Suzuki GB has bought Barry Sheene’s old Jimny | Top Gear
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Suzuki GB has bought Barry Sheene’s old Jimny

The racing legend and two-time Moto GP winner’s runabout comes home

Published: 29 Nov 2022

When it comes to classic cars coming up at auction, it’s really all about the story. Storied creators, famous owners, being a part of a temporally tiny but massively momentous moment in time... it can often overtake the car itself. 

And let’s just say it wouldn’t have much of a job overtaking a 1979 Suzuki Jimny. Armed with an 800cc four-cylinder engine, adorably tiny carburettor and the aerodynamic drag of your average parachute, it’s safe to say its owner was used to a slightly different pace from his Suzukis. 

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Because that owner was our very own Barry Sheene. Yeah, that one. Suzuki gave the little LJ80-generation Jimny to Sheene and his team in 1979 in recognition of his success at Suzuki’s works team. And in top-tier competition, that was two successive championship wins, and a runners-up the year after. In 1979, he’d claim third place in the championship on a 500cc Suzuki XR27 GP.

Sheene’s best championship results were astride Suzukis, and 21 out of his 23 race wins were on a Suzuki. So it stands to reason that Suzuki would be keen to reward such success – and get a bit more promotion of its four-wheeled fare in the two-wheeled world. 

After pit and promo duties were done, the jolly little Jimny put in a few more years at the Sheene family farm in Surrey until 1987. From there, for the sort of reasons only people with barns really understand, it was parked, had hay bales stacked on it and was subsequently rather forgotten about. 

From there, an ex-Suzuki marketing director did the old barn-find-restore-sell routine, sending the Jimny off on the merry journey old cars tend to when they’re not quietly rusting in a shed. From sale to sale, owner to owner – including a Suzuki dealer who wanted it for showroom display – the Jimny eventually came up for sale with Silverstone Auctions. 

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So, armed with a decent chunk of Suzuki GB’s yearly heritage budget and some fairly understandable motivation to add a figuratively large piece of Suzuki history to its collection of Sheene’s motorbikes and memorabilia... well, you can guess the rest. Suzuki GB is now the proud owner of the car it gave to Barry Sheene more than four decades ago. And that might even be a story worthy of overtaking the car itself. 

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