“Heaven loves ‘ya, the clouds part for ‘ya, nothing stands in your way, when you’re a boy…”
David Bowie’s 1979 single, Boys Keep Swinging is perhaps best remembered for its somewhat transgressive music video, but lyrically it stands as a sneering subversion of contemporary masculine culture and male entitlement.
Now before continuing, the author feels duty bound to point out that he’s not actually suggesting that the denizens of Hamamatsu were making any radical socio-political statements about gender roles when they created the 1983 Mighty Boy, merely that a writer finds his framing devices where he can.
Nevertheless, it’s an amusing name for a rather cheerful little vehicle and even given the likelihood of Suzuki’s great and good having tongues wedged firmly in cheeks when they created it, I’d be interested in hearing the names they rejected.
The basis (or father if you prefer) of the Mighty Boy was the rear-engined three cylinder SS20 Cervo, first introduced in 1977. This car became available in Europe the following year as the SC100 with a four cylinder 970cc water cooled engine and modifications to its (allegedly) Giugiaro shaped body.
1982 saw the Cervo model replaced by the SS40 series, based upon a new generation front-drive Alto hatchback body and mechanical layout, but retaining a similar fastback style to that of the outgoing model. Instead of the four cylinder F10 unit fitted to European SC100s, the SS40 Cervo employed an in-line triple with 550cc and a fearsome 28 PS.
Utilising the Cervo bodyshell, but with the rear three quarters repurposed to incorporate an open cargo deck, the SS40T was introduced in 1983 as the Mighty Boy for domestic, Australian and Cypriot markets. The export market for utility vehicles such as this was likely to be as vanishingly small as the vehicle itself, and while one could perhaps understand the appeal in crowded Japanese cities, not to mention Japan’s legions of bonsai sheep farmers, one can only guess at the stereotypical Aussie ‘ute driver’s reaction.
Export models were fitted with larger road wheels, the option of five speed manual or two speed automatic transmission and chromed roof rails. All however came with the essential custom ‘Mighty Boy’ embossed logos upon the seats. Suzuki offered the model for five years, discontinuing it in 1988 when a new generation Alto / Cervo was released.
Returning to the subject of sneering indictments, it’s customary amongst enthusiast circles to laugh derisively at vehicles such as this, along with requisite allusions to flower arranging or similar. Irony after all, has always been a tough sell. Yet today, Mighty Boys are rare and highly prized amongst those who enjoy the more obscure reaches of automotive whimsy, and while having no real use for one, I nevertheless find the idea rather appealing.
“You can get a home of your own, learn to drive and everything. You’ll get your share, when you’re a boy…”
Boys Keep Swinging bookended Bowie’s 1970s experimental phase, the Lodger LP being the last record he would make with sonic technician and disruptor, Brian Eno for another twenty or so years.
Suzuki never made another Mighty Boy, which on balance does seem rather a pity. Well not quite. It wasn’t particularly apparent to me at the time, but in retrospect (pun not intended) 2015’s rather fine Mighty Deck concept was not only a clear homage to its 1983 forebear, but vividly illustrates that in Hamamatsu, the concept of irony, albeit not of Mr. Bowie’s more stinging variety, is not lost.