out in the bush for a long time in a Jimny, that’s for sure.

So, here we go: “Available Models:”

Hopestar ON360

Jimny Available Models PHOTO 1 The pre-Jimny Jimny

ON360 Specifications:

  • Length: 2,995mm Width: 1,295mm Height: 1,670mm
  • Wheelbase: 1,930mm
  • Track: front 1,090mm / rear 1,100mm
  • Weight: 600kg
  • Body Style: Two-seat, open (full canvas)
  • Chassis: Ladder frame
  • Engine: 360cc 2-cyl, air-cooled, two-stroke (Power: 21ps at 5,500rpm. Torque: 3.2kg/m at 3,500rpm)
  • Transmission: 4-speed manual
  • Power (ps) to weight (kg) ratio: 28.6:1
  • Torque (kg/m) to weight (kg): 187.5:1

Not really a Jimny and not really available either. Hope Motors had their little 4WD in production only from January to October of 1968 and they made about fifteen or sixteen units of this very simple machine before throwing in the towel and calling it a day. There’s a sweet old video of an ON360 on Youtube here.

But Hope Motors was on to something though, with this super-light, super-cheap, super-tough, super-simple, and super-capable 4WD idea. The thing was so simple that it didn’t even have liquid cooling, just cooling fins on the (two!) cylinders and some metal air ducting; rather like the old Volkswagens, but even simpler. And, by putting a cushion over each of the rear wheel wells in the cargo area and having two passengers facing each other, you could convert the little ON360 into a four seater (at the expense of safety and your passengers’ gluteus maximus).

We talk more about the early history of the Jimny on our Japan Car Direct Blog here.

Jimny LJ10

Jimny Available Models PHOTO 2 Jimny LJ10 publicity photo

LJ10 Specifications:

  • Length: 2,995mm Width: 1,295mm Height: 1,670mm
  • Wheelbase: 1,930mm
  • Track: front 1,090mm / rear 1,100mm
  • Weight: 600kg
  • Body Style: Three-seat, open (full canvas)
  • Chassis: Ladder frame
  • Engine: 360cc 2-cyl, air-cooled, two-stroke (Power: 25ps at 6,000rpm. Torque: 3.4kg/m at 5,000rpm)
  • Transmission: 4-speed manual
  • Power (ps) to weight (kg) ratio: 24:1
  • Torque (kg/m) to weight (kg): 176.5:1

Hopestar actually offered the design other makers before Suzuki took the concept on board to produce the LJ10, which is the first “real” Jimny. Production started in April of 1970 and ended in May of 1972. I don’t have exact production figures but, based on the cumulative tables, I’d guess that at least 12,000 units were made. These LJ10 Jimnys do come up for sale from time to time in Japan, so they could, at a push, be considered “available for export from Japan,” but we don’t recommend that you buy one because of parts availability issues, problems with the air-cooled engine overheating in hard/hot/high service, and because these little guys are just so underpowered on road that you’re taking your life in your hands on today’s roads. (But, hey, if you’re really into these cars for heritage purposes, or just sheer delight, and if that’s your joy, then go gang busters and seek your joy, at Japan Car Direct we’ll even help you to find a nice unit so you can do a self import from Japan. If that’s what you want.)

By the way, if you noted in the spec table above that the LJ10 is a three-seater and you thought, “huh?” the reason for this is that you got one rear seat (facing forward, thankfully) and one spare tire back there in the cargo area. Someone got replaced by a tire, I guess.

Here’s a link to a test drive of a lovely little LJ10 down in Kyoto. Sweet sound!

Looking at Jimny Specs

Before we go any further in our listing of available models of the Suzuki Jimny, let’s take a moment to consider what the spec tables are telling us about these vehicles, because what you find right at the start are themes that have stayed with the Jimny right up to today and that will help you to see why Jimnys are so great and will also help you decide if a Jimny is the 4WD car for you, and, if so, which Jimny is right for you.

Looking at the tables, we see that these cars are small, very small for full-on 4WD machines. This is a definite plus for tight spots off road (and even around town, actually; tight parking spot, anyone? No problem for a Jimny), but it is a bit of a drawback in terms of luggage capacity (but there’s always the roof rack option). Pluses and minuses.

The wheelbase is short, so that sort of “hippity hop” effect on a long highway trip is noticeable in a Jimny, however, the short wheelbase keeps you from getting the chassis hung up on a rock or a log out in the middle of nowhere. Pluses and minuses.

The chassis is a ladder frame construction which gives greater strength and static rigidity, which is what you want is a vehicle that is going to spend a lot of time in hard off-road conditions, but the ladder frame may not be the best option to get the sort of dynamic rigidity that you want for high speed cornering on road. Pluses and minuses. But, then again, these are not sports cars and we don’t expect to be doing any high speed cornering in a Class One 4WD now, do we?

And as we go along in our look at the Jimny models available for export from Japan, keep an eye on the power to weight and torque to weight question; you’ll see regular improvement as the years go by. With the little LJ10, the engine has to push 24kg of car with each unit of horse power the engine puts out (in Japan we use the German PS, Pferdestärke, which is just under one English / American hp, horse power). And each unit of torque had to get 176.5kg shifted.

(This is one way of looking at these ratios and it helps me to get my head around the concepts of power and torque to weight. But, however you think about it, an LJ10 was not a powerful car. Off road the super low gearing saved your ass, but on road, you were toast.)

OK, back to the models:

Jimny LJ20

Jimny Available Models PHOTO 3 LJ20 for sale in Japan Car Direct

LJ20 Specifications:

  • Length: 2,995mm Width: 1,295mm Height: 1,615mm
  • Wheelbase: 1,930mm
  • Track: front 1,090mm / rear 1,100mm
  • Weight: 660kg
  • Body Style: Four-seat, open (full canvas), or van (full steel)
  • Chassis: Ladder frame
  • Engine: 360cc 2-cyl, liquid-cooled, two-stroke (Power: 28ps at 5,500rpm. Torque: 3.8kg/m at 5,000rpm)
  • Transmission: 4-speed manual
  • Power (ps) to weight (kg) ratio: 23.6:1
  • Torque (kg/m) to weight (kg): 173.7:1

The LJ20 (in production from May of 1972 to April of 1976) came with liquid cooling for the little two-cylinder powerplant. This helped with the hard/hot/high service overheat problem, although it didn’t do much for overall power. The idea of a 360cc two pot was simply reaching the end of reasonably possible development.

Suzuki, by hanging the spare wheel out the back, also gave you a fourth seat now in the cargo area, with two passengers seated on the wheel wells, facing each other. How romantic! Hard on the butt, though, and I speak from experience since this was the layout in my SJ10, which is coming up next.

Are these LJ20 Jimnys available in Japan now for export? Sure, they do come up for sale and they are as cute and as capable off road as they ever were. Just love them! But since key engine rebuild parts are no longer easily available, and since they are terribly (dangerously) slow on road, we don’t recommend that you buy one. But, like we said above with the LJ10, if you really want one for collecting purposes or whatever, Japan Car Direct will help you find a Jimny LJ20 to export back home. (Note for folks in Australia and the USA who want to import one of these super early Jimnys: Unless I’m far wrong, Suzuki did export these cars down to Oz as the Suzuki Stockman, and, in America, International Equipment Company imported them as the Suzuki Brute. Collectors there may be able to tell you about parts support in Australia or the USA. If the support is there, the cars are here in Japan and we can find you a nice one, although it may take time.)

And are you watching the spec tables? Not a lot of change, eh? But if you’re a serious off-roader, I’m sure you saw that the weight went up. This will be a long term trend in our later Jimny models.

Jimny SJ10

Jimny Available Models PHOTO 4 Jimny SJ10 import from Japan.

SJ10 Specifications:

  • Length: 3,170mm Width: 1,295mm Height: 1,685mm
  • Wheelbase: 1,930mm
  • Track: front 1,190mm / rear 1,200mm
  • Weight: 680kg
  • Body Style: Four-seat, open (full canvas), or van (full steel), half canvas (with steel doors)
  • Chassis: Ladder frame
  • Engine: 550cc 3-cyl, liquid-cooled, two-stroke (Power: 26ps at 4,500rpm. Torque: 5.3kg/m at 3,000rpm)
  • Transmission: 4-speed manual
  • Power (ps) to weight (kg) ratio: 26:1
  • Torque (kg/m) to weight (kg): 128.3:1

This is where I, your faithful Japan Car Direct Jimny fan and nut, come in. The two SJ10 Jimnys I owned were two of the happiest second hand car purchases I ever made in Japan.

Although bit heavier and longer than the LJ20 and with a bit less horse power (but a lot more torque, and with both power and torque coming in much lower in the rev range), the SJ10 Jimny is simply waaaaaay better. I’ve had the full steel and full canvas body types, and both were excellent. Certainly, in the deep mountain forest here in Japan, the full canvas guy, with roof and doors all off, gave me much better visibility in the thick bush, but he also gave me no protection against the weather (we, me and three friends, all got rained on one time coming back from an off road day) or against the Japanese Giant Hornets, of which I am terrified, so I kept the full steel van-bodied SJ10 longer in the end.

And that was the car we power tuned, too. Yes, two stroke power tuning is an option with the SJ10 (and the SJ30) and it makes these Jimnys much better around town. But it’s off road where the SJ10 truly, truly shines and we can recommend these cars to serious off roaders in all the countries that we usually export used vehicles from Japan to: the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the UK, Europe, and other countries as well. In production from April of 1976 to May of 1981, there are many good second hand SJ10 Jimnys available in Japan for you to export yourself, and Japan Car Direct will help you do it. We’ll find you a good unit at the Japanese used car auctions or at the Japanese used car dealers that we work with and will do the bidding / purchase for you, we’ll prepare the documentation and arrange the shipping and the right SJ10 can be yours. (How the system of direct used car self import works is outlined on our site here.)

I totally recommend, from extensive personal experience (driving, owning, bashing-around-off-road experience) the Suzuki Jimny SJ10.

Have a look at this video here of what an SJ10 can do. Look at the bad ground the guys get into in their two-stroke Jimny and how they get out of it. Takes them a bit a work, but that’s what SJ10s are all about: They WILL get you out of the pit.

You can read more about enjoying these cars off road on our Blog here.

Now the next Jimny I recommend is a bit of a secret, a bit of a “dream-on” car, and here it is, the

Jimny SJ20

Jimny Available Models PHOTO 5 Jimny SJ20 publicity Photo Direct from Japan

SJ20 Specifications:

  • Length: 3,170mm Width: 1,395mm Height: 1,845mm
  • Wheelbase: 1,930mm
  • Track: front 1,200mm / rear 1,210mm
  • Weight: 735kg
  • Body Style: Four-seat, open (full canvas), or van (full steel), half canvas (with steel doors)
  • Chassis: Ladder frame
  • Engine: 800cc 4-cyl, liquid-cooled, four-stroke (Power: 41ps at 5,500rpm. Torque: 6.1kg/m at 3,500rpm)
  • Transmission: 4-speed manual
  • Power (ps) to weight (kg) ratio: 17.9:1
  • Torque (kg/m) to weight (kg): 120:1

One of the discussions that have come up more than once over the years when JCJ (Jimny Club Japan) guys get together is “SJ10 vs SJ20.” Looking at the two vehicles you’ll be tempted to ask “What’s the big issue? They are the same car, for Pete’s sake!” Actually, under the skin, they’re not.

The SJ20 (which was in production from September of 1977 to August of 1982) has an 800cc four-cylinder, four-stroke engine. It’s the first non-kei class Jimny, or as we sometimes say in Japan: the first “white number Jimny.” (Kei class cars have yellow license plates and normal cars have white plates.) Because of the bigger engine the SJ20 weighs more than the 10 but has more power and a different power curve. Which is best? On road the SJ20 wins for cruising, obviously, and around town; off road you do, a bit, feel the weight of the heavier engine up front, but the 20 is, like the 10, super competent off road. I come down on the side of the SJ10 for pure off road and I know a couple of SJ20 owners who agree, “but only just,” they said. But they’ll still never let their SJ20s go which brings us to availability for export from Japan: Forget it. These cars were always rare here (I think that about, what, 1,500 or so were ever made, and many went overseas) and the guys that have them just don’t sell them, so an SJ20 is not really “available.” Sorry, guys.

SJ30

imny Available Models PHOTO 6 Buy used Jimny

SJ30 Specifications:

  • Length: 3,195mm Width: 1,395mm Height: 1,690mm
  • Wheelbase: 2,030mm
  • Track: front 1,190mm / rear 1,200mm
  • Weight: 720kg
  • Body Style: Four-seat, open (full canvas), or van (full steel), half canvas (with steel doors)
  • Chassis: Ladder frame
  • Engine: 550cc 3-cyl, liquid-cooled, two-stroke (Power: 28ps at 4,500rpm. Torque: 5.4kg/m at 2,500rpm)
  • Transmission: 4-speed manual
  • Power (ps) to weight (kg) ratio: 25.7:1
  • Torque (kg/m) to weight (kg): 133:1

The SJ30 is a delightful Jimny! You get the more modern body that we associate with “Jimny” and which runs until 1998 and you still get the great-for-off-road two-stroke engine, now improved to give you a bit more power and torque and, more importantly, to give you that torque at a lower rpm grunt. Off-roaders will know why this counts big time.

The SJ30 was in production from May of 1981 to November of 1987, a good long run and many units were made. And note these years because you’ll see that the two-stroke SJ30 continued in production for two years after its successor, the more modern four-stroke turbo JA71-I came out. The SJ30 was considered top of the pops by the people here in Japan who really needed a serious, small off-road car (forest industry guys, farmers, etc.); they found it so good that they wouldn’t look at the newer Jimny and so Suzuki kept the SJ30 in production for an extra long time to satisfy these customers.

Looking at availability, these SJ30 Jimnys are definitely an “available model.” They come up in good condition and in good numbers and are a definite target car for you if you are thinking of doing a self-import from Japan for a good, very capable, small off-road car. And now may be the time to go for a nice, clean used SJ30 if a two-stroke Jimny is what you have in mind because, until the recent world wide economic slowdown, prices of nice SJ30s were climbing steadily, but now they are softening a bit and the best chance of a good deal on an SJ30 is to start your hunt now.

The white number stable mate of the SJ30 was the:

SJ40

imny Available Models PHOTO 7 Jimny SJ40 rare

SJ40 Specifications:

  • Length: 3,355mm Width: 1,465mm Height: 1,690mm
  • Wheelbase: 2,030mmTrack: front 1,210mm / rear 1,220mm
  • Weight: 840kg
  • Body Style: Four-seat, open (full canvas), or van (full steel), half canvas (with steel doors), pickup
  • Chassis: Ladder frame
  • Engine: 970cc 4-cyl, liquid-cooled, four-stroke (Power: 52ps at 5,000rpm. Torque: 8.2kg/m at 3,500rpm)
  • Transmission: 4-speed manual
  • Power (ps) to weight (kg) ratio: 16.2:1
  • Torque (kg/m) to weight (kg): 102.4:1

Widely sold outside Japan and in production from August of 1982 to November of 1984, the SJ40 was the first well known Jimny, although it was called by a variety of names such as the “Suzuki Samurai” in North America (I remember them coming to Canada), the “SJ410” in a variety of countries, the Indian built version was the Maruti “Gypsy.” Badged as Holden cars, they were sold in Australia as the “Drover,” and in New Zealand they were called the “Farm Worker.” (I guess Suzuki really wanted to make their target market clear in that case.) Again, good, solid off road cars, they were not Kei class in Japan due to the larger engine being over 550cc, but from what I’ve been told they were not much better, if at all, than the later Kei class JA11 with the turbo 660cc and the same body. A fellow I know who had one said: “Ah! I just have to pay more tax for it, but the turbo Kei Jimnys are at least as good.”

These SJ40s don’t come up for sale much in Japan now and, with a nice JA11 being such an excellent vehicle (and having a 5-speed trans whereas the old SJ40 was still a four gear), I would tend to let these cars stay off your list when looking to import your own used Jimny from Japan.

JA71-I

Jimny Available Models PHOTO 8 Nice JA71-I found

JA71-I Specifications:

  • Length: 3,195mm Width: 1,395mm Height: 1,670mm
  • Wheelbase: 2,030mm
  • Track: front 1,190mm / rear 1,200mm
  • Weight: 780kg
  • Body Style: Four-seat, van (full steel), half canvas (with steel doors)
  • Chassis: Ladder frame
  • Engine: 550cc 3-cyl, liquid-cooled, four-stroke turbo (Power: 42ps at 6,000rpm. Torque: 5.9kg/m at 4,000rpm)
  • Transmission: 5-speed manual
  • Power (ps) to weight (kg) ratio: 18.6:1
  • Torque (kg/m) to weight (kg): 132.2:1

With the JA71-I Suzuki goes full modern and we have to say “good-bye” to our beloved and super simple two-stroke engines. They served us well and they are still in service today.

A full open body with canvas doors is no longer an option but you can still get half canvas with steel doors. Good enough for me. And we’ve finally got a proper 5-speed transmission. Very good. But I don’t recommend these cars as your first pick when you want to import a good Kei class Jimny from Japan. Why not? Are JA71-I Jimnys some sort of crapola car? Not at all, it’s just that the Jimnys that come after are better, with more power and a better interior, and, also, there is no real price advantage to importing a JA71-I over a JA71-III or, especially, a JA11.

These cars are available second hand in Japan but I’d just pass on then, that’s all.

JA71-III

Jimny Available Models PHOTO 9 SJ71 Jimny on sale

JA71-III Specifications:

  • Length: 3,195mm Width: 1,395mm Height: 1,670mm
  • Wheelbase: 2,030mm
  • Track: front 1,190mm / rear 1,200mm
  • Weight: 840kg
  • Body Style: Four-seat, van (full steel), half canvas (with steel doors), van with vista type plastic roof
  • Chassis: Ladder frame
  • Engine: 550cc 3-cyl, liquid-cooled, four-stroke intercooled turbo (Power: 52ps at 5,500rpm. Torque: 7.2kg/m at 4,000rpm)
  • Transmission: 5-speed manual
  • Power (ps) to weight (kg) ratio: 16.1:1
  • Torque (kg/m) to weight (kg): 116.7:1

So we’re all still keeping our eyes on the spec tables, right? Good. So you’ll have noticed that weight has gone up a bit again (not so great for off road), but power has gone up across the board and more than enough to improve our power to weight and torque to weight ratios. The JA71-III with its intercooler has a clearly more powerful engine with a slightly better power curve, too. These are good Jimnys and I’ve seen them perform stunningly well off road in competitive events here in Japan. Tough, good cars. Not as good on road as the next Jimny, the JA11, but otherwise a Jimny worth putting on your “import Jimny from Japan list.” Readily available good second hand units are to be found at the Japanese used car auctions and at the used car dealers. The JA71-III, in production from January of 1987 to March of 1990, is definitely an “available model.”

JA11

Jimny Available Models PHOTO 10 Jimny JA11 best from Japan used car

JA11 Specifications:

  • Length: 3,295mm Width: 1,395mm Height: 1,680mm
  • Wheelbase: 2,030mm
  • Track: front 1,190mm / rear 1,200mm
  • Weight: 870kg
  • Body Style: Four-seat, van (full steel), half canvas (with steel doors), van with vista type plastic roof
  • Chassis: Ladder frame
  • Engine: 660cc 3-cyl, liquid-cooled, four-stroke intercooled turbo (Power: 58ps at 5,500rpm. Torque: 8.8kg/m at 3,500rpm)
  • Transmission: 5-speed manual
  • Power (ps) to weight (kg) ratio: 15:1
  • Torque (kg/m) to weight (kg): 100.6:1

The best of all the “available models” due to its high capability, strength, reliability, low running cost, low purchase price, good parts availability, high modification potential, etc., etc. And there are lots of good units available in Japan (like this nice little fellow we exported here) for easy export to the USA and Australia since these JA11s, which were in production from March of 1990 to November of 1995, clear the 25 year rules for those two countries; and, of course, JA11s are old enough for easy import to Canada, the UK, New Zealand, and the EU, too.

The JA11 is what people think of when they think “Jimny.” Mine was a great car off road and around town; not so great on the highway, but certainly serviceable, and we drove once all the way across the country to the Sea of Japan, all on the highway.

If you look at the spec tables you’ll see how similar in terms of dimensions the JA11 is to the JA71-III (it’s 10cm longer, but still with the same wheel base), but the engine is now bigger, with more power, and better low end power delivery; consequently our power to weight and torque to weight figures are looking nicer now, too. We’ve been kind of hinting at it all through this article, but the Jimny JA11 is the car we recommend as your first pick if you want to do a direct import yourself of a used Suzuki Jimny from Japan

I tell you more about my own JA11 here on our Blog. Just scroll down to “My First Jimny in Japan.” And in this video here you’ll see a guy try to cross a river in his JA11, a river I would never have dared to cross, and, when he’s had enough and cooled himself down he just backs the JA11 right out of there!

The next Jimny, the JA12/22, is also worth your consideration.

JA12/22

Jimny Available Models PHOTO 11 Good Jimny

JA12/22 Specifications:

  • Length: 3,295mm Width: 1,395mm Height: 1,680mm
  • Wheelbase: 2,030mm
  • Track: front 1,190mm / rear 1,200mm
  • Weight: (JA12) 920kg (JA22) 890kg
  • Body Style: Four-seat, van (full steel), half canvas (with steel doors),
  • Chassis: Ladder frame
  • Engine: 660cc 3-cyl, liquid-cooled, four-stroke intercooled turbo (Power: (F6A) 64ps at 6,000rpm. Torque: 10kg/m at 4,000rpm. (K6A) 64ps at 6,500, 10.5kg/m at 3,500rpm
  • Transmission: 5-speed manual (automatic optional)
  • Power (ps) to weight (kg) ratio for JA12: 14.4:1
  • Torque (kg/m) to weight (kg) for JA12: 92:1
  • Power (ps) to weight (kg) ratio for JA22: 13.9:1
  • Torque (kg/m) to weight (kg) for JA22: 84.8:1

The JA12/22 is very similar to the JA11. The body is restyled somewhat and the interior is updated, but you put them side by side and they are clearly brothers. Under the skin there are more significant differences, though: Suspension is now coil springs, leaf no longer, guys; but don’t cry you serious off roaders, I’ve seen these cars perform very well in the muck, crap, and rock that we all love so much, and I can say from my own driving experience that, on road, the 12/22 rides and corners a bit better.

From the spec tables you’ll see the other major difference: engine options and power outputs. The JA12 has the legendary iron block F6A engine, like you’ll find in the JA11, although now in a higher state of tune. The JA22 has the newer K6A DOHC four-valve aluminum block unit. This guy uses a timing chain rather than a timing belt; a nice little plus. The K6A feels a bit racier and more free revving than the F6A and boost seems to come on more smoothly, but these are just my driving impressions and the difference was not really very marked.

I’ve enjoyed playing around in my sister-in-law’s JA12 and the only negatives that I noticed were 1), the rear seats are now “full seats,” not the jump seats you’ve been getting in all your Jimnys until now but, because the rear passenger foot wells are still so small, the car is still really a 2+2. And 2), the bigger seats, when folded away, take up a bit more of your cargo space; not so great when load space is already at a premium (as it is in all of our Jimnys). And 3), those seats, when fully extended in the open position, lock on to a metal hook in the center of the load bay toward the rear. I find that this hook does get in the way when I want to load bigger boxes or plastic carry tubs into the car. It’s a niggling irritation and shows how the 12/22 was a bit of a stop gap design. The JA12/22 was in production from November of 1995 to October of 1998, and there are many good second hand units available in Japan these days if you have it in mind to buy a good used Jimny from Japan.

Now, my sister-in-law’s Jimny is a perfect example of why you want to buy and import a used Jimny direct from Japan yourself when you are looking for a good value, cheap, used off-road car: Her car is a poser car. She’s got new paint on it, jacked up 1.5 inches with a lift kit, big mudders, fancy shocks….and she never takes the car off road. Not ever. Total poser. (I hope she’s not reading this.)

But used 4WD cars that have rarely been used off road are what we want when buying second hand and no doubt about it. Most used Suzuki Jimnys in Japan do fall into the category of “second car” (not daily driver), or “poser car.” Good road!

(We talk more about these more modern Jimnys and about the fun of having an old two-stroke Jimny on our Japan Car Direct Blog here.)

The JA12/22 is the last of the “classic bodied” Jimnys that began way back with the SJ30. But before we move on to look a bit at the newer models, let’s quickly look at the non-Kei, the “white-number” Jimnys that are the brothers of the JA71-III, the JA11, and JA12/22. First up is the JA51

JA51

Jimny Available Models PHOTO 12 Jimny JA51

JA51 Specifications:

  • Length: 3,355mm Width: 1,465mm Height: 1,700mm
  • Wheelbase: 2,030mm
  • Track: front 1,210mm / rear 1,220mm
  • Weight: 860kg
  • Body Style: Four-seat, van (full steel), half canvas (with steel doors), van with vista type plastic roof
  • Chassis: Ladder frame
  • Engine: 1,300cc 4-cyl, liquid-cooled, four-stroke (Power: 70ps at 5,500rpm. Torque: 10.7kg/m at 3,500rpm)
  • Transmission: 5-speed manual
  • Power (ps) to weight (kg) ratio: 12.3:1
  • Torque (kg/m) to weight (kg): 80.4:1

The JA51, which looks very much like the JA71-III but lacks a hood scoop for the intercooler air intake, has a 1,300cc non-turbo, four cylinder engine. He’s also just a bit beefier all around: wider, taller, wider track, same wheel base, though.

I’ve never had time in a JA51 so I can’t tell you anything from my personal experience, but I’m quite sure that these cars give you everything you’d expect from a Jimny. Only problem is that, in terms of availability, I find that these cars rarely come up on the second hand market and, when they do come for sale, are rather on the expensive side. If a good one were to fall into your lap, well…go for it…but don’t wait for it. (The production run was from November of 1984 to March of 1987.) I must say, these are handsome cars, though.

JB31

Jimny Available Models PHOTO 13 Jimny Sierra

JB31 Specifications:

  • Length: 3,470mm Width: 1,545mm Height: 1,670mm
  • Wheelbase: 2,030mm
  • Track: front 1,300mm / rear 1,310mm
  • Weight: 970kg
  • Body Style: Four-seat, van (full steel)
  • Chassis: Ladder frame
  • Engine: 1,300cc 4-cyl, liquid-cooled, four-stroke (Power: 70ps at 6,000rpm. Torque: 10.4kg/m at 3,500rpm)
  • Transmission: 5-speed manual
  • Power (ps) to weight (kg) ratio: 13.9:1
  • Torque (kg/m) to weight (kg): 93.3:1

The non-Kei version of the JA11 was the JB31, often called the Jimny Sierra, and it was in production from May of 1993 to November of 1995. These cars are a favorite of serious Jimny modders here in Japan, and they are very potent off-road cars. Availability? Yes, available. Cheap 4WD? No, not cheap. If a good deal on one fell into my lap, what would I do about it? Well, what do you guys think I’d do? If you’ve been reading my other articles on my Jimny experiences, you know what I’d do…and I advise you to do the same. And the same, too, for the JB32……

JB32

Jimny Available Models PHOTO 14 Jimny JB32

JB32 Specifications:

  • Length: 3,510mm Width: 1,545mm Height: 1,670mm
  • Wheelbase: 2,030mm
  • Track: front 1,300mm / rear 1,310mm
  • Weight: 980kg
  • Body Style: Four-seat, van (full steel)
  • Chassis: Ladder frame
  • Engine: 1,300cc 4-cyl, liquid-cooled, four-stroke (Power: 85ps at 6,000rpm. Torque: 10.8kg/m at 3,000rpm)
  • Transmission: 5-speed manual
  • Power (ps) to weight (kg) ratio: 11.5:1
  • Torque (kg/m) to weight (kg): 90.7:1

These Jimnys were in production from November of 1995 to January of 1998. What I said about the JB31 goes also for the JB32, but if you’re watching the spec tables you’ll have seen that, with the JB32, power is up nicely. Only problem with this car (and with the JB31, too) is that weight is also going up. We’re getting close to 1,000kgs here. Hmmmmm…….Well, they’re still light as far as off-road cars go, that’s for sure.

Now, this question of increased weight is where we’d best move on to the last of the Jimnys we’re going to look at in this article: The Kei-class JB23 and its big-engined brothers. (The very newest Jimny, the JB64, is so new that they don’t really come on the radar for guys who want to import a good used, but inexpensive, Jimny from us here in Japan, so we’ll leave them alone for now, and, based on what I’ve heard from a couple of old school, hard core Jimny guys, we might all want to leave the JB64 alone until there are no more of the “good old Jimnys” left and we are forced to “go modern.”

JB23

Jimny Available Models PHOTO 15 Jimny JB23

JB23 Specifications:

  • Length: 3,395mm Width: 1,475mm Height: 1,715mm
  • Wheelbase: 2,250mm
  • Track: front 1,265mm / rear 1,275mm
  • Weight: 980kg
  • Body Style: Four-seat, van (full steel)
  • Chassis: Ladder frame
  • Engine: 660cc 3-cyl, liquid-cooled, four-stroke intercooled turbo (Power: 64ps at 6,500rpm. Torque: 10.8kg/m at 3,500rpm)
  • Transmission: 5-speed manual (automatic optional)
  • Power (ps) to weight (kg) ratio: 15.3:1
  • Torque (kg/m) to weight (kg): 90.7:1

Although it still keeps the good-for-off-road ladder-frame construction, the JB23 and its brothers are thoroughly modern vehicles (for better or for worse). I can’t speak much from personal experience with these Jimnys as I am very much old school and stick with the old Jimnys, but I can say that the JB23 has been a very successful car. Huge numbers were sold and it had, by far, far the longest production run of any Suzuki Jimny: 20 years, from 1998 to 2018. Wow! JB23s are not yet old enough to easily be imported to the USA or Australia, but you can import a good used JB23 to the UK or to Canada or to the EU.

The JB23 is a much more “civilized” vehicle than previous Jimnys and, finally, you’ve got proper foot wells for the rear seat passengers, so the car is really a four-seater. The interior is much more comfortable all round, and the rear seats fold flat for a more useable cargo bay. There are seemingly endless modification options: lift kits, spring and shock kits, power tuning options, crawler turbos, roof racks, larger wheels, you name it. These are strong cars and I’ve seen them bash around very effectively off road at our Jimny Club events. Parts are not, and probably never will be, a problem. The K6A engine is a proven unit.

From the spec tables (and we’re all still looking at our spec tables, aren’t we?), you’ll see that the JB23 now has the external dimensions of the post-October 1998 Kei car regulations, so 10cm longer and 8cm wider. These cars are also a bit heavier than the JA11 or the JA12/22.

To my eye here in Japan, the JB23 has aged well and good used units are very available at quite reasonable prices.

The “white number” brothers of the JB23 are the JB33 and JB43.

JB33 and JB43

Jimny Available Models PHOTO 16 JB33 Jimny

Jimny Available Models PHOTO 17 Jimny JB43

JB33 Specifications:

  • Length: 3,550mm Width: 1,600mm Height: 1,705mm
  • Wheelbase: 2,250mm
  • Track: front 1,355mm / rear 1,365mm
  • Weight: 1010kg
  • Body Style: Four-seat, van (full steel)
  • Chassis: Ladder frame
  • Engine: 1,300cc 4-cyl, liquid-cooled, four-stroke (Power: 85ps at 6,000rpm. Torque: 11.3kg/m at 4,500rpm)
  • Transmission: 5-speed manual (automatic optional)
  • Power (ps) to weight (kg) ratio: 11.9:1
  • Torque (kg/m) to weight (kg): 89.4:1

JB43 Specifications:

  • Length: 3,550mm Width: 1,600mm Height: 1,705mm
  • Wheelbase: 2,250mm
  • Track: front 1,355mm / rear 1,365mm
  • Weight: 1060kg
  • Body Style: Four-seat, van (full steel)
  • Chassis: Ladder frame
  • Engine: 1,300cc 4-cyl, liquid-cooled, four-stroke (Power: 88ps at 6,000rpm. Torque: 12.0kg/m at 4,000rpm)
  • Transmission: 5-speed manual (automatic optional)
  • Power (ps) to weight (kg) ratio: 12:1
  • Torque (kg/m) to weight (kg): 88.3:1

The JB33 (called the Jimny Wide or the Jimny Sierra) was in production from January of 1998 to April of 2002 and the JB43 then took over and ran until 2018.

In terms of availability, these cars come up here in good numbers at both the Japanese used car auctions and at the used car dealers. In terms of price, they are similar to the other white number Jimnys that we have talked about: The are on the expensive side, but good deals do come up at the auctions if you are patient.

Rounding Up the Round Up

At that’s a full comprehensive list, our round up, of our beloved Jimnys. And, as I’ve said, we won’t touch on the newest Jimny, the JB64, since these cars are still very new and not what we are looking for when we say: “I want to import a good, cheap used Jimny from Japan.”

But whatever Jimny you choose, you will have yourself one of the best Class One 4X4 cars available on this planet. You will survive. And, what’s more, you’ll have a lot of fun with your used Suzuki Jimny from Japan. Every Jimny I’ve owned has been a delight.

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