The year was 1984. Daihatsu was kicking off production of the Rugger to act as a direct replacement for the TAFT (Tough Almighty Fourwheeldrive Transport), which had been on sale for about 10 years. The new 4x4 model went on to be sold under different nameplates, such as Rocky in most export markets and Fourtrak in the U.K. It was also Toyota in Japan where the model was sold as the Blizzard.
The first generation spawned an interesting version around the end of the 1980s when the famous design house Bertone modified the body and built the vehicle at home in Italy. Thus, the Bertone Freeclimber was born and was available until 1992 when the first-gen Rugger was discontinued. So, what made it so special?
For starters, the custom coachwork signed by Bertone made it stand out from the regular version thanks to the quad headlight arrangement flanking a custom front grille. The Ruote O.Z. wheels were also part of the package, as was a significantly generous array of standard equipment compared to the regular Rugger.
The icing on the cake was the choice of three BMW-sourced engines: 2.0-liter and 2.7-liter gasoline units and a straight-six 2.4-liter turbodiesel. The latter resides underneath the hood of this rare example located in Florida and with only 62,389 kilometers (38,766 miles) on the odometer. Equipped with a “smooth-shifting 5-speed” gearbox as per the seller’s description on eBay, the Bertone Freeclimber is a proper off-roader with high and low range gears. That BMW engine (codenamed “M21”) is good for 114 horsepower and 162 pound-feet (220 Newton-meters) of torque.
The rare vehicle appears to be in great condition inside and out based on what we can see in the adjacent images, though the seller mentions the air conditioning is not working. It has gone through a technical inspection and might just be “the only one in the United States” right now, but it’s tricky to know that for sure.
After 17 bids on eBay, the 1991 Bertone Freeclimber is worth $9,500 at the moment of writing, with the listing scheduled to come to an end tomorrow.