‘s & Off-roaders
Four-Wheel Drive (4WD) vehicles are usually referred to as 4×4’s, and sometimes as “All-Wheel Drives” (AWD). 4WD typically refers to a set of specific components and functions, where four driven wheels are used to enable increased traction on off-road surfaces. Modern vehicles often use a transfer box which allows for switching from 2 to 4-wheel drive, this can be done either manually or automatically.
In 1953, the Hope Motor Company pioneered the mini jeep, the “ON360” powered by a Mitsubishi 356cc 2-stroke engine. Then in 1967, it became available in 4WD, although production figures were very low, only about 15 examples being made. The company existed until April 1974 when it was bought out by Suzuki. The design was continued by Suzuki, it eventually becoming the Suzuki Jimny that still successfully exists today.
The Suzuki branded 4-wheel drive, the air-cooled 359cc LJ10 (Light Jeep 10), was first introduced in 1970. Having bought the licenses from Hopestar, the Suzuki name was used before full ownership actually occured. This was followed by the liquid-cooled LJ20 and then by the 539cc LJ50.
The JA71 Jimny 1st Generation (above) was replaced in March 1990 by the new 657cc JA11 2nd Generation (below) as new Kei category regulations came into effect.
The 1998 to present day 3rd Generation Jimny’s (below) are st ill in production today.
The Mazda AZ-Offroad (above last) is a rebadged Suzuki Jimny, it has manually operated 4-wheel drive as standard with low range and auto-locking front hubs, automatic transmission is an optional extra.
The Mitsubishi Pajero Mini, known as a Shōgun in the UK, is in similar vein to the Jimny, it was manufactured from December 1994 until June 2012. It was a miniature version of the successful Mitsubishi Pajero SUV (Sports Utility Vehicle). The last two pictures (below) are Nissan Kix, which are an OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) versions of the Pajero Mini.
Today, Japanese kei-class trucks and vans are almost all available in 4WD, here are a few:
Daihatsu Hijet: Honda Acty: Mitsubishi Minicab: Subaru Sambar: Suzuki Carry:
Enthusiasts go to great lengths to make them suitable for serious off-roading. Even down to fitting caterpillar-tracks, here are just a few:
Many kei-cars are now available in 4-wheel drive form, even in popular sports models.
The Mitsubishi Minica Dangan ZZ (above) had a 660cc 3-cylinder engine with 5-valves per cylinder that revs to 9,500 rpm and a computer-controlled AWD system that later appeared in the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution !! It is a well known fact that kei-cars make good test beds for their bigger brothers.
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Should have been 4-wheel drive but weren’t …
The 1970 Daihatsu Fellow Buggy: