A Samurai Built As A Change of Pace
Hurricane, Utah, resident Jason Curtis has many opportunities to get off-road. There are trails minutes from his house, a large OHV area, and hundreds of miles of backcountry roads to explore. As a member of Washington County Search and Rescue, he has a chance to use his vehicles to help others – and he does.
We asked Jason why he chose a Samurai to build. He told us he wanted something different. "Something different" for Jason means it's not another early Bronco, '68-'72 Blazer, GM pickup, or any of the other 4x4s he currently owns. The Samurai's light weight, good fuel economy, and small size made it the vehicle of choice when project time rolled around.
Casey Lofthouse of Hurricane Auto is a Samurai expert and Jason's friend, so he was enlisted to help with the build. They started by removing the carbureted 1.3L four-cylinder and installing a fuel-injected 1.6L 16-valve I-4 from a Suzuki Sidekick. A Trail Tough adapter and wiring harness made the swap easy. The Samurai five-speed manual was retained, but the Sammy transfer case was regeared to have a 4.16:1 low range. High range is a bit lower, too.
The front axle is from a Toyota pickup with 4.10 gears and uses a Lincoln locker. The rear is a Toyota hybrid axle by Sky Manufacturing that has the required offset. It was built with 4.10 gears and an ARB Air Locker.
Jason used Trail Tough's Jeep Wrangler spring conversion kit front and rear. The Wrangler springs are longer and suppler than the stock leaf packs. Along with a 1-inch body lift, the springs allow 32x11.50R15LT Cooper Discoverer STT tires mounted on 15x8 American Racing steel modular wheels.
A Calmini front bumper holds a 9,500-pound Viper winch. The rear bumper is one of Casey's Samuraiman units and has an integrated swing-away spare carrier. The Samurai was repainted, the interior was Line-X coated, and a new Bestop soft top was installed to protect occupants from the elements.
Samurais are so cool. They work well in most situations, and their small size means they fit where larger vehicles can't. Jason cruised over rocks and dunes easily during our photo shoot. It looks like his desire for something different turned out well.