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

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