Cars That Should
Never Have Been Made
1996-7 Suzuki X90
I dated a pretty Thai girl for a long time - but she was no ordinary Thai girl. Roongrapee is a rally driver, taking small 4x4s into the remotest parts of Cambodia.
Cambodia, did you say? Err...yeah.
Shit just got real.
And her favorite vehicles were the Nissan Patrol, the Mitsubishi Rocky...and any friggin' Suzuki she could get her hands on. They were unbreakable.
So while the boys at Top Gear are making fun of Asian cars, I tend to look at things a little differently.
Fun two-door vehicles with four-wheel drive capability are not a new concept.
The first car company to build a proper 4x4 two-seater was Bantam...and that was a light truck built for war. You may have heard of it, the timeless Jeep - built by Ford and Willys by the thousands.
Pictured below is mine, made during the Korean War era.
In the 50s, chunky off-roaders became very popular, but it wasn't until the mid-70s that people started to actually use their Jeeps as daily drivers. Other companies jumped onto that bandwagon - some with great success.
The Subaru Brat, built specifically to get around a special tax imposed on Japanese imported light trucks, was a popular - if somewhat irresponsible - answer to America's Jeep.
Suzuki had bought a light truck manufacturer in 1968, and set about the business of making hardy off-roaders for the Asian market.
Their first was the successful Jimney, a robust copy of the Jeep with a 33 horsepower four banger.
Suzuki entered the American off-roader fray with a nice little 4x4 called the Samurai in 1984.
The Samurai is notable for several reasons. It was very easy to roll over, it wasn't built well but still offered good value for money.
And finally, the Samurai is an extremely capable off-roader that makes do with a 1.3 liter engine. The Samurai was rugged, cheap to buy - and cheap to modify for off-roading.
Suzuki had a hit on their hands when the Samurai was first introduced, selling 47,000 examples in the first year.
In 1991, the Samurai was getting a little long in tooth, so Suzuki went to work on a replacement.
In 1995, the first X90 was shown to the public, and was generally well received. The X90 was based on the 1st generation Sidekick/Tracker/Vitara, but featured a rounded body that is somewhat short and stubby.
But really...just look at it.
Yet only 7000 or so were sold in the first year, and production was shut down. Why did the X90 sell in such pathetic numbers?
I'm not sexist...but there are certain truths in our world.
The Mazda Miata is a girl's car.
The Toyota MR2 is a girl's car.
And the Suzuki X90? Most definitely a girl's car.
That's a problem when your core customer base are off-road enthusiasts ......that are 99% guys.
The Samurai was rugged, cool and cheap.
The X90 was...well, cheap.
At 16,000 dollars - and that included a lot of options - the X90 was good value, and much better made than Suzuki's past efforts. It doesn't matter. A girl's car is a girl's car.
Seriously, Suzuki? Did you really think this guy was going to buy your weird little X90?