The Progression of Spidertrax
The silver Suzuki seen on these pages may look familiar to longtime readers. No, your eyes do not deceive you; this Spidertrax-built Samurai previously appeared in the March 2002 issue of 4WD&SU. No, we are not trying to pull a fast one on our readers. When Phil Howell first wrote the feature on this Samurai christened the Arachnid in 2002, eddie Casanueva and Tom Kingston were still living in new Jersey, and Spidertrax was catering exclusively to the Suzuki crowd. In the last five years, life seems to have come full circle for all parties involved. Howell has returned to his rightful place at the helm of 4WD&SU, and Casanueva bought the Arachnid back from the original owner, enelio ortega.
Before the article was even published, Casanueva and Kingston uprooted Spidertrax and made the move to Longmont, Colorado. It was in Colorado that their business blossomed beyond the Samurai market to offer products for Jeeps and fabrication parts for the do-it-yourselfer. Still, they never forgot their Samurai roots. Once when returning to new Jersey to visit family, Casanueva spotted the Arachnid sitting neglected next to ortega's home. He struck up a deal to buy back the Samurai, which had been subjected to very little of the hardcore wheeling that it was built to tackle.
Once the Samurai arrived in Colorado, Spidertrax decided to update the Arachnid with its latest parts while still retaining the vehicle's heritage. Visually, little has changed from the original incarnation, with the Samurai frame and distinctive sheetmetal preserved. The stock 1.3L engine, five-speed Suzuki transmission, and Petroworks grs II transfer case were also retained, although a Trail Tough rear-driveline disconnect was added to the transfer case to allow front-wheel-drive operation on the trail. The big changes were all reserved for below the frame.
The previous axles were the pinnacle of Suzuki-based components, with Spidertrax housings, full-floating ends, disc brakes, and Detroit e-Z Lockers. These differentials were replaced with Spidertrax Spider 9 axles, which take the fabricated housing idea several steps further than the Suzuki housings. The Spider 9s have Spidertrax- fabricated knuckles and proprietary axleshafts that allow an amazing 60 degrees of turning. Spidertrax unit bearings and drive flanges are used in conjunction with Wilwood disc brakes that fit under 17-inch Trailready beadlocked rims wrapped in sticky 37-inch bfgoodrich Krawler kxs. The tires are turned by Yukon 6.5:1 gears and arb Air Lockers in the Strange nodular third members. In order to accommodate the huge range of motion from the axles, the idekick power steering was replaced with a PSC orbital valve and 2-1/4x1-1/2-inch double-ended ram for one-finger turning in the rocks.
The previous set of axles was suspended by front coil springs and rear quarter-elliptical springs, with low-dollar shocks and links locating both ends. "The hardest part was not changing everything," states Casanueva. "Technology in this industry, and our personal skills and preferences, have progressed so far in the past five years."
Exercising restraint, the rear quarter- elliptical suspension and 40-inch long, 1-3/4x1/4-inch-wall links were preserved, and the rear shocks were replaced with rebuildable Fox Shox, while the front springs and shocks were replaced with Fox air shocks. The suspension geometry was changed to be more neutral when the air shocks were added, and the front links were lengthened, stretching the wheelbase from 87 inches to a more stable 94 inches.