August 16, 1991

I've Been To Bali Too

Bali. Island of swaying palm trees, sandy beaches and cheap watches. But did you also know that it probably has more Suzukis per capita than nearly any other place on earth?

"Selamat Datang. Welcome to Bali!"

So said the sign. Donna and I walked across the runway at Ngurah Rae International Airport, (sometimes mistakenly called Denpasar Airport although Denpasar, Bali's capital, is in fact quite a long way from the airport) in 30 degree temperatures. Yes, this was the trip that we won somehow. About ten months ago, we went to a promotion at the new Brighton Beach Resort Hotel and somebody shoved an entry form in our hands and said "fill this out!", so we did. We didn't even read it at the time.

A couple of days later however, we got a phone call telling us that we'd won a trip to Bali for 2 people for 5 days! Wow, you mean that people actually DO win these things? We finally got to take the trip last month, as we were both restricted to school holidays. As the prize was only for 5 days, we extended our return flight by another 5 days and intended doing some sight seeing.

The holiday was great. Bali has never really been on our Top 7 list of places to visit, but it was really fantastic. The scenery was superb, the people are just wonderful, the shopping is full of great bargains and the weather is constantly hot and sunny. We had 5 days in Kuta/Legian, where all the surfie/hippie types hang out, and then we headed off up into the mountains to Ubud, on to the volcanic crater of Mt Batur and the villages of Penelokan and Toyobungkah, then right across the island for a couple of days in the pretty little fishing village of Candi Dasa. We returned to Legian in time to do some last minute shopping before we came home…


Seeing as this is the Suzuki Club magazine, I won't go into too much detail about the holiday/sightseeing side of our trip, but rather, tell you about some of the weird and wonderful Zooks that exist on the island. Indonesia's Suzuki distributor, Indomobil, has quite a few models which are not available here in Australia.

Let me tell you firstly that there are heaps of Zooks in Bali. I reckon almost every third car would be one. There is virtually no recognised 4WDing on the island (don't worry, I checked it out), so there is not much call for the lifted suspension and bigger tyres that we are so used to here. In fact, the Indonesians tend to do the opposite … most of the privately owned Zooks (In Kuta, there are lots of hirecar Zooks which remain fairly standard) seem to have smaller, wider wheels with low profile tyres. There is apparently no rule on how far your tyres can extend beyond the guards, or if there is it isn't enforced, because it was quite common to see these little fat slicks sticking out from the guards by anything up to 6 inches! Another interesting fact is that all Suzukis in Bali have fully colour coded bumper bars.

There was the occasional LJ80, Katanas, Corsicas, a strange hybrid LWB, and an even stranger hybrid LWB semi 4 door hardtop. There was also something very similar to a 1 litre, badged only as an SJ410, but I never got to find out if they were 2WD or 4WD. Generally speaking, 4WD versions were the exception rather than the rule, but I did see a couple running around with front diffs. If you hired a car, it was virtually guaranteed to be a Suzuki of some sort, probably a Katana with the new "soft suspension", or so the wheel cover said.

Living in a Katana Republic

The Katana is a 2WD version of the Sierra. They use the panoramic roof wagon, or high roof, model as the basic shell but it is only fitted with a 1000cc motor. Because of the smaller motor the bonnet is the low-line type as used on the 1 litre model here, ie, without the 1300's so-called "power bulge". Did you ever wonder what became of the square headlighted Drover grilles when GMH dropped the Drover? They are all on the front of the Katanas! Yep, they have Drover front panels but of course wearing Suzuki badges. Although they are powered by the 1 litre engine, I was surprised to see that they still have a 5 speed transmission. That should get some of you 1 litre owners wondering … can you import these boxes into Australia?

Inside, the Katana uses the dash from our 1300 widetrack model, as well as similar seats. In the back however, the rear seat is gone; in its place are two rear seats placed sideways, a la Troopcarrier. With this arrangement the car becomes a 6 seater, although I wouldn't like to travel like that for any long distances! It becomes the Suzuki cram you're having when you're not having a Suzuki cram. Given the small size of both the island and its people however, it is quite a practical arrangement. I don't think it would work in Australia due to our very strict seatbelt laws ... laws which don't appear to be in place in Indonesia.

The front diff of the Katana has been replaced by a solid tubular axle. I only had a quick peek underneath one but there appeared to still be a transfer box of some sort, although there was no lever inside the car of course.

Par for the Corsica

The Corsica was not all that common. The first one we saw, we were in a bemo (taxi) travelling on our way to Nusa Dua, and Donna said "Doesn't that Suzuki look a bit strange to you?" (What a well trained wife I have!) We both tried to work out just what it was that made it look odd, when again my observant wife said "It looks like it's too long". Sure enough, the Corsica is built on a SWB chassis, but has a body which overhangs the rear wheel by another 3 or 4 inches, giving it a sort of mid wheelbase look. What a great idea… it's not longer by very much, but just enough leave the back seat in (this one had a normal forward-facing back seat) and still have some usable space behind it. Again I think they were mostly 2WD. Something else worth noting was the roof. They came in both hard and soft top versions. The hard top uses the standard hi roof body, but the soft top is also a high roof design as well. The part of the roof over the drivers head is metal, like a solid hi roof bikini top, and the soft top goes over the top of it. For serious 4WDing, this body shape would probably only get in the way. But for use as a runabout with some moderate 4WDing thrown in, I reckon this body shape would be a big hit in Australia.

A Long (Wheelbase) way from home

There were two contenders in the strangeness category here.

The first was similar to what we have here in Australia, but the rear overhang has been shortened to somewhere between a SWB and a LWB. (In fact it looked about the same as the Corsica rear overhang) Apart from that, it seemed fairly normal apart from the soft top. Whereas our Australian LWB soft tops are all stepped high roofs, these came in two versions. One was a flat roofed soft top which had a semi-fastback arrangement at the back and roll up half windows on the sides (see the photo)

The other type had a raised high roof soft top complete with a high roof windscreen frame, sort of an un-stepped hi roof soft top. Confused? So was I.

The other type of LWB, far more unusual to Australian audiences, was a factory hard top. On the drivers side it had just one door, but on the passenger side it had two. It looked like a 4 door wagon from one side and a 2 door wagon from the other. The guards were also completely different… they were squared off and looked more integrated. The sills were lower, and the rear end was like nothing I'd ever seen before. Different lights, bumpers, etc. Some of them came with skylight panels in a raised high roof design, a bit like a Daihatsu rocky. At first glance from a distance they almost looked like a Rocky, or even a mini Datsun Patrol. I had a quick glance inside one and they seemed to be quite a luxury model with different seats, carpets, more interior trimpanels, etc.

LJs for the Boys

There were a couple of LJ80s running around, mostly restored to immaculate condition. Even the LJ80s had high roof bodies on them, something which I've never seen in Australia. On talking with the locals, they had never heard of a 2 stroke model. The 80s I saw looked very schmick with their little fat slicks sticking out from under the guards… can you imagine it? The Suzuki Circuit Racing Club of Indonesia!

The price of buying a Katana? Around Rp17,000,000. That's 17 million Rupiah. Expensive? Not really. Once you convert the Indonesian Monopoly money into AUD$ it works out to be about $12,000.

If you go to Bali, you might like to hire a car to drive around the island. Expect to pay around Rp30,000 a day … around $20. Don't expect to get a soft top though … the Balinese officials passed a law a few years back forbidding the hire of soft tops to tourists. It seems there were all these Aussies getting pissed and falling out of the back of them! As well as the normal car rental places, it is pretty easy to get one of the locals to hire you his own personal car for even less. (these guys will do anything to make a quid!) Beware though, the road rules are pretty savage in Bali if you do happen to have an accident. If you hit a local, they take your passport and make you stay in the country till the person is well again. You are also liable for all medical expenses for that person. If the unthinkable happens and you actually kill a local, then you go straight to jail, do not pass go, do not collect $200, for a period of three years. No questions asked. You can take out insurance but apparently it is not worth the paper it's written on. If you hit a local, whether you are in the right or in the wrong, you are in the wrong.

We were intending to hire a car for our last 5 days, but after considering all this, decided to catch bemos (little public mini buses) instead. You could charter one for a whole day for the cost of hiring a car anyway. Driving in Bali is a unique experience. There seem to be no rules (unless you hit someone of course), people just overtake when they want to, pull out in front of you when they want to, and the person that blows their horn the most has right of way.

On the whole, we had a great holiday. People gave me some strange looks as I took photos of Zooks all the time, but I guess that what being a fanatic is all about eh?

Selamat Tingall!

Chris Betcher
August 1991

April 26, 1991

My Ultimate Suzuki

I was looking at the Cockroach the other day, and thinking about how much effort, money and work has gone into it over the last six years, when I began to think to myself "If I had the chance (and the dollars) to build it up all over again, how would I do it?"

Interesting question, huh? How would YOU do it? The ultimate Suzuki. (To coin a phrase.) There are some pretty heavily modified Zooks in this club, as well as out of it. Ex-member Andrew Inglis has a LWB 1300 with a Holden 3 speed gearbox fitted between the original box and the transfer case giving a lo-lo(-Io) gear of 104:1. Combined with a set of big wheels, and plenty of lift in the springs and body they tell me you just point it where you want to go! Remember Grant Rutledge's old 1 litre? It ended up being VERY tall, with a Corolla 1300 fitted running through a 5 speed close ratio gearbox, to a low-range 1 litre transfer, to Stockman limited slip diff centres.

Even though it is invariably more important to be a good driver than to have a super-modified car, you only have to watch Peter Emery's all-locked-up and lower ratioed Sierra, or Rod's more-wheel-travel-than-you-can-handle Stockman to realize that the right modifications can make a world of difference to the ease with which your car gets from point A to point B. Peter Lawrie's and Darryl’s 2-strokes are further examples, and if you take a stroll through the car park at any Suzuki Club meeting I'm sure you could find plenty of other examples.

Which brings me back to my original question ... How would I do it, if I could start again? I think before you can answer that question you need to think about what you expect the thing to do. How much on-road speed do you expect to trade off in return for off-road ability? How "unstoppable" does it have to be? Is it an only car (multi-purpose), or can you afford to be uncompromising (Bastard 4X4)? For the point of the exercise we can assume money to not be an object, but of course, it always is. So how would you do it?

I think it would make a really interesting collection of articles for Track Chat.... "My Ultimate Suzuki". Why not sit down and write one, send it in and let us all see what you would do.

As for mine......

I would start with a Sierra (Shock, Horror! What? Not an LJ??!!) Simply because it makes it simpler to have the fifth gear. I do too much highway driving to live without a fifth gear. But instead of the 1300 engine, I would transplant a new fuel-injected 1600 from the Vitara LWB. Exhausting via a set of interference length extractors into a mildly open sports exhaust, preferably exiting on the passenger side, just in front of the rear wheel. I would probably opt for the narrow track 1985-87 model Sierra, mainly because I'm too used to it to bother changing to the wide track.

The body of the car would receive a few modifications while it was off the chassis. (Easier to make the chassis mods when it's separated.) First I would chop the sills at a 45 degree angle bringing then up and in, a-la Japanese trials machine. While I was chopping, I'd get rid of the rear bumper, and trim the lower rear panels up at an angle and fit a new set of tail-lights to the curved rear 4 panels, similar to the old style VW Kombi lights. This would get them up out of harms way. The new raised profile of the rear of the car would necessitate a redesign of the fuel tank, but by utilising the extra space from the body lift, as well as bringing it forward and upwards at the front, I'm sure you could still squeeze 75 or 80 litres out of it.

While the body was off, all the spring mounting points would be continuous MIG welded for strength. Webbing and reinforcing the stress points would be an option if the car was going to do a lot of fast outback travel, or Safaris, but the extra weight doesn't warrant it for less stressful regular use. The front shock mount brackets would be cut and replaced with a thicker material and about 3 inches taller, in order to have a better selection of shocks.

If I was feeling particularly adventurous at this stage, I would weld the rear bracket in place for the Vitara control arm. (mounts just behind the transfer case; You need it to fit the coil springs.) The front one is a bit of a problem as there just isn't any room. Maybe that's why the Vitara has the front end set-up it has... I'm sure Suzuki would've copied Range Rover if they could've! You could probably get around the problem by using a panhard rod, although it's not the ideal solution. (What the hell! We've come this far ... just imagine it fits!)

Before we drop the body back In place, it's time to bolt up the axles on their coils. Locating arms would be fabricated to fit the original non-swinging spring mounts, and leading back to specially fabricated and reinforced fixtures on the axle housings. The axles would come pre-prepared with 4.666 diff ratios, with a Detroit locker in the rear only. (Too hard to steer with the front locked up.) But again, if we're dreaming, let's assume that ARB AirLockers are available for Suzukis. (Shit, now we really are dreaming!!) in which case, I'd fit them front and rear. Springs would involve a bit of guesswork to find the right rates, but a multi-rate progressive spring of some sort would have to be found. With the new coils and the increased choice of shock size, I'd pay a visit to Bob Heasmann at Sydenham to look at his catalogues to find some Bilsteins with just the right amount of compression and rebound.

OK, time to drop the body back on, but don’t forget the spacres for an extra 2 inches of body lift. Combined with the three inches of lift in the new suspension, it's starting to look pretty good! Bolt the body down. (It's a soft top of course!) Complete with 3 different tops ... squareback, fastback and bikini top. WITH tinted soft windows!!!) The option for soft doors would also be available.

With the extra lift and clearance between the body and chassis, there would be plenty of room to fit an APIO transfer case lift kit; this gets the handbrake drum well up inside the chassis rails and prevents that horrid scraping noise. Incidentally the transfer case is a series II 1 litre case with a New Zealand low range gearset fitted. Combined with the diffs we should be somewhere around 55:1. When this is combined with the 1611 three piece alloy Enkei wheels and BFGoodrich 1611 Mud Terrains, it should give back a little bit of the on-road speed. (Although admittedly, not much!)

Under the bonnet would contain all the usual goodies ... dual batteries, clutch cooling fan, large capacity alternator, and Finer Filter, this time fed through an integrally designed snorkel.

Inside, the seats would have to be Recaro, and an Alpine 6 CD changer unit and controller would take care of the sound on those long boring straight roads. The amplifier would be mounted up high on the firewall, to keep it as dry as possible. Water entry, by the way, would be minimised by sealing all holes in the body, after injecting fish oil compound to keep the internal rust down. If the water proofing could be gotten to an acceptable level then I would seriously consider carpets in an effort to silence the whine from all of those gears turning over. The rear of the car would be fitted with a false floor designed to house all the camping gear, and to provide a solid base to mount the Engel fridge on. AM/SSB and UHF communication would be fitted.

So, there you have it. I reckon it'd go pretty good. Now all you've got to do is figure how much my tongue is in my cheek!

DINNGG-A-LINGGG-A-LINNNGGG!!! Oops, the alarm clock; I think I'm waking up!!

Volume 16, No 4
April 1991
Chris Betcher