The Chevrolet LUV Was A Compact Truck Way Ahead Of Its Time

The Chevy Colorado and Ford Ranger can trade blows all they want, but Chevy doesn’t have a worthy challenger to the Maverick. No carmaker really does, except maybe Hyundai. Ford keeps winning on the small truck front uncontested. It’d be a real shame for the Blue Oval, then, if Chevy were to release a successor to the LUV. A real shame, indeed.

Hell, even Toyota could be quaking in its boots given how the Chevy LUV, or “Light Duty Vehicle,” once gave the Toyota Truck (in off-road guise) a run for its money when Car And Driver pitted the LUV against the Truck. You’d think the LUV would be bested by the Toyota due to the Japanese truck’s higher stance, but the seemingly short LUV actually had better ground clearance than its Japanese rival.

Of course, the LUV itself was also Japanese, made by Chevrolet’s partner, Isuzu. The LUV was known as the Isuzu Faster in Japan, where it debuted in 1972. Chevy wanted a competitor to the Ford Courier (made by Mazda) in the U.S., as well a compact pickup to challenge the crop of tiny trucks coming from the East.

1979 Chevy LUV 4wd Commercial

There was no denying the LUV was thrifty: the Chevy LUV scored an incredible (estimated) 32 fucking miles per gallon on the highway, returning a combined fuel economy in the high 20s. Keep in mind, this was in the ’70s, so that was incredibly efficient. And tiny trucks were somewhat of a trend during the Oil Crisis, when gasoline was expensive.

It was a ladder-frame truck with independent front suspension, a six-foot bed and 1,100 pound payload capacity. It weighed less than 2,600 pounds. The Chevy LUV was powered by a 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine making 75 horsepower and 88 lb-ft of torque mated to a four-speed manual transmission.

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Chevy got partially around the infamous Chicken Tax by importing the LUV as a chassis cab model and then assembling the trucks in the U.S. But just because a truck was tiny, that didn’t mean it wasn’t capable. Thus, the Chevy LUV was introduced as an adept but fuel-efficient cargo hauler.

Eventually, the LUV got optional 4WD in 1979 and a few upgraded packages making for neat trims such as the LUV Mikado; a term meant for the Japanese emperor and a nod to the LUV’s roots. The Mikado offered little more than the base model’s standard equipment. t came with Mikado nameplates on its rear side panels, as well as a three-spoke wheel and upgraded upholstery. But it came in rad color combinations, like this one I came across one recently on my local FB Marketplace.

The Chevy LUV was sold from 1972 through 1982. It’s not as well known today as its successor, the Chevy S-10. In fact, the LUV was so successful, Chevy saw fit to design its own compact truck. In other words, victory defeated the LUV. Now that the Maverick is here, and the Maverick Tremor is hitting trails, maybe it’s time Chevy showed the LUV some love and brought back the nameplate.

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Image for article titled The Chevrolet LUV Was A Compact Truck Way Ahead Of Its Time

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Image for article titled The Chevrolet LUV Was A Compact Truck Way Ahead Of Its Time

Photo: Facebook