In the realm of compact trucks, the rivalry between giants like Chevy and Ford has been ongoing. However, the spotlight has recently shifted to Ford’s Maverick, leaving Chevy in need of a worthy contender. Ford’s dominance in the small truck market remains largely unchallenged, but if Chevy were to revive a successor to the LUV, the game could change. Even Toyota, recalling the LUV’s history of challenging their trucks, might feel a shiver of competition.
In a fascinating twist, the LUV once posed a formidable off-road challenge to the Toyota Truck, as documented in a comparison by Car And Driver. Despite its smaller stature, the LUV surprised with better ground clearance than its Japanese rival. What’s intriguing is that the LUV itself was of Japanese origin, crafted by Chevrolet’s partner, Isuzu. In Japan, it carried the name “Isuzu Faster” and debuted in 1972. Chevy’s objective was to take on the Ford Courier (manufactured by Mazda) in the U.S., capitalizing on the surge of compact pickups from the East.
The LUV flaunted remarkable fuel efficiency, achieving an astounding 32 miles per gallon on highways with a combined economy in the high 20s. Such efficiency was a marvel of the ’70s era. Structurally, the LUV featured a ladder-frame design, independent front suspension, a six-foot bed, and a payload capacity of 1,100 pounds—all this while weighing under 2,600 pounds. Under the hood, a 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine produced 75 horsepower and 88 lb-ft of torque, complemented by a four-speed manual transmission.
To sidestep the infamous Chicken Tax, Chevy brought in the LUV as a chassis cab model and completed the assembly in the U.S. The LUV’s compact size didn’t diminish its capabilities. In fact, it was hailed as an efficient cargo hauler, balancing versatility and fuel economy. The year 1979 brought optional 4WD and enhanced packages, including the LUV Mikado—a nod to its Japanese heritage. The Mikado model, while modest in feature additions compared to the base version, stood out with vibrant color combinations.
Though the Chevy LUV’s accomplishments were impressive, its legacy has somewhat faded compared to its successor, the Chevy S-10. Nonetheless, the LUV’s triumphs paved the way for Chevy to design its own line of compact trucks. Now, as the Maverick claims the spotlight and the Maverick Tremor conquers trails, the time might be ripe for Chevy to resurrect the LUV and pay homage to its pioneering legacy. As the automotive landscape evolves, the LUV’s resurrection could add an exciting chapter to the tale of compact trucks.