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New, school me on the ways of the Samurai

Prizefighter

Member
Joined
May 19, 2021
Member Number
3921
Messages
7
Loc
east Texas
My wife wants a Suzuki Samurai after seeing Fred and Dave build one on Dirt Every Day. I've been researching and reading up on them since my experience is with Broncos and Ford trucks and I know nothing about these rigs. Help me with the basics, we aren't going for a hardcore crawler, something on 31s that she can have fun with and learn on. Here's the little that I know so far:

No power steering
Manual transmission
SOA is popular lift
1.6L engine swap is popular
6.5:1 transfer case gears is easy upgrade
Zuki axles don't like anything bigger than 31ish? Not really worth the $$ to invest in them with gears and lockers if you plan to go bigger
Yota axles are a popular swap

Prices in my area are $5,000 for a stock or built one. Rust really isn't an issue in east Texas.

What upgrades should I look for in one for sale?
What to watch out for?
What engine is the 1.6L coming from that people swap into these?
Any companies that are the go-to for them?
 

YotaAtieToo

Thick skull
Joined
May 19, 2020
Member Number
142
Messages
6,913
Loc
Bonners Ferry, ID
My wife wants a Suzuki Samurai after seeing Fred and Dave build one on Dirt Every Day. I've been researching and reading up on them since my experience is with Broncos and Ford trucks and I know nothing about these rigs. Help me with the basics, we aren't going for a hardcore crawler, something on 31s that she can have fun with and learn on. Here's the little that I know so far:

No power steering
Correct, track kick parts are an easy swap
Manual transmission
SOA is popular lift

Soa sucks with stock leafs. Lots of wrap, bent leafs, ect. Spend a little money on good lift springs. Ome or even trail gear are good bolt ins. Everyone will say yj's but they suck ass on little tires and hit everything.

1.6L engine swap is popular

Yes, but supply is drying up. If the 1.3 is in OK shape. I'd recommend the 3k carb swap. Or go straight to the 2.0 in the newer suzukis.

6.5:1 transfer case gears is easy upgrade
Yes, 6.4 sumo gears are better though.

Zuki axles don't like anything bigger than 31ish? Not really worth the $$ to invest in them with gears and lockers if you plan to go bigger

Yota axles are a popular swap

Old myth imo. I've been running 32 sxs tires for a few years now with zero issues. I spent a whopping $400 on rcv front axles.

Toyota axles are not a bad swap, but again, supply is drying up, and they'd be pretty overkill for 31s.

Prices in my area are $5,000 for a stock or built one. Rust really isn't an issue in east Texas.

What upgrades should I look for in one for sale?
What to watch out for?
What engine is the 1.6L coming from that people swap into these?
Any companies that are the go-to for them?

Ok, no more spoon feeding. :homer:

Every bit on info you can ever imagine is out there if you actually put some effort in.
 

Bebop

Well-known member
Joined
May 26, 2020
Member Number
1458
Messages
1,260
6.5 gears in TCase
ZOR snatch TCase mount / skid plate
Reinforce the factory TCase chassis brackets
Power Steering swap from a tracker / sidekick
OME rear leaves
Front RUF
31" UTV tires
Lockrights front and rear
RCV shafts in front
rear disk brake conversion

You'll have an amazing machine for a limited amount of money.

My old one (same build list).

full.jpg
 

chaplinfj60

Well-known member
Joined
Nov 17, 2020
Member Number
3057
Messages
784
Loc
marshalltown iowa
here how you drive my buddies sami,

walk up to any truck or car slam hand in door, get good and pissed off
start engine now that your pissed
wind it up good
dump clutch
hold on
giggle when you out shine everyone at the park
lunch, slam hand in door again, and repeat :beer::beer::lmao::lmao::lmao:
 

woods

I can fuck up literally anything.
Joined
May 22, 2020
Member Number
1120
Messages
5,011
40mm Harley CV carb really open the motor up too.
 

Swayzeexpress

Red Skull Member
Joined
May 30, 2020
Member Number
1691
Messages
272
I went balls out on mine but if you aren't going 1.6 definitely look at the Harley swap, it is amazing and he most likely has a weber in there now.

YJ springs will keep ladies boobs from bouncing quite well.

If you are taller, town and country flip and fold seats bolt right up and you get more legroom but they are wider so they are a little tighter fit.

rear locker is nice especially if you are adding twin sticks, 2LO locked up is a blast in these

Have fun!
 

Paul

Hack
Joined
May 30, 2020
Member Number
1680
Messages
29
Loc
York, SC
6.5 gears in TCase
ZOR snatch TCase mount / skid plate
Reinforce the factory TCase chassis brackets
Power Steering swap from a tracker / sidekick
OME rear leaves
Front RUF
31" UTV tires
Lockrights front and rear
RCV shafts in front
rear disk brake conversion

You'll have an amazing machine for a limited amount of money.
I have almost this same build minus the rear discs and reinforced tcase brackets. I haven't installed the rear lockright yet, and I did the electric power steering thru the stock sami box instead of typical hydraulic PS. Time will tell if that was smart or not (probably not for shitmissling). I used OME rears at both ends.

Even with the open rear it does almost everything I want it to. I wish I'd have gone with a SxS tire, that's about the only regret, and it's pretty minor.

PXL_20220423_180912032.jpg
 

2big bronco

Og irate
Joined
May 19, 2020
Member Number
188
Messages
2,831
Loc
Prunedale ca
Start with a mini spool in the back, transfer case gears with a cradle, and the bigest mud terrains you can fit with some trimming (235s) get out and start uaing it, you will be plesantly surprised. Upgrade as needed but you most likely wont need to.
 
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Joblo

Member
Joined
Jun 4, 2022
Member Number
5263
Messages
8
yota axles. A case bucket with 6.5s and hyd steering. Stretch her out a bit and run it. Wish I would have stayed with that but … yeah.
 

Joblo

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Jun 4, 2022
Member Number
5263
Messages
8
The utv tires weren’t really around then so can’t speak much of them . I wound up with a tracker 1.6 /th180 , Sami case with bucket and 6.5s toy axles / w longs and 37” stickys.
Wish I would have kept her only lost 1 front output, 1 long Feild and a couple 5.29 r&p in 10 years of abuse.
 

Baldy

Active member
Joined
May 30, 2020
Member Number
1690
Messages
27
6.5-1 T gears would be the first thing to do then SPOA with jeep springs, Spartan lockers, 31" tires, run propane. You can keep the 1.3 and add a supercharger for more power.
 

2big bronco

Og irate
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Member Number
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2,831
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Prunedale ca
6.5-1 T gears would be the first thing to do then SPOA with jeep springs, Spartan lockers, 31" tires, run propane. You can keep the 1.3 and add a supercharger for more power.

If hes mild wheeling i dont think there is any reason for spoa. Yj springs are nice but i still say tcase gears and rear locker or spool first followed by actually getting out and using it.
 

woods

I can fuck up literally anything.
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yota axles. A case bucket with 6.5s and hyd steering. Stretch her out a bit and run it. Wish I would have stayed with that but … yeah.
I can't imagine Toys being easy to find anymore. I managed to score mine ten years ago, but there were sort of short supply then.
 

woods

I can fuck up literally anything.
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If hes mild wheeling i dont think there is any reason for spoa. Yj springs are nice but i still say tcase gears and rear locker or spool first followed by actually getting out and using it.
This is exactly where I'd be. Locker and gears. I wheeled on a set of used 30" retreads on stock axles for a full year. I beat the everliving shit out of that thing. she just kept kicking. It wasn't until I did the whole YJ, Toy, full hydro that everything went full stop. it never wheeled right after that.
 

2big bronco

Og irate
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Member Number
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Prunedale ca
This is exactly where I'd be. Locker and gears. I wheeled on a set of used 30" retreads on stock axles for a full year. I beat the everliving shit out of that thing. she just kept kicking. It wasn't until I did the whole YJ, Toy, full hydro that everything went full stop. it never wheeled right after that.
Ive built a ton of them and they are never more fun then when they are kept simple. If your looking for a full wheeler go buy sombodys proven $5k already built yota.
 

Joblo

Member
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Jun 4, 2022
Member Number
5263
Messages
8
I can't imagine Toys being easy to find anymore. I managed to score mine ten years ago, but there were sort of short supply then.
You’re probably right… it’s been a bit since I was using them for stuff .
 

woods

I can fuck up literally anything.
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You’re probably right… it’s been a bit since I was using them for stuff .
I wouldn't even know what to look for anymore. Rubicon axle maybe? What would be equivalent to a Toy axle nowadays?
 

Joblo

Member
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Jun 4, 2022
Member Number
5263
Messages
8
Not sure where you guys are at but myself and everyone I know has toys just laying around.
Maybe I need to list my stock pile. Didn’t know the stamped housing were a hot item. What does a fj 80 chromo front and 9.5 go for these days?
 

DannyK

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Joined
May 27, 2020
Member Number
1547
Messages
298
Loc
Stokeridge, NC
I owned and wheeled a Samurai for about 12 years. It basically was built in two stages. The first stage lasted about 2 years. The second stage lasted about 10 years.

Stage 1:
  • 1.6 16v motor swap
  • 6.5:1 TC gears
  • Ratrock TC bucket with custom mounts
  • Welded rear
  • Lockright front
  • Trail Tough Double Tough chromo front shafts
  • YJ springs SPUA (Much better ride and really lets it flex)
  • Low Range shock hoops up front, custom shock hoop in rear, longer shocks
  • Track/Kick power steering with Petroworks Wedge bracket
  • Old 32" tires off my Bronco on 15x8 rims with 2" backspacing
  • Cut fenders and tub and raised the fender flares up about 2-3"
  • Dodge Neon seats
  • Sleeved drag link (bent it twice)

1660133036268.jpeg


Stage 2:
  • Winch
  • Twin sticks for TC
  • 34" LTB tires
  • Rim stiffeners
  • Removed flares and cut fenders and tub more for tire clearance
  • Full roll cage added
  • Heavy duty engine mounts and transmission mount

1660133390104.jpeg


1660133276809.jpeg


It survived surprisingly well on 34" tires. I think a large part of that is the overall weight of the rig was kept down. I did break some axles in the front and rear (chromo front, stock rear), and lockout mounting bolts but I considered it acceptable for the amount of abuse they took over 10 years. I'm on the East coast where the rocks are not very grippy and there is usually dirt or mud on them.

The only thing that held this rig back at all was the low spring hangers and shackles.

Good luck finding a Samurai. They are getting hard to come by. I bought mine stock in the spring of 2005 for $800. It ran and drove great.
1660133817429.jpeg
 
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DannyK

Well-known member
Joined
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Member Number
1547
Messages
298
Loc
Stokeridge, NC
Zuki axles don't like anything bigger than 31ish?
Not really true, but it might depend on where you wheel. I got away with 34" tires on typical east coast trails with TT double tough chromo front shafts and stock rear shafts.

Not really worth the $$ to invest in them with gears and lockers if you plan to go bigger
Yota axles are a popular swap
You don't need to regear the axles if you buy 6.5:1 transfer case gears.
You don't need to swap to Yota axles unless you step up to big tires.

What engine is the 1.6L coming from that people swap into these?
Suzuki Side kicks and Geo Trackers. The 1.6 8v motor makes about 80 hp. The 1.6 16v motor makes about 95-100hp. The stock motor is 1.3 8v and puts out about 58 hp.
Any companies that are the go-to for them?
Low Range
Trail Tough
 
Last edited:

woods

I can fuck up literally anything.
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Not really true, but it might depend on where you wheel. I got away with 34" tires on typical east coast trails.
Guy I wheeled with had some 34" narrow pizza cutters. He snapped an axle every time he went out. The best was when he snapped a rear, then a front on the way back to the trailer. :laughing:
 

Paul

Hack
Joined
May 30, 2020
Member Number
1680
Messages
29
Loc
York, SC
I thought about going straight to mostly stock toyota axles with lunchbox lockers and maybe upgrade birfs and just running like 33" TSLs, but it was a little less hassle and cheaper to upgrade the zuk axles and keep myself in check on tire size.

If I was starting from scratch and had toy stuff laying around, I would use it. The weight and ground clearance penalty seems very minor.

Based on what I've read and heard, it seems like more zuk rear axle shafts seem to let go when folks are running a spool or welded diff. I think a ratcheting locker or selectable may help the axles live longer. I didn't bother upgrading the rears to chromo as I'm not convinced it makes a significant difference.
 

woods

I can fuck up literally anything.
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Member Number
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I wouldn't bother with going Toy for 33s. Upgraded shaft and a mindful foot should be fine.

I was running 36" Boggers with the valve stems removed, locked front and rear, and a brick on gas pedal and never had issues with Toy shafts.

If anything, the t-case ripping out of the mounts was the issue. I was half way up a mountain when I went to shift, and the only thing preventing the transmission from laying on the ground was the shift knob in the shift boot. I ripped every bolt right out of the case.
 
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