Click for Coverage
Exclusive Content
Original Shows, Motorsports and Live Events
Try it free for 14 days
Due to the EU’s Global Data Protection Regulation, our website is currently unavailable to visitors from most European countries. We apologize for this inconvenience and encourage you to visit for the latest on new cars, car reviews and news, concept cars and auto show coverage, awards and much more.MOTORTREND.COM
  • JP Magazine
  • Dirt Sports + Off-Road
  • 4-Wheel & Off-Road
  • Four Wheeler

Project Fredurai

Posted in Features on May 19, 2005
Share this
Photographers: David Kennedy
The sun was setting as I was putting the jack under Fredurai. I had a beverage and some pizza in my gut, and two pals coming over to help. By dawn I was going to be wheeling.

Last year we told you about our plan to challenge each member on staff to buy and build a truck with a total budget of $1,500. Well, some of us succeeded, and others didn't. I, for one, bought a black '91 Samurai for $450 and had it built under budget ("4x4x$1,500," July '04), but then I blew the head gasket on the first run out and was dead in the water with no rubber duck. So as I rounded up the parts to fix the black Sammy, I was offered a white '86 Samurai. Price? Free. It turns out that a friend of a friend had this little white rig in his driveway, and couldn't get the transfer case into gear, and he quickly got himself a new truck to get around in. Before long his wife was ready for Ol' Whitey to be gone. Luckily, he found me, a poor magazine editor who can never say no to a cheap 4x4, much less a free one. With that, I was back in the game!

Then, as if building a rig on a budget wasn't stressful enough, I decided to add to the challenge by starting the buildup one night as the sun set, and hopefully have it finished by the following morning. Yes, the dusk-to-dawn wrenchfest was in the works, and it almost happened.

This little breadbox of a 4x4 would give me another entry, and I decided to try it down the same trail, but on a different path. Again I would go for bigger tires and some lift, but this time the Sawzall, grinder, and hammer would be my friends. And, since there was no initial cost, I would be able to fix any issue with the transfer case, and also spend a little green on a Calmini low gearset while I had it apart. And since it was a carbureted rig, I also wouldn't have any of the computer problems the '91 had. As for what to call it? Well, since the black Sammy is named after my brother Sam, this one is going to be named after me--Project Fredurai.

PhotosView Slideshow

Every self-respecting 4x4 has knobby tires, and I wanted to run the knobbiest little muds I could afford and fit. I got on the horn to Tyres International and had a set of 30x11-15 Super Swamper TSL/SXs at my door in no time. These bias-plied doughnuts have thick sidewalls with extra lugs for mud and rock traction. I also contacted SpyderTrax for a set of black steel Rock Crawler Xtreme wheels. These 15x8 wheels have only 21/2 inches of backspacing to keep bigger tires out from the frame and suspension. I saved a few bucks by getting my friend Chris Durham to help mount them in my garage using some Tyre Plyers I had from Outback Extreme Products. You can order tires mounted and balanced from Tyres International, but I decided to wait and see what type of balancing problems I encounter by doing it at home.

PhotosView Slideshow

The Recipe

'86 Suzuki Fredurai
13/4-inch longer shackle from Trail Tough ($46 per pair)
2-degree shim to keep caster within reason ($20 per pair)
Calmini 5.14:1 Rockcrawler transfer case gears
Five Super Swamper TSL/SX from Tyres International ($100 each)
Five 15x8 steel wheels with 21/2 inches of backspacing ($44 each)
Shifter sheet from Petroworks
Pilot bearing
Degreaser and gear lube. Pizza and beer to convince friends to help.

Other costs which would make us blow the budget, but you might encounter

Getting someone to weld the diff and set up the gears
$150 to $500
Welding the shock mounts
$50 to $100
Towing the pile home
$20 to $50
Calmini transfer case bearing kit

So did we succeed? We think we did, but it was tight, and only worked 'cause we had some tools and good friends to help use them. Building a rig on a budget is rough, especially if you don't know anyone. Take you time, and research everything you can about the vehicle you are gonna build. We spent a bunch of time on the Internet, specifically on Zukiworld Online ( and similar sites specific to Suzukis, but there are sites for all vehicles, and from these sites you can usually find parts, tips, and even friends who will help you wrench.


Miller Electric
Appleton, WI 54912
Drivetrain Direct
Corona, CA 92880
Extreme Outback Products
Vacaville, CA
Bakersfield, CA 93313
Trail Tough

Connect With Us

Newsletter Sign Up

Subscribe to the Magazine

Browse Articles By Vehicle

See Results