We can't leave Suzuki Samurais alone. Though we see countless numbers of these rigs complete arduous trails in nearly stock form, we just can't help wanting to make them bigger, better, taller, faster, or even longer. Though these rigs have their deficiencies, they're actually great 4x4s with gobs of potential for greatness. And that potential for greatness is exactly what led us to the idea of swapping Toyota axles into a Samurai to create Project RocZuk.
We'd completed this type of conversion once before, so we had a few ideas about how to carry it out; but like most installs, it wasn't without its setbacks. Our first step was to locate front and rear Toyota axles. We found a set of '84 Toyota axle assemblies for almost free from a buddy who changed his direction midway through beefing them up to go under a Toyota. The front housing was already extensively gusseted across the front, which would make it an excellent candidate for obstacle introductions.
We started out by mocking the empty housings beneath the vehicle to determine their physical placement, as well as the proper locations for the spring perches on the axletubes. Pinion angle and caster were also concerns during this effort. Once we were happy with how the spring perches were situated, we tacked them in place. The wide perches were set atop the factory perches on the axletubes so that the wider YJ leaf springs would sit in a spring-over configuration. Since the perches sat so high on the centersection on the passenger side, it was necessary to secure the springs in place without using traditional U-bolts. Rather, the perches will support the bottom leaf of the spring pack, and an upper plate will sandwich the spring between the two using four bolts. We were able to use standard U-bolts and spring perches in the rear.
In order to hang the springs from the frame, we stretched the front end 6 inches and created a new front crossmember with spring hangers built-in. The actual wheelbase was stretched even more (15 inches in the rear), both to accommodate the longer YJ springs and create better trail-crawling ability. A Trail Tough Toyota-to-Samurai Hysteer system was used to mate the Toyota steering knuckle to the Suzuki pitman arm, but otherwise we pretty much got away with using stock or custom components to complete the conversion.
It's hard to determine how exactly a conversion such as this will turn out, but in the end we were pretty pleased with the results. The majority of the work was completed in a home garage and driveway with help from friends, but also with lots of solo performances that stretched into the wee hours of the night. Our goal with this vehicle is to be ready for just about anything on the trail and also have the ability to venture out on extended excursions. We'll continue the coverage of the RocZuk Samurai as we close in on the deadline we've set for its completion, which will be marked by a trip through the well-known Rubicon Trail.