Our first Adventuremobile, the GEO Tracker (Suzuki Sidekick)
We all have that one vehicle from our childhood that holds a special place in our hearts. For me, it was my mother’s teal-green GEO Tracker.
I still remember sitting in the backseat with my little brother and the dog as my mom blasted down the Pembina Trail dodging mud pits and deep ruts putting her little 4×4 to good use.
To my brother and I, these trips may as well have been a safari park adventures. Out the window, we’d see all kinds of animals, rabbits, deer, Canada Geese, even the occasional moose.
The Tracker was an utterly utilitarian vehicle, but Growing up in Northwestern Minnesota, that’s what you wanted. Owning a 4×4 was its own kind of independence. It enabled us to take trips like this without fear of finding ourselves stranded far from help.
You have to remember, in those days no one had cell phones in those parts, and it was a long way from to walk to the nearest payphone to call for help.
My mother’s Tracker was also the first car I ever drove. I must have been in third grade at the time when for some reason, my mom decided to let me drive — more like idle — the Tracker the 200-yards from the pole barn to the garage. Of course, she denies this ever happened, but I remember.
What is a GEO Tracker?
If you’re not familiar with the GEO Tracker, I don’t blame you. Sold in the U.S. between 1989 and 1998 under the short-lived GEO brand, the Tracker was developed as a joint venture between General Motors of Canada and Suzuki.
In the U.S., it was sold as the Suzuki Sidekick and the Tracker under GM’s GEO brand, which at the time, was better known for low-buck economy cars like the GEO Metro and Prism than for helping develop an awesome little four-wheel-drive trucklet.
The Tracker came in a pint-sized, two-door model available with either a hard shell or soft top, as well as a more conventional four-door hardtop model beginning in 1996.
Our first Tracker was a red two-door, two-wheel-drive convertible, which we traded after my brother was born for the bigger four-door model I remember so fondly.
Unlike most compact SUVs from that period, the Tracker was built on a traditional light-truck chassis and suspension. Four-wheel drive came courtesy of a robust two-speed transfer case. However, unlike the four-wheel drive systems you’re probably familiar with, it couldn’t be engaged while on the move.
It makes sense why both the Tracker and the Sidekick were lauded for their off-road prowess. They weren’t particularly great compared to Jeep’s Wrangler or Suzuki’s own Samari, but they were cheap, light and a solid foundation for an off-road build. Of course, we never did anything like that. We were perfectly happy with ours Tracker’s stock 7.9-inches of ground clearance and full-size spare tire.
Despite the failure of the GEO brand, General Motors continued to sell the Tracker under the Chevrolet bowtie until 2004, but I’ve always found the chunkier first-generation models a little bit more endearing.
Given a chance to own one, especially a teal one, I’d jump at the opportunity. Unfortunately, finding a four-door Tracker or Sidekick in good condition today isn’t all that easy. My search only turned up a handful of abused examples, many with more than 200,000 miles on their clocks.
Motorweek’s take in 1996
Why the tracker has a special place in my heart
Looking back, the Tracker was something of a hidden gem.
It may not have been the most capable off-roader, nor the most comfortable or fuel efficient, but none of that was important. Our little green Tracker put countless adventures within easy reach. It was our base of operations while exploring the backcountry with our parents, and I can’t count how many road trips we took in the thing.
For that reason, the GEO Tracker will always have a special place in my heart, and it was the major motivating factor in my decision to get a 4×4 of my own.
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So tell us in the comments section below:
- Did you have a Tracker or Sidekick? Do you remember it as fondly?
- What was your first Adventuremobile?
- What did you like about it?
- Where did it take you?
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