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.
Mini SUV Ads
1983 Mitsubishi Montero
1987 Dodge Raider
1987 Suzuki Samurai
1989 Suzuki Sidekick
1990 Daihatsu Feroza
1990 Daihatsu Rocky
1990 Isuzu Amigo
1995 Suzuki Vitara
1996 Geo Tracker
1996 Suzuki X-90
2004 Cross Lander 244X
2008 Land Rover Freelander 2
Mini SUV Ads Gallery
(Click below for enlarged images)
Mini SUV Ads
Mini SUV Ads