World Motorcycling Champion Barry Sheene’s Suzuki LJ80 Returned Home

Images: Suzuki GB PLC

Suzuki’s British subsidiary Suzuki GB PLC recently sent out a press release announcing the “return home of the LJ80 supplied to motorcycle legend and double 500cc World Champion Barry Sheene in 1979.”

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Barry Sheene's famous LJ80

The car was, incidentally, owned by Barry Sheene (1950–2003) and his race team in recognition of his time as a works rider. The light blue LJ was used as a circuit pit vehicle at his races and for promotional work during this period before being privately owned by the family and used at their farm in Surrey until 1987.

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Obviously inspired by the Willys Jeep, Suzuki developed a very capable go anywhere 4x4 which became a very successful export for the Japanese carmaker

The pastel blue-and-red striped car with its famous number 7 decals, which was Sheene’s race number, was in a state of disrepair after being found stored in a barn covered in Hay Bales and was extensively and well restored by the next owner, an ex-Suzuki Marketing Director who returned the LJ to its exact specification.

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The interiors are as basic and functional as it can get

The car was later sold privately and then purchased by Suzuki Dealer CMW in Sussex who used it for showroom display with some occasional road use. In 2013, it was sold at auction into a private collection of road and race cars and recently came up again in the Silverstone Auctions catalogue for a sale being held at the NEC Classic Car Show.

As a very important part of its company history and to accompany the collection of Sheene’s race motorcycles, Suzuki wasted no time in heading to the NEC. The famous LJ80 attracted a high level of interest at the show, and after a brief but busy auction, Suzuki made the winning bid to secure the car.

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From the side, the L880 looks a lot like a Willys Jeep

The LJ80 is powered by an 800cc four-cylinder engine (similar to the one that went into the Maruti 800 SS80 of yore) and, with a little choke applied to its carburettor, started the first time and was driven out of the NEC. It features a soft top hood with removable side screen doors and has the well renowned high and low ratio gears for off-road use.

Suzuki GB PLC’s Managing Director Nobuo Suyama was quoted as saying: “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. 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.”

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Unlike Jeep's famous seven-slot grille, Suzuki did one better with an eight-slot grille

In conclusion, Suyama said: “Our thanks again to the team at Silverstone Auctions for making us aware of this important car in our global company history which spans 102 years, and Suzuki Motor Corporation celebrated 50 years of its iconic four-wheel drive vehicles in 2020.”


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