Part IV: Suspension Tuning
Sami Supreme has come a long way over the past year and a half. This project began with a Toyota dual t-case drivetrain swap in a 1986 Suzuki Samurai and soon evolved into a full-blown competition-grade trail buggy. Outfitted with Diamond Axles and a custom three-link, air-shock suspension, the stretched wheelbase Sami Supreme now sports 37-inch tires and screams through the rocks with the help of four side-draft Mikuni carbs. A few outings in the newly-built Samurai, however, revealed some noticeable issues that were compromising performance in certain off-road situations.
The first problem was encountered while ascending an off-camber granite slab on the world famous Rubicon Trail. The side-hill terrain caused the vehicle to lean so severely that it actually pulled a wheel off the ground. A professional builder happened to witness the incident and suggested adding an off-road sway bar like the Currie Antirock sway bar kit. Off-road sway bars are often used to cure body roll commonly associated with vehicles running air shocks, and while it may not be as desirable as upgrading to coilovers it is much more affordable and is a useful addition either way. A Currie Antirock universal sway-bar kit was soon mounted in the rear and an immediate improvement was apparent just cruising the driveway.
With one problem handled, there were some other noticeable shortcomings on the trail that needed to be addressed. There had been several situations while crawling on large rocks where the steering seemed limited. Further investigation revealed that the steering draglink was, in effect, fighting the front panhard bar. The front panhard bar was considerably shorter than the draglink. Ideally, the panhard bar should be the exact length as the draglink and also in the same plane, meaning that the Heim joints should align with the ball-joints for the draglink. Relocating and lengthening the front panhard bar would be a considerable undertaking. After hours of measuring and test fitting, a solution was discovered, requiring a serious notch in the frame rail, a bent panhard bar and an elaborate custom bracket to accommodate the passenger steering knuckle. Tackling this seemingly endless job was not easy, but definitely offered peace of mind knowing that it was finally done right.