We began this Samurai buildup wanting to install Rocky Road Outfitters' JP-Eater Wrangler spring conversion kit. This is a simple, bolt-on kit that can be installed in a number of configurations, depending on the size of tires you want to run. By replacing the stock Sami springs with stock Jeep Wrangler springs, which are about 6 inches longer in the rear and almost 9 inches longer up front, you can gain 2.5 inches of lift. More lift is achieved when the kit is installed in a spring-over axle setup; even more when lifted Wrangler springs are used. We knew right away that 35-inch tires were in our future, so we opted to go with the spring-over axle and use lifted springs. Old Man Emu's 2-inch lift, military wrap Wrangler springs proved to be the perfect selection for our project. The springs use draw-tapered and diamond-cut leaves, and they provide a super-soft and very flexible ride. We'd complete the suspension system with a set of 32-inch extended-length Rancho RS9000 shocks.
Though we'd first intended to simply install the kit on our '86 Sami and continue using the stock Suzuki axles, we seriously questioned whether they'd hold up to the abuse of 35-inch tires. With the small horsepower output of the Suzuki engine, we knew we didn't need Dana 60 strength, but an upgrade was still desired. That's when we decided that the Toyota 8-inch axle offered just the reliability we needed. Depending on the year and model of the vehicle, Toyota axles are 3 to 6 inches wider than the Suzuki units. Regular and high-pinion versions of the Toyota axles are offered from the manufacturer, and a number of aftermarket gearsets and lockers are widely available. The only factor that concerned us about using the Toyota axles was the notoriously weak Birfield joint, but a number of aftermarket manufacturers address this weak design and we'd eventually complete a Birfield eliminator or similar conversion.
After locating a set of '87 4Runner axles (already equipped with 4.88 gears, ARB Air Lockers, and All Pro differential guards), we further outfitted the front with All Pro chrome-moly inner axleshafts. The new axles also created a need for a new steering system, which was met by Sky Manufacturing with its Samurai-to-Toyota high-steering arms, and tie-rod and drag link assembly. National Tire & Wheel shipped a set of pre-mounted and balanced 35x13.50R15 Mickey Thompson Baja Claws and 15x10-inch Eaton bead locks to complete the rounding up of parts before we headed to Xtreme Image in Huntington Beach, California. Once they had it on the rack, Joel McClure and Raul Frias made quick work of removing the stock components and installing the Rocky Road equipment. The axle swap presented a minor snag, but Joel and Raul quickly created a solution.
Before long, the Samurai was rolling large on 35s. J.E. Reel Drive Line Specialists built a beautiful set of driveshafts to mate the Suzuki's case to the Toyota axles, and Mesa Hose made up a set of 31-inch braided front brake lines to meet the nearly 30 inches of travel the suspension system affords. Try this at home, folks. You'll be thoroughly impressed with the results of transforming a little Sami into a big Suzota.