At $20,800, Could This 1990 Bertone Freeclimber Put You on Top?

Photo: Craigslist
Nice Price Or Crack PipeIs this used car a good deal? You decide!

Today’s Nice Price or Crack Pipe Bertone unquestionably has the oddest off-roader name imaginable. The rest of the truck is more fascinating than funky, but its price may still weird you out.

Hey, fun fact: most of you HATE the BMW X6. I mean like really freaking loathe it. Add to that all the Mansory add-ons exhibited by last Friday’s 2013 BMW X6 Custom and you have a doubleheader of hostility. The $38,000 price tag appended to it only exacerbated the issue, and the only possible outcome was a 79 percent Crack Pipe loss.


I think the most interesting thing about the X6 and cars of its ilk is that there is no real understanding of where they came from or why they exist. Nobody ever asked for them, they just suddenly became part of our automotive landscape. In that aspect they are exactly like the pod people who snatched those invaded bodies.

The sad thing is, there’s no fighting it. Pretty soon the only vehicles that manufacturers will be selling will be hunchback AWD five-doors. And to make matters worse, they will all have ‘Coupé’ in their names.

Before that however, we can fight back with this amazing amalgamation of German, Italian and Japanese engineering called, oddly enough, the Bertone Freeclimber. Sure, the last time those three nations combined forces, it wasn’t all that great for the rest of us, but this time it’s different. I promise.


First off—just what the hell is this thing? Bertone is probably best known as a design house, however they also maintained manufacturing capabilities and in the ‘80s co-produced and sold in the U.S. a rebranded Fiat X1/9. That car came here with the help of Malcolm Bricklin—yes, that Malcolm Bricklin—and was the only car Bertone sold in the U.S.

Elsewhere however, the company offered up a spunky little off-roader based on the Daihatsu Rugger. And now one of those is here too.


The Rugger was part of the Japanese company’s entreaty to the U.S. market in the ‘80s, along with the unfortunately named Charade. The little 4X4 came here as the Rocky seeing as its original name sounded too much like a condom brand.


Bertone hit the financial skids in the late ‘80s and sought to stem the red ink with a model that appealed to the then burgeoning mini off-roader crowd. The Italians struck an agreement with the Japanese company to build and sell a redesigned version of the Rugger/Rocky under the Bertone brand and market it in Europe. Just to throw a little Munich in the mix, the Italians decided to power their truck with a selection of gas and diesel mills purchased from BMW.


The result was the Freeclimber which carries with it that crazy mix of nationalities and a name that’s likely an indicator of why most automakers these days go with alpha-numeric cognomens.

This 1990 Bertone Freeclimber is a grey market import and is probably one of the only, if not the only one in the country. With only 2800 produced in total, it’s going to be rare enough no matter where you go. It’s described as being on its third owner and the title and importation appear to be in the clear.


Mileage is a little hard to determine. The ad notes 222,500 kilometers, however the odo only sports five barrels and those read 22,294 and change. The truck certainly doesn’t look like it’s done 140,000 miles. It should also be pointed out that this is the same Freelander that appeared on the Petrolicious marketplace a while back. Maybe they know.

Changes to turn the Rugger into a Freeclimber included a switch from rectangular to round headlights, the adoption of sweet OZ alloy wheels, and an upgraded interior that offered leather seating and Bertone badged ancillary instruments.


This one comes in a two-tone outer coat and grey on charcoal interior. The paint seems serviceable, while the body beneath shows a a couple of dents here and there. There is also some surface rust on the springs and hitch receiver. The rear bumper caps look like they could stand a good scrub too, but otherwise the truck is presented as clean and tidy.


The interior looks a little worse for wear. There’s some substantial crazing in the leather on both pilot and co-pilot’s chairs, while the back bench suffers what looks like a significant pee stain. The seller notes that despite that, the car exhibits no untoward odors. An aftermarket stereo sits in the dash, just underneath some nicely old school HVAC controls.


Under the bonnet sits a BMW M21 turbo diesel. Yes, that’s the same 2443 cc inline six that found its way into the 524td, a few Lincoln MK VIIs and Continentals, and the Vixen motor coach, so parts should be readily available, right?


Behind that is a 5-speed manual and Daihatsu part time 4WD. The truck comes with an adjustable suspension, but the seller says that’s presently non-working. New BFG tires underpin, and the ad notes new belts and hoses as well. Driving the Freeclimber is described as a slow experience, with the expected rattles and groans from an old, lightly insulated truck, but then that’s all part of the charm.


Also charming is the removable roof and the cheeky and unique little-truck style. The question now is whether all that charm might be worth the truck’s $20,800 asking. What do you think, could this rare and oddly named off-roader command that much? Or, is this a Bertone that’s price is too much to bear?

You decide!


Denver, CO Craigslist, or go here if the ad disappears.

H/T to Primalzer for the hookup!

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About the author

Rob Emslie

Rob Emslie is a contributing writer for Jalopnik. He has too many cars, and not enough time to work on them all.