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HomeCar CultureStreet-Sighting: Bertone Freeclimber 2

Street-Sighting: Bertone Freeclimber 2

A Japanese, Italian, and German walk into a bar . . .

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I was navigating an unknown neighborhood in Buenos Aires last week when I stumbled upon a Suzuki-looking vehicle with badges that proclaimed, “Powered by BMW.” Huh? Never seen or heard anything like it. I was familiar with several hideous SsangYong models that were powered by Mercedes-Benz engines (the fact was emblazoned on the rear in font bigger than the vehicle’s brand name), but hadn’t heard of any vehicle that used Bimmer power. Walking around the mini-SUV, I noticed Bertone badges, but clearly this wasn’t a Malcom Bricklin-era Fiat X1/9. I whipped out my phone and snapped some pics, then went online when I got home.

Accurate information is hard to come by (often with one website copying the inaccurate information of the other), but this Bertone Freeclimber 2 I was looking at was an actual brand and model based on the Daihatsu Rocky. Why the Freelancer 2? Because there also was a regular Freeclimber based on the larger Daihatsu Rugger, which was powered by several versions of BMW gas and diesel straight-sixes.

For the Freeclimber 2, Bertone replaced the Daihatsu’s engine with a BMW 1.6-liter M40 SOHC four, which was an engine never available in U.S.-spec BMW models. A five-speed manual or automatic were the two transmission choices. Bodies were sent from Japan to Bertone’s facility in Italy, which meant the Freeclimber 2 didn’t suffer from the quotas and tariffs at the time. Bertone worked its magic and styled the Rocky with more distinguished front grille with quad headlights, more aggressive fender cladding with oversized tires, two-tone paint job, and fancier interior.

Per the Internet, production history is not very clear, with one resource claiming the Freeclimber 2 was built from 1992-93, while another says 1992-95 or ’96. Considering production supposedly reached 2,860 units, perhaps the shorter duration of the two makes the most sense.

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Diego Rosenberg
Diego Rosenberg
Lead Writer Diego Rosenberg is a native of Wilmington, Delaware and Princeton, New Jersey, giving him plenty of exposure to the charms of Carlisle and Englishtown. Though his first love is Citroen, he fell for muscle cars after being seduced by 1950s finned flyers—in fact, he’s written two books on American muscle. But please don’t think there is a strong American bias because foreign weirdness is never far from his heart. With a penchant for underground music from the 1960-70s, Diego and his family reside in metropolitan Phoenix.

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