My Zooks

1985 Sierra JX 1.3 SWB softtop

I loved this little car. I bought it new and put about 300,000kms on it during the 10 years I owned it. In the end, it was more than a car... it was an extension of my personality. I think that's what's so great about Suzukis... they become a real statement about their owners.

Grant Vella dubbed it The Cockroach and the name sort of stuck... he reckoned that, like a cockroach, it would scurry across almost any terrain. :-)

By today's standards, it was really only slightly modified, but at the time was considered one of the club's more capable cars. It was a bit of a pioneer in some ways, as it was usually acting as a testbed for equipment which was often under development... springs, shocks, extractors, carby mods, etc... somehow, the Cockroach was always getting bits added to it.

It had a fairly extensive (for its day) list of modifications... suspension lift, longrange fueltank, Recaro seats, Weber carby, low-range transfer conversion, dual batteries, extractors, sports exhaust, custom barwork, etc, etc. After the Safari event, it also inherited quite a bit of fancy stereo gear, and was stolen (or attempted stolen) 5 times. Eventually it had just been stolen so many times that I gave up on it and ended up selling it. It was a sad day.

1974 LJ50 540cc soft top

At some point, *everyone* should own an LJ! This was real motoring... wind in the face, spiders living in the dash, fumes, oil, dirt and water. LJs put you in touch with the vehicle (and the elements) in a big way.

It was a really fun little car to drive, and very capable. This one was bog standard, right down to the 16" bar treads.

Eventually, it just got so much rust in it that it wouldn't pass rego, so in a fit of over-enthusiasm, I pulled it to bits with the intention of rebuilding it properly. It was an interesting learning experience. I learned I'm not really much of a mechanic.

I rebuilt most of the running gear, and my friend Peter Kunz did some welding on the body to fix the rust. We ended up doing cutaway sills, a-la Japanese trials machines... I got as far as primering the body, but never really got around to painting it. We moved house and it all became too hard, so it sat in Greg Hamilton's back yard for ages until I eventually sold it to a guy from down Cooma way. I wonder if he ever got it back together and running again? :-)

1986 Sierra JX 1.3 LWB

This car had one purpose in life. To complete the 1988 Wynn's Safari. That's all. I bought it new, stripped all the bits I didn't need, reinforced the bits I did need, and basically purpose-built it with the sole intention of being a reliable, strong vehicle for the Safari.

The full story of that event can be found elsewhere on this site, but the bottom line is that it covered the 10,000km event in 15 days, and finished 2nd in its class to boot. Suzuki make great cars.

We reinforced the spring mount points, added a long range fuel tank, an alloy rollbar and a set of Recaro seats. The suspension was built very stiff and the interior was fitted out with all the usual Halda and navigation gear required in a rally car, 4 point harnesses, etc. The exhaust was as noisy as hell, but the stereo gear provided by our main sponsors drowned out that noise. :-)

We ran the car in the Condobolin CentreTrek 750, won our C2 class, then followed it up with the 1988 Wynns Safari. It was a real experience to be racing with guys like Andy Stott, the Denham brothers, Andrew Cowan, Doug Stewart and Freddie Gocentas. The Ralliart teams have to be seen in action to be believed!

After that, the car was taken from me for about 6 months as part of the contractual agreement I had with Alpine Audio. They took it around Australia and put it on display in their dealers' shops. Eventually I got it back, just in time to sell it to raise money for a deposit on our first unit. Ah well, the circle of life!

1996 Vitara Estate V6 Wagon

Latest addition to the family. We'd gradually drifted out of the Suzuki Club and had been driving regular cars for a few years, although always having the notion that we'd buy another 4WD one day when the kids got a bit older.

Well we eventually figured the kids were old enough, and our Magna was dying, so we bit the bullet, bought the Vitara, and rejoined the club. It's still stock standard so far (although it's only been a month!) and although there are a few subtle mods I have in mind for it, I really don't want to do anything too over-the-top with this one.

Our priorities have changed a bit in the last 10 years, and we really just want to do some touring and travelling in it, take the kids camping and stuff. So I don't think we'll go too overboard with the Vit. Maybe some suspension. And possibly some bigger tyres. And, I don't know, maybe a low range transfer gearset ... and a rear difflock would be good ... I suppose a long range fueltank would be nice too. A bullbar would be a useful and very practical addition. It needs a UHF radio of course...

sigh... here we go again...

Update: Well, it's been lifted, got new tyres, had roofbars, cargo barriers and a UHF radio fitted and done about 40,000kms. I knew it wouldn't stay standard for long... ;-) However, as we have grown (or more to the point, as the kids have grown) it was getting just a bit squeezy on the longer trips so we eventually sold it to move on to something with a little more room in it. We miss it though!

1986 Sierra JX 1.3 LWB

Oh dear... you can take the boy out of the Sierra, but you can't take the Sierra out of the boy. Besides, I needed somewhere to put my CB2801 plates, didn't I?

You can blame Hemmi Voges for this one... she let me drive her LWB one afternoon at Cabbage Tree Lane and I was hooked again. I still have a way to go to get the car anywhere near as modified and capable as hers, but at least I have a decent starting point.

It's getting tough to find Long Wheel Base Sierras these days. We found this one in the Trading Post... it lived up in Newcastle, but it sounded good so we drove up for a look. I'm amazed at how original this one is for a 17 year old car.

My kids really love cruising around with the roof off too. Of course, I only take it off for the kids. :-)

So far, it has a moderate suspension lift, but will soon have a 3" body lift and a Rockhopper gearset, so it can run 31" tyres. The motor will probably need a bit of work eventually too, but it's a great little car so far. These things are just so much fun to drive... yeah baby!

Update: After a great deal of thought, I sold this one. I figured that it would have made an excellent "fully-sick" project car, but when you sit down and work out how much you would need to spend to get it to that point, and then list the tracks that you can actually use such a car on... well, you do the math. I just couldn't justify it so I reluctantly sold it. I really miss the soft top!

2004 Cub Explorer Camper Trailer

Ok, so it's not a Zook, but it spends most of its time getting pulled around by one.

Since we really like the touring side of 4WDing, going places and seeing things, we figured a trailer might be a good idea. It certainly saves time and effort when you pull into the campsite of a night, and packing up the next morning is a breeze.

I never thought I'd buy a new one, because they're not cheap and I'm a bit tight with money at times, but they hold their value so well we thought we might as well get exactly what we wanted. It's custom made with a heavy duty offoad axle and suspension, 15" 5-stud suzuki wheels, and all sorts of cool stuff to make our life easier while touring. Read more about it here.

We love it.

2001 XL-7 Grand Vitara

The V6 Vitara was nice, but we just outgrew it really. So what do you do when you outgrow your Suzuki and need something a bit bigger? Buy a bigger Suzuki of course!

For us, the XL-7 could very well be the perfect touring vehicle. More power, more room, more grunt. It tows beautifully, drives nicely, goes everywhere we need it to go, and best of all it's still a Zook. This one actually belonged to another Zook club member who was moving on to another XL-7, so we managed to snap it up. With the suspension lift already done, and a few other extras already fitted, it suited us perfectly.

We bought it 2 weeks before leaving on the Uluru trip, so our first chance to engage 4WD with any sort of seriousness was actually in Ruby Gap in the Northern Territory. Good thing we liked it! After almost 8000kms of travel within a month of buying it, we're pretty confident this Zook will be exactly what we want for a while.

We're already making a list of all the places we plan to go with the XL-7 and, just like the car, it's quite long.

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