The General began selling rebadged Suzukis on our shores for the 1985 model year, with a Chevrolet-badged Cultus called the Sprint. A few years later, GM’s Geo brand came into being, with the Cultus becoming the Metro and the Escudo aka Vitara, rolling into Geo dealerships bearing Tracker badging. Meanwhile, Suzuki began selling its own versions of both vehicles here, with the Tracker’s sibling known as the Sidekick. Here’s one of those trucks, a rusty ’93 in a Denver car graveyard.
The Sidekick was quite a bit bigger than the Jimny-based Samurai, the first four-wheeled vehicle sold here with Suzuki badges (not counting ATVs, forklifts, wheelchairs, etc.), and it was available in North America for the 1989 through 1998 model years.
The MSRP on the cheapest 1993 Geo Tracker was $11,750, while its Sidekick counterpart cost $10,999 (that’s around $24,415 and $22,855, respectively, in 2022 frogskins).
However, the four-door Tracker wasn’t available here until the 1996 model year, while the Sidekick could be bought new with four doors starting in 1991. The list price on this truck was $12,999 (about $27,010 today).
Rear-wheel-drive Trackers and Sidekicks were available, but most of them— including today’s Junkyard Find— were equipped with four-wheel-drive.
This truck didn’t have what we’d now call all-wheel-drive, with center differential or corner-cutting substitute, so the driver had to switch between rear- and four-wheel-drive manually. As was the case with the Toyota Tercel 4WD wagon, plenty of Americans tore up their tires (or worse) by staying in four-wheel-drive at all times.
The JX trim level came between the cheapo JS and the (relatively) swanky JLX. Four-cylinder engines with 16 valves were old news by 1993, but the suits at Suzuki of America Automotive Corporation must have felt that 16-VALVE badges looked cool.
In fact, this 1.6-liter engine had but a single cam, but the 16valve lettering embossed in the timing cover let the world know that you didn’t need a fancy DOHC design to run four valves per cylinder (while unusual, some other Japanese manufacturers made 16-valve SOHC designs, and at least one 20-valve type is out there). This one was rated at 95 horsepower when new.
When you’re selling your trucks on price and not much else, you brag about the EFI on your engines long after nearly everyone else had dumped their carburetors. By 1993, the only new vehicles Americans could buy with a carburetor were the very cheapest Isuzu and Toyota pickups. I’ve heard that the ’93 Subaru Justy could be bought with a carburetor, but every one I’ve ever seen had fuel injection (I have found a ’92 Justy with a carb, though).
The Full Slushboxization of America had been underway for decades by the time this truck was built, so I wasn’t surprised to see that it has the optional GM three-speed automatic. The cost: 600 bucks ($1,245 now).
The interior is pretty well battered, though I’ve seen much worse.
The odometer shows 221,025 miles, which is higher than what I see on most discarded Suzukis of its era (but keep in mind that the Metro/Swift had a five-digit odometer until 1994).
There’s plenty of rust in the usual spots, plus some attempts to keep the worst of the weather out of the larger holes via the use of spray foam.
Suzuki was a bit sensitive on the subject of small-truck handling by this time, so these warning labels went on the driver’s door of the Sidekick.
The original owner’s manual stayed with it to the end.
For 1999, the Sidekick was replaced by the Vitara and Grand Vitara, built on the same Ontario assembly line as the Tracker (which became a Chevrolet after the Geo brand got the axe in 1997). Suzuki gave up on selling cars here after 2013 (after one last shot at sales glory with the Kizashi)
Don’t grow up. Get a Sidekick instead!
In Japan, the Escudo allowed you to leave your boring prefecture and head to… North Africa?
[Images by the author]
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