Feb
21
1987 Suzuki Samurai

1987 Suzuki Samurai

Sometime in the middle of the Eighties, Americans developed an appetite—albeit a modest one—for pint-sized sport-utility vehicles with legitimate off-road capability. Early on the scene were the Suzuki Samurai and the Daihatsu Rocky. Few people actually recall Daihatsu’s brief flirtation with the U.S. market—briefly, Daihatsu sold cars Stateside between 1988 and 1992. Only two models were ever offered here: the aforementioned Rocky, and a subcompact car dubbed Charade.

Mitsubishi arrived here with a small ute even earlier than Suzuki and Daihatsu; its little truck was sold as the Mitsubishi Montero and in Dodge dealerships as the Dodge Raider. Neither version sold in any real volume. Sales of little SUVs improved when General Motors’ Geo brand began selling a version of the Suzuki Sidekick (Suzuki’s follow-up to the Samurai) as the Geo Tracker.

As for design, all of the vehicles below—save for the Land Rover—employ a traditional truck-type body-on-frame design, and were default rear-wheel-drive vehicles if not equipped with 4WD.

For fans of the obscure, take note of the Cross Lander ad below. If you’re wondering why you’ve never seen a Cross Lander (or even heard of the brand, perhaps) that’s because the company failed to bring the truck to market—but it got close.

Cross Lander was a Brazilian company assembling Romanian ARO-brand trucks under license. The 244X, as the U.S.-intended truck was named, was a small, crude, and dated vehicle—it was famously capable off road, but proved difficult to certify for sale in the States.

Unable to secure an existing U.S.-certified drivetrain from another carmaker, Cross Lander took the unusual step of equipping the 244X with a version of Ford’s 4.0-liter “Cologne” V6—building the engine entirely from off-the-shelf parts, without Ford’s cooperation.

Though the “fake” 4.0 would ultimately secure EPA certification, the engine proved too expensive to build independently. At some point, an off-the-shelf diesel engine was also considered for the U.S. 244X, but the project never came together. The 244X was sold in other markets, however, and is generally regarded to be pretty cool.

Collected here are a dozen small ute ads from back in the day. If you spent time with any of these dirt-ready micro trucks, tell us about it. The place to leave comments is down below.

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1983 Mitsubishi Montero

1983 Mitsubishi Montero

1983 Mitsubishi Montero Ad

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1987 Dodge Raider

1987 Dodge Raider

1987 Dodge Raider Ad

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1987 Suzuki Samurai

1987 Suzuki Samurai

1987 Suzuki Samurai Ad

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1989 Suzuki Sidekick

1989 Suzuki Sidekick Ad

1989 Suzuki Sidekick Ad

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1990 Daihatsu Feroza

1990 Daihatsu Feroza

1990 Daihatsu Feroza (Rocky) Ad (Italy)

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1990 Daihatsu Rocky

1990 Daihatsu Rocky Ad

1990 Daihatsu Rocky Ad

The Compact SUVs of 1987

 

1990 Isuzu Amigo

1990 Isuzu Amigo Ad

1990 Isuzu Amigo Ad

Hiding Behind a Familiar Grille: The Captive Imports of 1987

 

1995 Suzuki Vitara

1995 Suzuki Vitara

1995 Suzuki Vitara Ad (Australia)

Mail-Truck Mainstay: What Was The Grumman LLV?

 

1996 Geo Tracker

 

1996 Geo Tracker Ad

1996 Geo Tracker Ad

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1996 Suzuki X-90

1996 Suzuki X-90 Ad

1996 Suzuki X-90 Ad

Cheap Wheels: 1996-1998 Suzuki X-90

 

2004 Cross Lander 244X

2004 Cross Lander Ad, Aro 244X, Cross Lander 244X, Ray Laks

2004 Cross Lander 244X Ad

What Was The Studebaker XUV?

 

2008 Land Rover Freelander 2

2008 Land Rover Freelander 2 Ad

2008 Land Rover Freelander 2 (LR2) Ad (U.K.)

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