- Notwithstanding its Isuzu origins, it's a 1970s Chevrolet, and I'm on the record as loving Chevrolets from that decade (Examples 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and more no doubt to follow)
- I like my trucks unpretentious; trucks don't come any less pretentious than the LUV
- I liked Nathan's Ford Courier, which was essentially the Ford flavor of the same minitruck formula
- Most telling, I have a fatal weakness for helpless little bedraggled cars; and the LUV is nothing if not helpless and bedraggled.
The LUV is the exception to all of those rules. I should like the LUV, and I'm powerless to tell you why I don't. My only guess--and admittedly I'm being incredibly inconsistent here--is that the LUV wasn't good. For one thing, compact pickups of the time only barely qualified as transportation. The early 1970s compact pickups lasted forever but were hampered by their incredibly tiny size and complete lack of grunt. Most of them made do with much, much less than 100 horsepower--the LUV only got up to 80 horsepower late in its production run--and four-wheel-drive was not as typical then as it is for today's compact pickups.
Tiny, criminally uncomfortable, and weak, these pickups at least had the distinction of durability thanks to their ability to survive virtually any abuse or depredation. The Toyota Hi-Lux pickup built a reputation (and Top Gear's respect) with its ability to endure. Given that it was simply a rebadged Isuzu--Ur-P'ups, if you will--you would think the LUV would share the bulletproof reputation of its Japanese-badged sibling. And mechanically, I think the LUV was probably fine. What wasn't so fine was its protection from corrosion--wait, what protection? Rust viewed the LUV's body panels with the same all-consuming, slobbery hunger with which Wile E. Coyote lusts after the Road Runner. Making matters worse, seemingly nobody valued their LUV enough to keep it in anything close to pristine condition.
Nowadays, when you see LUVs on the road, assuming they can limp to the road, they are always filthy, missing body parts, and in a thorough and advanced state of disintegration. Since I have only ever seen LUVs in a completely decimated condition, I can only assume that this is a state most LUVs reached within moments of leaving the dealer lot. In my brain, LUVs have been linked inextricably with rot, decay, and malign neglect.
There may be another reason I hold the LUV up to such derision. You see, I had a friend of a friend in college who went by the appellation "Hoag." Hoag was the stereotypical hard-partyer who either had at least two illicit substances floating through his bloodstream at any one time, or had done so for a long enough period of time that he was out of his head even when stone sober. At any rate, he was often belligerent, muddled, hapless, and completely incomprehensible. He, of course, drove a thoroughly shabby LUV, filthy, falling apart, and with a dirty rag substituting as a gas cap. Given his seeming state of near-constant inebriation, I'm actually surprised the LUV wasn't in worse shape.
On one particularly memorable day, Hoag managed to back the LUV into his next-door-neighbor's house. He emerged groggily to survey the damage--happily, none to the house--and then slowly lurched away. I can still envision Hoag and his LUV, with him bleary-eyed and grinning vacantly in one of the worst trucks ever made. What makes me the happiest is how perfectly those two deserved each other.
Despite all of this baggage, I could probably come to actually ... um ... love, the LUV. It's a cute little thing; if exposed to LUVs that have been cherished instead of trashed I'm sure I'd find it pretty compelling.
I was actually stunned to find pictures of LUVs as nice as these; perhaps my conversion is already beginning. All are from Flickr; the top is from Katie and Joe, the second is from Ray of Unshine (which, incidentally, is a great user name), the third is from Jeba-ebediah, and the fourth is from christine*rn. I've included two videos here--one is a vintage advertisement, the other a pretty amateurish but very on-point parody of a Luv being given away on The Price is Right. I would totally drive the LUV with "34 MPG HWY" painted boldly on the side door.
A few comments from my Car Lust co-bloggers:
David Drucker: Do you suppose that a single, solitary Chevy LUV has survived to this point?
Big Chris: A guy up the street from my parents in Sioux Falls, SD, still drives a Chevy LUV. He's a mailman, and has been driving it since at least the mid-1980's (I used to date his daughter, so I remember it well). I think his was the 4-wheel drive version. There was a diesel version starting in 1981 (2WD) that got over 40MPG on the highway, and the motors (C223) ran half a million miles before needing to be touched! The downside is if two men my size want to ride in the truck, one is ending up on the hood or the in the bed! One guy dropped a 454 and a Ford 9-inch out back into his LUV, making it a go-cart/rocket from hell!