A Tonka truck brought to full-size, this 84 Rugger is perhaps wholly unique in all of the United States if not Japan itself. Daihatsu first built the Rugger in 1984, this example is F70-000258, meaning that this is the 258th Rugger to ever be built. Adding to its exception, this one was optioned with both turbo and air conditioning. Not all Ruggers are turbo, not all have AC, and most of them were not convertibles. This one, however, does.
Exterior is in quite excellent shape for being 37 years old. Single stage white paint shines well, with various scrapes and chips in various places. These early Ruggers have an extremely square and blocky design with a distinct look placing it right in the early 80s. We personally drive it as you see here, back windows rolled up safari-style and open but the roof closed, AC on if weather demands. All five original wheels are here, wrapped in BF Goodrich KO2s installed last year in 2020 (including the spare). Both front and rear center caps are present as well. New brake pads and calipers were also installed. If you peek underneath you will find a body on frame design, with the frame itself being in absolutely perfect shape, with new Lesjöfors leaf springs at all four corners, with new Monroe absorbers as well, with new bushings in all suspension components. Solid axles front and back, this is a quite tough little offroader. Pop the hood and you’re greeted with Daihatsu’s own DL-50 2.8 liter turbo diesel engine. Completely cast iron, completely mechanical injection, with a set of timing gears under an alloy timing cover. It is a peppy, mechanically loud, immortal power plant. Later revisions of this engine moved to a typical rubber timing belt, but this Rugger, being so early, has the old style timing gear setup. Battery is brand new as of 9/2020. Fuel filter is also new.
Open the doors and you have a very simple layout. Original rubber ‘DAIHATSU’ floor mats, original steering wheel and dash greet you. Expected speedometer (in kph) with the RPM gauge with a rad ‘TURBO’ light that glows green when under boost. Odometer reads 16,479 km, but is actually 116,479 km, equalling ~73,000 total miles. Various warning indicators flank on either side of the main panel, with your fuel and (real) temperature gauge below that. Integrated digital clock, inclinometer and voltmeter are in the center of your dash. Below that your HVAC controls and gear shift levers. Transmission stick has a nice MOMO Italian wood knob that feels really nice in the hand. Floors are completely rubber, there is no fabric in the cabin. In the back is an open cargo area. There is a rear seat that goes here and is included, but is not currently installed.
Condition-wise it’s a perfect driver. Everything works, drives straight and true, does not leak nor burn oil and heck, even for being an 80s diesel it doesn’t smoke any more than an 80s diesel does under load. Mechanically it’s fantastic, hence why it’s been our daily for so long. Cosmetically it does have issues, which are all pictured below. Major issues are there are a few holes rusted through in the floor, both seats are split at the seams exposing the foam and springs, with the driver’s seat being in poor shape. We simply slipped some seat covers over them and drove it anyway. The top needs to be remade as, It keeps the sun off of you and doesn’t leak so much as through the roof, but the canvas is so old that it’s shrunk enough that the windows can no longer reach their snaps in order to fully close the rear sides. The top is complete, just no longer 100% functional. It can be removed without issue for the full top-down experience. Rear cargo area has a large amount of mostly surface rust.
I hope it's clear just how unique, and dare I say, ‘rare’ this vehicle is. There is absolutely nothing like this, Samurais can get a bit close, but Samurais also don’t have 2.8 liter turbo diesels from the factory. It’s rumbly and rattly in all the best ways with a great turbo whistle, with excellent looks that always get a ton of attention when out driving. It makes mundane errands fun adventures, to say nothing of actually taking it off road where it excels. Take the top down, fold the windshield flat and capture all the bugs you can with your teeth. Captures more attention than Broncos or Land Cruisers, more uncommon than an International Scout, but hitting all the same notes. You will most certainly never see another soft-top Rugger like this ever again. I know we won’t.
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