Moab's Easter Jeep Safari has become an annual show-and-tell for the off-road world, and the cool, new stuff that shows up never ceases to amaze us. Some of the products are so cool, the ideas so twisted, we're jealous we didn't come up with them ourselves, while others are downright scary, and we're just thankful we didn't have to bum a ride from the guy. As avid four-wheelers and magazine groupies, we get to hang out and ogle at all this cool gear just to bring you the latest and greatest four-wheeling. This is where the Samurai gurus at Trail Tough Products come in.
With eight tires, a bright-orange paintjob, and the ability to crawl sideways over just about any terrain, this wild, 'wheeling creation from the mind of Brent Bradshaw, owner of Trail Tough Products in Medford, Oregon, has been affectionately dubbed the Crustacean.
So, how much of this rig is actually Suzuki? A bunch! In addition to a Samurai tub, most of the drivetrain and running gear is Suzuki. With a focus on stealth, stability, and reliability, Bradshaw's vision was to design the ultimate, lightweight, high-tech rock buggy. Working with Trail Tough tech engineer Randy Rodgers, they took a bundle of 1-5/8-inch, 0.072 tubing and an arsenal of Suzuki components to created this ornery-looking but highly functional machine.
At the heart of this exoskeletal creation is a 1.6L, 16-valve, SOHC multiport fuel-injected Sidekick motor. For reliability, it was left completely stock with the exception of a K&N air filter. Spent gases are expelled via a 2-inch exhaust system and a DynoMax/MagnaFlow muffler from Mike's Muffler Advantage in Ashland, Oregon. To achieve more responsive throttle control, a Suzuki Swift GT flywheel, pressure plate, and Centerforce clutch disk were installed, reducing rotating mass by 7 pounds. For some serious 'crawling, the cogs of an OEM five-speed couple the featherweight mill to a stock Sami transfer case, which transfers power fore and aft via a set of Australian 6.129:1 Rockhopper gears. A Trail Tough combination skidplate/crossmember supports the entire assembly.
Checking out the nearly identical front and rear axles is where things get interesting. The axles are both Big Suz-Anas, an appropriate name for a hybrid axle that incorporates Suzuki Sidekick centersections and Dana 44 outer knuckles. The two are joined by 2-1/2-inch DOM, 3/16-inch tubing. The diffs are fitted with ARB air lockers, Sidekick 5.63:1 ring-and-pinions, and 27-spline Dana 35 side couplers. Warn chrome-moly axles were re-splined to match. Wrapped around Samurai rotors, hubs, and spindles are Suzuki Swift cable E-brake calipers that can be operated independently to control brake steering.
The fully hydraulic steering is motivated by an AGR Saginaw pump and controlled by an Eaton/Charlynn valving system. The steering fluid is dispensed to dual front and rear AGR rams, which are mounted to Trail Tough Hi-Steer centerlinks.
Steering modes are selected from a panel of dash-mounted switches and include circle steering, side (crabby) steering, and selectable lock to allowing front or rear steering only. Another innovative feature is a pneumatically controlled self-centering device, which precisely and automatically locks the rear axle for safely getting to the trail and back. To allow front-wheel drive only, a toggle controlled, Trail Tough pneumatic rear driveline disconnect sits just aft of the transfer case.
A cleanly engineered front and rear three-link system with a Johnny Jointstyle upper wishbone attaches these goodies to the frame. Levitation is obtained by a set of 185-pound AFCO coil springs and Doetsch Tech 8000 pre-runner shocks. Approach and departure angles have been nearly eliminated by stretching the wheelbase 12 inches.
The Crustacean also features Beard suspension seats, Schroth four-point harnesses, Trail Tough's billet aluminum, quick-release windshield hinges, an immaculate, hand-crafted interior, and a color-matched Warn 9000i spooled with Pull Master 17,000-pound winch rope. Lexan windows were installed in the kicker panels to track tire placement, and the front clip doubles as an air tank. Before final assembly, all of the components were taken to Star Auto Body and Paint in Medford, Oregon, to be sprayed in a flawless Yellow Freight Truck and silver clearcoat paintjob.
As for the eight 34x9.50 TSL Super Swampers on 589 Eagle wheels, that's a bunch of traction. This crabby, side-winding crustacean sticks to the terrain like glue and maneuvers over the rocks like a rock crab trying to avoid becoming part of the food chain. Trail Tough's wide-tracking. Little Crustacean turned a lot of heads at this year's Easter Jeep Safari, and we thought you just might want to check it out, too.