Suzuki GB bags Barry Sheene’s LJ80 Jimny

by Antony Ingram
28 November 2022 2 min read
Suzuki GB bags Barry Sheene’s LJ80 Jimny
Photos: Suzuki GB

Small Suzuki off-roaders once attracted a reputation for rather too easily hopping up onto two wheels and then, if the driver was particularly unlucky, falling over.

To our knowledge, the car newly purchased by Suzuki GB hasn’t undergone such a fate, though its original owner was more familiar than most with operating Suzukis on two wheels – since he was two-time 500cc Grand Prix champion Barry Sheene.

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Sheene achieved his 1976 and 1977 titles astride a Suzuki RG500, emblazoned with the number seven, complete with a characteristic line through the digit.

You’ll find that number on the LJ80, supplied to Sheene in 1979 – his final year with Suzuki – as a promotional tool. It was first used as a pit vehicle, before being brought back to the family farm and then used there until 1987.

At some point in the following years it fell into a state of disrepair, and was later discovered under a stack of hay bales, and restored by a former Suzuki Marketing Director, returning it to its original specification.

It’s bounced around a bit since then, but re-emerged during the NEC Classic Car Show as part of the Silverstone Auctions sale. The winner was none other than Suzuki GB, which has now added the car to its collection of Sheene’s original race bikes.

The LJ80, called the SJ20 elsewhere, arrived shortly before the second generation of Suzuki’s Jimny line, and packed a 797cc four-cylinder with 42bhp. High and low gear ratios (not to mention low weight) gave even these early Jimnys surprising off-road ability, though Suzuki GB’s new acquisition will live a slightly easier life, set to appear at events alongside the brand’s motorcycles.

“We are very excited and proud to own this famous vehicle again some 42 years after we supplied it to Barry Sheene and his racing team” said Nobuo Suyama, Suzuki GB Managing Director.

“With 1979 being our first year of car sales in the UK, this now has pride of place in our showroom and will be used at our cross divisional events in the future along with the collection of race motorcycles.”

Read more

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