In 1968 there was a manufacture called Hopestar and they had a lightweight jeep called On 360, if you read on other web sites about the On 360 they say that only 15 were ever built, but in a magazine published in Japan about the history of the Hopestar it read as follows "During the one year that the Hopestar was produced (1967-68) 50 were made, with 20 of those remaining in Japan and the other 30 exported for use in south east Asian countries." In 1968 the Suzuki Company bought the manufacturing rights for the On 360 and completely redesign it. Suzuki kept the 2 stroke 2 cylinder air-cooled 359cc (21.9 cu. in) engine ideal but built it themselves, Hopestar engine was built by Mitsubishi they called the engine ME24, it had 21 horsepower @ 5500 rpm, Suzuki’s engine had 24 horsepower @ 5500 rpm, Suzuki also added their C.C.I. “Posi-Force” lubrication system so owners would not have to mix their gas and oil, it is injected to the cylinders through two outlets and to the crankshaft through two other outlets, the oil that is delivered to the cylinders is 5 times greater in quantity than to the crankshaft. Suzuki also came up with a way to keep points from fouling out with the ideal that the spinning clutch pressure plate causes a Vacuum so they put a small hose from the top of the transmission (bell housing) to the distributor cap and another hose from the distributor cap to just underneath the air cleaner as to pull “cooler air” across the points keeping them cool and also to keep moister out.
1970 is the first year for the LJ it was called the LJ10 also known as Jimny or Brute IV, LJ stands for Light Jeep, the name Jimny came from a misunderstanding of what was told to some Japanese Suzuki delegates visiting Scotland for the first time. they decided to call their new jeep Jimmy, but somewhere between Scotland and Japan they lost the translation and so they called it Jimny, it was the only 4x4 mass-produced in Japan's domestic mini-car category, the engine size, length and width were regulated in Japan by the Japanese Transportation Guideline in which to be classified as a Mini Car they had to stay within the specified size, and to keep within the length they had to place the Spare Tire behind the driver seat. They also added a third seat behind the passenger seat. The LJ10 came with 16” wheels and tires, horizontal style grille, air-cooled, 4 speed, fold down windshield and only came in a soft-top version. 1972 Suzuki introduced the LJ20 it had a water-cooled engine with 28 horsepower @ 5500 rpm the grille was changed to a vertical style and you could get it in two versions, the LJ20O the O stands for Open or the LJ20V in which the V stands for Van and also had only 15” wheels and tires, if you have or ever seen a LJ20V you’ll noticed they have the windshield tie down “loops” for a fold down windshield but the V doesn’t have a fold down windshield, the reason is they make the same fenders for the O as they do for the V. Suzuki did not only make jeeps with this type of engine etc. they also made what they call a “Carry” L40 which was a enclosed pickup, a L41 which is the same as the L40 but has fold-down bed sides, then the L40V which looks just like a mini van (wow the first true mini van). The LJ20 stayed in production till 1976, LJ's stopped coming into the USA around 1974 possibly due to the US being more strict on emissions. Next was the LJ50 and LJ55 also known as Jimny 550, the engine was changed to a 539 cc 3 cylinder 2 stroke with a horsepower rated 35 @ 5500 rpm, they were also slightly bigger in size because of the lift on the Mini-Car guidelines. 1977 brought the LJ80; LJ81 is the pickup model, they had a 4 cylinder 4-stroke with an overhead cam 797 cc engine with a 42 horsepower @ 5500 rpm. In 1980 the SJ10 came about and then came the SJ410 and SJ413. Up till The Samurai none of these were exported by Suzuki to the USA, the Intercontinental Equipment Corporation brought the most part of the LJ’s to America. (but attempts to find IEC and it's owners has been futile) UPDATE! Until Now... read below.
After 9 years of lj10.com we have found and contacted the original owner of IEC, the importer of LJ10's and 20's We learned that there were 3,300 to 3,500 LJ10 and LJ20's sold by IEC up till 1974 when they sold to USA Suzuki which after that politics and emission standards stopped the sales of LJ's until the Samurai. At one point Suzuki was going to put a 800CC 4Cyl made by Daihatsu into the LJ20's but never did. "Tacoma Wheel" company are the designers of the white aftermarket wheels on the LJ20 that IEC sold as an option and "House of Steel" out of San Diego made the Spare Tire Carriers. The first year IEC sold LJ's approximately 175 rigs were sold, 800 were sold by the second year, 2,500 by the third and then 3,500 in their fourth and final year when USA Suzuki saw that there Was a market for the LJ's, they didn't think there would be in the USA and so did not want to import them and that is when IEC stepped in and well you know the rest of the story. Mexico bought a few LJ's from IEC.
The owners of IEC was a family contribution of two brothers Tim and Steve and their dad Don Sharp in which the father had one of the first VW/Porsche dealers in the USA. Tim is the one we spoke with over the phone he and his brother Steve "did most of the day to day management which included U.S. safety conversion planning and contracting in Japan, importation, dealer distribution, training, parts distribution, advertising & media pr, club activities, auto shows, etc." Tim still is a race car driver, he started racing in 1968, since then he has won ten SCCA and IMSA championships and 30 lap records. Racing series: FIA Group A InterTech series Japan 1987, IMSA GTX 1980, IMSA GTU 1980 and 1985, SCCA Super Vee 1980, IMSA Scirocco Challenge 1978-79, SCCA SSB, IMSA Firehawk Endurance Series and Escort Endurance Series from 1985-87, SCCA Showroom Stock nationals from 1976-87 Now days he test drive cars for Lexus and Ford.