|1955 Suzuki Suzulight|
Suzuki were one of the first Japanese companies to go into car production.
The Suzulight SF was first introduced in 1955 and the SF stood for " Suzuki 4 wheel car".
The Suzulight was the name used to begin with, the Suzuki branded cars followed later,
although their Motorcycles were branded as Suzuki's at this time.
The Suzulight was their product to fit into the kei class of small vehicles that had to
conform to strict size and engine restrictions in order to qualify for tax and parking
concessions in Japan.( See also Subaru 360 for more info)
The Suzulight was available when launched as a car, van or pickup.
They were all based closely on the German Marque, Lloyd LP400, which in turn was
a copy of Dkw's front wheel drive, transverse engine layout,
with the fuel tank under the bonnet. The only real difference between the Lloyd and
Suzulight was that the Japanese car used a narrower bore to make the engine that bit
smaller to fit into the 360cc limit in Japan for Kei cars.
|1964 Suzuki Carry Van|
Unlike the Dkw, however the Lloyd and Suzulight used air cooling and the layout was
very similar to the Trabant P50 that appeared in 1958.
Apparently, Suzuki had studied the Citroen 2CV and the Renault 4CV with a view to
importing them instead, but decided to go with the Lloyd car as their choice.
Whether this was solely down to price, I don't know.
Lloyd cars had a good reputation for comfort, reliability and solid mechanics.
The engine was 360cc, two cylinders and of course, two stroke.
It had a power output of 16 Hp at around 3800 rpm.
It was perfect for the kei cars that were becoming
extremely popular in Japan.
The car had drum brakes all round.
It was 2990 mm long, 1295 wide and 1400mm high.
It's wheelbase was 2000mm.
Sizewise it was very similar to the Mini, with the Mini being slightly longer and
wider, but the Suzulight was slighly taller and with a bigger wheelbase.
While the Mini used 10 inch wheels, the Suzulight's were 12 inches.
The car had an excellent suspension set up with independent suspension front
and rear, that utilised double wishbones and coil springs which was very advanced
for this time and particularly so in a small economy car.
It's simple chassis consisted of a central tube with the front and rear suspension mounted
on at each end.
Equally progressive was its rack and pinion steering which few cars had in 1955.
It should be remembered that all of these progressive features were Lloyd attributes,
The gear box was a 3 speed, column mounted change.
The engine bore was increased slightly in 1956, which made the engine just over 1cc
bigger and increased power to 18 Hp.
The Suzulight was clearly a car made to a low price and it had few creature comforts.
Early models had semaphore type indicators and lacked a fuel gauge.
Fuel levels were determined( like the Trabant) by sticking a measuring stick into the
It was found that the advanced suspension of the car was unable to cope with the very
poor road conditions that were prevalent in rural Japan. Some of the roads were little
more than dirt tracks with huge potholes, so the suspension was changed in favour of a
more traditional one incorporating leaf springs on both front and rear.
By 1958, slow sales prompted the company to offer just one model in their range,
this became the SL light van that had 2 front seats, plus an auxiliary seat.
The loading capacity of this little van was just 200 kg.
Only available in two tone paint colours the range was extremely eye catching.
It was also the first Kei class light commercial to have a bonnet due to the competition
mostly being rear engined.
There were only between 30-50 of these built before the model was replaced in
July 1959 with the Suzulight TL Light Van.
Suzuki made two stroke cars and vans up until 1969.