A Half-Pint CJ?
Before there was the XL-7, the Grand Vitara, the Sidekick, or the Samurai, there was the Brute IV. Actually dubbed the 360 LJ-10, this miniature 3/4-scale version of the famous Jeep CJ was actually not developed by Suzuki at all - and that's just one part of the fascinating story.
In Japan during the late '60s, there was a small automotive assembler called Hopestar Motors. The company had fashioned a scaled-down version of the world-renowned Jeep CJ utility named the On 360. During the company's 12-month existence, it assembled 50 versions of this tiny platform for the Japanese and Eastern Asian markets. Twenty of these pioneer vehicles were sold in Japan, with 30 others exported to foreign shores.
In 1968, Suzuki purchased the company, including all of the manufacturing patents and rights, redesigned it, and kept Hopestar's two-stroke power concept. Hopestar Motors had used a Mitsubishi ME 24, a 359cc (21.9ci) air-cooled powerplant that produced 21 hp at 5,500 rpm. Suzuki liked this base unit, upgraded the antiquated lubrication system so future owners would have the convenience of not bothering with premixing, and improved the electric system to keep the points from fouling. The improved version also produced 3 more horsepower.
Suzuki debuted the LJ-10 in 1970; it was also referred to as the Jimny and the Brute IV. The LJ stood for Light Jeep, with Jimny referring to a language miscommunication after Japanese company delegates visited the Scotland market and decided to call the new platform Jeep Jimmy. The translation came back to Japan as Jimny. In any case, it was the only mass-produced 4x4 platform in Japan's domestic mini market, which was strictly regulated with regard to engine size, platform length and width, and vehicle weight.
The company initially inked a deal using a private importer/distributor - Intercontinental Equipment of San Diego - in December of 1970. The plan was to target the western desert areas of the U.S., but in reality, no business was refused, and a few vehicles made it East. Dubbed the Suzuki Brute IV, this utility platform rode on a double-beam-constructed steel frame, with four conventional leaf springs mounted at each corner. Initially imported with righthand drive, its manual rack-and-pinion steering was greatly aided with oversized rubber-mounted ball joints. The Brute IV also featured higher engine mounts to prevent damage to important mechanical components. The standard ground clearance of 8-1/2 inches was aided by the 16x6-inch mud and snow tires. Users quickly found that standard five-bolt Jeep wheels provided greater ground clearance with larger tires.
The short overall length (the Brute IV had a 75-inch wheelbase) combined with a 53-inch width provided a platform that rapidly established itself off-road, especially in soft sand and rugged rock terrain. The vehicle was lighter than the majority of dune buggies, with an unloaded weight of 1,320 pounds. Many owners took cues from the buggy crowd and transported these mobile half-pints in the back of their fullsize pickups.
The Brute IV's air-cooled, two-cylinder, two-stroke powerplant delivered 25 hp at 6,000 rpm. The engine featured a parallel twin alternate-firing two-stroke design, with 180-degree opposed crank throws. For the performance buffs, an optional bolt-on hop-up kit boosted the engine output by 6 hp. To say that this engine relied on a flat power curve for torque was a tongue-in-cheek understatement.