In Kurosawa's masterpiece, The Seven Samurai a small town is besieged by bandits and hires a septet of sword-wielding protectorates in its defense. Today's Nice Price or Crack Pipe Suzuki might itself need protecting from flipping over, but is its price masterful?
If you owned yesterday's 1993 Maxton Rollerskate, you probably wouldn't need any medieval Japanese swordsmen to protect your home because you wouldn't ever be there. Instead, you'd be out on the road, carving up corners and happily picking bugs from your eyebrows. Not surprisingly, a full 80% of you felt that amazing little roadster's price was worth the bug-picking opportunity.
Another plum opportunity was that of entering the vast and - at the time - lucrative U.S. auto market. The time was the mid-eighties, and back then there were still a few Japanese car makers not yet lobbing salvos across the Pacific and onto the land of Big Macs and MC Hammer. Suzuki was one of those stay at home moms, despite both letting their two-wheeled wares out to play, and seeing their neighbors raking it in. Eager to get their own slice of American pie, Suzuki took an existing JDM Jeeplet and plunged head-first into the U.S. market with all four wheels.
The resultant Suzuki Samurai gained initial favor for its entry-level cost and spunky can-do soft toppiness, while a companion hard top model offered a unique outlet for those with Postal Jeep fetishes. Things really seemed to be going Suzuki's way when class bully Consumer Reports decided it didn't like the Samurai's handling characteristics and started telling everybody it was ugly and that its mother dresses it funny. Swirlies soon followed.
A bad reputation is hard to shake, and much like Bill Clinton will forever be better remembered for getting blow jobs than for balancing the budget, so too is the Samurai forever branded as likely to turn turtle if someone so much as sneezes on it. Warranted or not that, along with more onerous safety standards, sent Samurai sales to the basement. You'd think their prices today would still reflect the stigma of that rep.
You would be wrong.
Taking a look at the Samurais for sale out there right now - from dog dingleberry-looking rock hoppers to FOB-clean street versions - indicates that there is still a crazy demand for their off-road capabilities, the prices are just that whacked. This 1988 Tin Top is one of the cheaper options of the current offerings - at least of those that don't appear hobo-infested. Instead it's a 105,000-mile edition with a claim of new tires, a clean interior, and devil horn Cadillac tail lights.
It's those custom lights that set this Samurai apart from the crowd - well that and the removal of the back door-mounted spare tire. Its two-tone black and silver paint is a little less successful than that on yesterday's candidate, but it all at least looks clean and rust-free. Inside, there's a graunchy long-throw five speed stick which backs up the 63-horse 1.3-litre four, and not much else. There is tight room for a driver and three passengers in there, and lots of bare painted metal where you might like to find — at least on a hot summer day — carpet. The seats all look in good shape, while the simple dash looks simple. The three spoke steering wheel is wrapped in one of those padded covers that absorbs the filth from the hands of every driver ever to touch it. Best to have your shots or remove that.
Samurais - like a Kurosawa film - were reliable entertainment with the constant sense of foreboding. This one looks successful enough to attend its reunion and teach that Consumer Reports a thing or two, if someone would be willing to drive it there. To do so would take $3,988 as that's where the Illinois dealer has presently set his asking price. That's a large pizza shy of four grand for what is essentially a 23-year old, 63-pony, truck with no sound insulation, no A/C, a hemorrhoid-ragin' ride, and Pep Boys pedal covers. In its favor are the aforementioned off-road prowess, and the sweet Caddy fin lenses.
Check around, look at the prices of other Samis' out there. This one's actually one of the cheap ones being offered. But is its price a good deal for this particular one? What do you think, is $3,988 a fair exchange for this Samurai? Or, for asking that much, should its seller fall on his own sword?
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