Skip to main content

So there I was, walking along the streets of a small town in the Colombian Andes, when I recognized a Chevrolet bowtie on a green pickup truck. As I drew closer, I realized it was not a Silverado or Colorado but a Chevy LUV. No, this is not Chevy’s attempt at cracking the hippy market. The Chevrolet Light Utility Vehicle was a rebadged Isuzu compact truck GM sold in North America–including in the U.S.

Was the Chevy LUV an Isuzu?

The Chevrolet Light Utility Vehicle (Chevy LUV) was a compact pickup truck during the 1970s and 1980s. Chevy LUVs sold in North America were rebadged Isuzu Fasters. But in other markets, the Chevrolet LUV was not built by Isuzu.

The Chevy bowtie on the grille of a compact LUV pickup truck built by Isuzu.
1982 Chevrolet LUV | Cars & Bids

By the early 1970s, General Motors knew it needed a response to the compact trucks Japanese manufacturers such as Toyota were sending to the United States. Its answer was to partner up with Isuzu and import the Isuzu Faster as the Chevy LUV.

There was one problem, the U.S. imposed a 25% tariff on any imported pickup truck. To get around the fees, Chevrolet imported “chassis-cab” Isuzu Fasters, building beds in the U.S. This meant the automaker only had to pay a 4% tariff.

What’s intriguing about this truck is that not every Chevy LUV was built by Isuzu. The South American models were actually built by Chevrolet in Chile–but based on the same Isuzu design. So the Chevy LUV I saw in Colombia was engineered by Isuzu in Japan, built by Chevrolet in Chile, and then sold in Colombia.

What engine is in a Chevy LUV?

The most common engine in a Chevy LUV pickup truck is a gasoline-powered I4 engineered by Isuzu. But Chevrolet also sold LUVs based on the Isuzu D-Max with its 2.2-liter diesel I4–in 1982 only.

The pickup bed of a 1982 Chevy LUV compact diesel truck, parked in front of a home.
1982 Chevrolet LUV | Cars & Bids

One of these rare diesel Chevy LUV compact trucks actually popped up on Cars & Bids recently (pictured). This blue, 1982 Chevrolet LUV has just 33,000 miles and its Alabama registration means its likely rust free. It is a RWD with a five-speed manual transmission.

The LUV’s diesel engine makes just 58 horsepower, but it does offer 93 lb-ft of torque. But as the entry-level Chevy truck, towing capacity was never its claim to fame. The example on Cars & Bids is incredibly stock, even riding on its original 14-inch steel wheels, with a very groovy blue interior.

So how much is one of the rarest Chevy LUV pickup trucks around worth? In April 2023, the diesel 1982 model sold for just $12,100. There would be no 1983 Chevy LUV.

Why did they stop making the Chevy LUV?

In 1983, Chevy pickup buyers might have asked “Where has the LUV gone?” This is because Chevrolet replaced its “Light Utility Vehicle” with the new S-10.

The LUV and Diesel badges on the blue front fender of a compact Chevrolet pickup truck built by Isuzu for 1982.
1982 Chevrolet LUV | Cars & Bids

The Chevrolet S-10 was not a simple evolution of the Chevy LUV. While the LUV was a rebadged Isuzu pickup, the S-10 was General Motors’ in-house design (shared with the GMC S-15). That is why 1982 was the first, last, and only year of Chevy truck available with the I4 Isuzu diesel.

Next, Meet the ‘Alaskan’—a Pickup Truck Engineered in Japan, Built in Argentina, and Sold in Colombia by a French Company. Or watch a diesel Chevy Luv revived in the video below: