This is a 1994 Suzuki Alto Works RS/X. In Japan, they are part of the Kei car segment: A segment of ultra small vehicles designed to be economical, spirited, and of course… fit in tight spaces. But – how do you end up with a car like this in the states? Well here’s how Dustin Lewis did it: 

JDM car Suzuki Alto Works

He got bored… 

Yep – Dustin got bored with the fact that the vast majority of new cars are dumb & numb. So he decided to sell all his cars, by his wife a reliable Land Cruiser… and everything else became a revolving door of unique golden-era vehicles (usually of the JDM variety). 

JDM car

He does it for the experience… 

Not only the driving experience… but also the ownership experience. The Suzuki Alto Works is so proportionally out of the norm… that people are just unexplainably attracted to it. It has the presence of a puppy dog wagging its whole rear end… just wanting you to come pet it. The thing sparks more curiosity & comments than cars 20x its price. It’ just… a mood-brightener. Even people who don’t know squat about cars will an approach Dustin at a gas station or parking lot & start asking questions & taking photos. Not just because it’s tiny. But because it’s tiny AND chock full of vibrance. So simple… yet so weirdly amusing. It reenforces the old adage…

“They just don’t make ‘em like they used to.” 

Kei car

Because see – the modern automotive industry has become…

Way too over-regulated & tech-dependent to ever replicate something like this Alto Works again. Technology can do a lot of things, but it cannot replace the authentic analogue connection between man & machine. In my opinion, that’s where we need to set some boundaries… because that’s where the SPORT is. In other words, that’s what makes driving so much more than transportation. Technology has a way of stripping the feeling & meaning out of things pretty easily. 

Alto Works badge

When it comes to the Suzuki Alto Works. 

The ‘Works’ is the juiced-up sports model. Notice the badge in front of the rear wheels, which was curiously written in English & not Japanese… even though it’s a Japanese-market car. And no, the Alto Works is not an especially fast car by today’s standards. But is is a driver’s car by ALL standards. Kei cars were limited to something like 65 hp. BUT apparently – what was not as limited was the torque. So while Suzuki Alto Works have a tiny 660cc turbo 3-cylinder… (and short gearing that is questionable-at-best for America’s interstate systems)… they’re an absolute blast to drive inside of their element. 

Alto Works

It all comes down to the fact that… 

Overall, this generation of cars were designed & driven by people who understood the SPORT of driving on a very foundational level. It’s not so much that way anymore. In this modern era, Sport has become a ‘selectable option’ on an infotainment screen. And/or rear spoiler that goes flaccid when you don’t need it.

Today in the US, you can get into most Kei cars at/under $10,000, and that includes importation & registration fees. They’re cheap… but the experience is as real as it gets. 

best Kei car

And if you wanna talk ECO 

A vehicle that gets 40+ miles-per-gallon & weighs just 1,400lbs seems pretty ‘green’ from a common sense perspective. Yet today – they’re trying to convince us that the path to sustainability is a 7,000+lb EV with a 6-figure price tag that mines craters into the earth & exploits 3rd world countries for rare earth minerals… all while becoming obsolete & unserviceable in less than a decade & being dependent on a severely lacking infrastructure. Oh… and they’re governable by design. Meaning you can turn them on/off over the air. Or charge an extra monthly subscription for heated seats. And upload speed limiters & range limiters as deemed appropriate “for our safety”. Kinda makes you question things doesn’t it? It’s a shame we can’t get our heads out of our asses, and just get back to basics & freedom behind the wheel. 

RHD car

Mechanical technology has provided great innovations for drivers & automobiles. 

But electronic technology is a horse of a different color. It’s turning out to overcomplicate things, while paving the way for malicious intent, and creating more dependency & less actual human ability. Which only leads to the subsequent need for more electronic technology to save us from ourselves… while further running-up the cost of new vehicles to the point where only the elite can afford personal transportation.

Advan ARA wheels

Anyways whoa, I guess I got slightly off-topic there… 

But not really. In reality, I couldn’t be more on-point. So from a car-lover’s perspective, if you’re getting fed-up, bored, and irritated with the way everything’s going in the automotive industry… stop playing! Eject yourself from the game. Do like our man Dustin Lewis did. Meaning – go get yourself a reliable Toyota that’s serviceable & that’ll outlast the sun… and then let the other cars in your stable become a revolving door of passionate, analogue vehicles that were designed to make you FEEL something. Driving is one of life’s most visceral experiences. At least it can be. And the way I see it, life is way too short to have mortgage-sized payments on a forgettable new car that drives like a box of store-brand cereal. Let that be someone else’s future, not yours. 

You know… it’s weird. Because in a way, this is the worst & most irritating time in automotive history to be an automotive enthusiast. But in another way, it’s the best… because we speak a language that the rest of the world apparently doesn’t know exists. I guess that makes us the lucky ones. 

Photos by Sam Igel II

JDM wheels

1994 Suzuki Alto Works RS/X

Wheels: Advan ARAs in 14×6 +20

Suspension: coilovers w/ Swift springs

Engine: Go Fast Bits (GFB) electronic boost controller on 17lbs.

…and Palsports ECU

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…And check out this video from Car Guy Fridays of this car when Dustin first purchased it

small intercooler