Little Suzuki gets new life

By Jacqui Madelin

Jacqui Madelin checks out a tiny Suzuki from the 1980s that more than holds its own on the road among larger cars

Owner Alan Vessey's daughters are two of the most avid fans of the cute yellow 1980 Suzuki SC100 GX. Pictures / Jacqui Madelin
Owner Alan Vessey's daughters are two of the most avid fans of the cute yellow 1980 Suzuki SC100 GX. Pictures / Jacqui Madelin

Alan Vessey had planned to buy an outsized Ford Fairlane from the estate of an elderly owner.

He went to have a look at it "and this 1980 Suzuki SC100 GX was in a corner of the garage, covered in blankets and household bits and pieces, and I asked his widow if she was planning to sell it, and she was".

Er, it's a bit different from a Fairlane. About a hundredth the size, for starters.

"I just thought it needed to be on the road. I hadn't seen one in years," said Alan.

"Daddy likes cars that are different," chipped in his daughter, Ruby.

Well he got it right this time. There are only about 33 left on the road in New Zealand, despite the cheeky persona and good looks - it was designed by Giorgetto Guigiaro, and gained the nickname "Whizz Kid" in the UK.

This engine's a rear-mounted 970cc four-cylinder unit fielding 35kW and 83Nm via a four-speed manual transmission, and allegedly capable of 143km/h, thanks in part to its light, 625kg weight. The GX was the luxury variant, including a cigarette lighter, reclining front seats, fog lights and a rear windscreen heater, though naturally no power brakes, power steering or anything modern like airbags. Brakes are disc front and drum rear, with front wishbone and rear semi trailing arm suspension.

He does have spares - there were two SC100s in the garage.

Now a real estate agent, Alan started out as a mechanic.

"It looked in good condition. I gave it a damn good clean and went through it. I had to redo the cooling system and replace the radiator, the frost plugs and hoses," he said.

Suzuki SC100 GX interior
Suzuki SC100 GX interior

"I replaced the cam belt, put a new fuel filter in - it still had 13-year-old fuel in it - and replaced all the fluids, but then all it needed for a WOF was new tyres and wipers."

Otherwise the one-owner car is standard, from those cheeky tartan seats on up, though just a whisker cosy with four aboard - Alan and myself plus his two daughters, Ruby and Heidi, both squeezing in the back.

The rear seats fold down and double as a boot accessed via a lifting rear window - the front under-bonnet 'boot' is barely deeper than a family box of tissues.

The shelf beneath the glove box is almost larger.

"I could rent it out as an apartment," joked Alan.

Given he's also got a Cadillac CTS and a Toyota Yaris R8 1800, does the Suzuki ever get out?

Suzuki SC100 GX is pretty small
Suzuki SC100 GX is pretty small

"I use it from time to time, just in and around Auckland. It's good to nip out in rather than taking the Cadillac. I'll pick the girls up - they think it's cute, and call it 'Minion' from Despicable Me because it's so tiny."

They certainly seem to love it. We can't go anywhere without them, although they don't seem too interested in the mighty wad of paperwork that came with the car and includes every service receipt, an envelope of fuel receipts from 1982 and the purchase docket, totalling $5674.53 including $41.13 for registration, plus the original service book. "I do my own maintenance. It's simple; a set of points, condenser, plugs - there's no computer - I do the tappets, change the oil and to do the whole service only takes about an hour."

He says the Suzuki's a good project to show the girls how these things work, adding it'll do 100 comfortably on the motorway, "but it feels small next to large trucks".

He's not kidding, and no wonder it's fairly frugal for its time - drinking about 6.5l/100km overall. "It's okay on the open road. It handles quite well. It's so small it's straight through corners!"

It feels like a dwarf in traffic though, offset by that cheeky colour and equally cheeky persona that guarantees "when you return to the car there's always someone looking at it".

- NZ Herald

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