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Super Samurai

Posted in Features on July 18, 2002 Comment (0)
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Super Samurai

Snowmobilers know Dean Bullock.

As a famous snowmobile racer and titleholder, Dean has made a name for himself in the white stuff. He also owns and operates D&P Performance in Cedar City, Utah, a shop that's well known for its high-performance snowmobile mods. What's not as well known is that Dean has made a name for himself in the rocks, too. An avid four-wheeler, he likes to get into the backcountry even when the ground is dry and challenge his vehicle and himself on the toughest terrain available.

Dean's current vehicle is a superb '86 Suzuki Samurai that has been tweaked almost to perfection. With a wheelbase of 98 inches and a width of only 72 inches, it's able to crawl the steepest obstacles and still snake through tight boulders and canyons with ease. Dean took the old Samurai, stretched the frame and, with the help of Southern Utah Mobile Welding of Cedar City, built a custom bed with aluminum toolboxes in both sides behind the cab.

The carbureted 1300cc mill was left stock, but other changes under the hood included Toyota power steering, two Optima sealed batteries, and breathers for the gearboxes. Behind the engine, the stock Samurai five-speed transmission was retained, but the stock transfer case was swapped for a GRS II from Petroworks. The GRS II offers a 4.89:1 Low-range, which, coupled with the 5.89 gearing in the front and rear, gives Dean all the gear reduction he needs.

Dean swapped in Dana 44s front and rear, and equipped them both with Lock-Right lockers for good traction. On the suspension side, Dean went to Above All Auto in Cedar City, which used Ford early Bronco control arms and coil springs up front, and Ford front control arms with half leaf springs in back. Custom Panhard rods were fabricated for the front and rear. Dean mounted 33x12.50R15LT BFGoodrich Radial Mud-Terrain T/As on 15x10-inch alloy wheels.

For protection, a full rollcage was installed, while a custom, swing-down center skidplate and rear bumper with nerf bars keep the Suzuki protected. Up front, an ARB Bull Bar front bumper was bolted on, with provisions for carrying an axe, rock bar, and a Hi-Lift jack. The ARB bumper was also modified to accommodate a frame-mounted Ramsey 9,000-pound winch with wireless remote.

For long backcountry forays, a 13-gallon stainless steel fuel tank was installed with a backup electric fuel pump available if the primary pump fails in the back of beyond. For extra body protection and good looks, Cedar Auto Collision Center applied 13 gallons of Super Liner bedliner on every inch of the Zuk inside and out.

There are a lot of little touches that make this Samurai special, such as the rock lights underneath. With two lights in front, two in the center, and two in back, Dean can illuminate any trail on the darkest night. Also, note the snorkel. While the installation of a snorkel on most vehicles is laughable because differentials, trannys, transfer cases, and electrics get waterlogged long before a snorkel would be needed, Dean wanted to be certain he could ford water that came almost to the top of the hood. Even the four Sony speakers are waterproof marine units. A Cobra CB and cell phone keep Dean in touch with the outside world.

As the Samurai was put through its paces on the rocks, the suspension allowed the axles to articulate very well, keeping all four tires firmly planted on the ground. The Toyota power steering made steering easy, and the vehicle impressed us with its execution and great looks.

02064wd 01zoom+1986 Suzuki Samurai+Front Passenger Side View Climbing Hill
02064wd 02zoom+1986 Suzuki Samurai+Front Under Carriage View
The front suspension is a study in simplicity. Control arms from an early Bronco keep things under control, while custom, lighter-rate coils afford a great ride and plenty of articulation. Rancho RS 9000s are the shocks of choice. You can also see one of the undercarriage rock lights Dean installed. The front suspension is a study in simplicity. Control arms from an early Bronco keep things under control, while custom, lighter-rate coils afford a great ride and plenty of articulation. Rancho RS 9000s are the shocks of choice. You can also see one of the undercarriage rock lights Dean installed.
The skidplate is designed to easily drop down for servicing the transfer case and transmission. The Petroworks GRS II transfer case allows the driver to shift into 2-Hi, 2-Lo, 4-Hi, and 4-Lo. The skidplate is designed to easily drop down for servicing the transfer case and transmission. The Petroworks GRS II transfer case allows the driver to shift into 2-Hi, 2-Lo, 4-Hi, and 4-Lo.
The rear Dana 44 features 5.89 gears and a Lock-Right locker. The custom Panhard rod can be seen here. The cut half leaf springs slide on low-friction material in back. The strong rear bumper was built to take hard rock hits and has rock lights mounted underneath, pointing down. The rear Dana 44 features 5.89 gears and a Lock-Right locker. The custom Panhard rod can be seen here. The cut half leaf springs slide on low-friction material in back. The strong rear bumper was built to take hard rock hits and has rock lights mounted underneath, pointing down.
The custom aluminum bed has built-in toolboxes on either side to carry all of Dean's backcountry tools and equipment. The custom aluminum bed has built-in toolboxes on either side to carry all of Dean's backcountry tools and equipment.
02064wd 07zoom+1986 Suzuki Samurai+Rear Drivers Side View Climbing Rocks
The Samurai dash was left fairly stock. Switches and controls fall readily to hand in the clean interior. The Samurai dash was left fairly stock. Switches and controls fall readily to hand in the clean interior.

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