Suzuki Lightning Conversions
Suzuki Samurais are plentiful, and at prices ranging from $500 to $2,000, anyone can get into four-wheeling at an admission price that excludes no one. Once you acquire a Samurai, though, you quickly find that while it makes a good backcountry explorer, on-highway performance leaves quite a bit to be desired. The squirrels in the 1300cc 'wheeler get tired quickly.
Enter Alan Kempton and the crew at Suzuki Lightning Conversions. Figuring that it had a good foundation in the Suzuki Samurai, the company decided to offer V-6 and V-8 conversions that really wake up the little 4x4 on the street and on the trail. Using late-model Chevrolet Vortec V-6s and V-8s, Suzuki Lightning Conversions can do the swap at its Tampa shop, or sell you the complete kit that includes everything you need to turn your Samurai into a fire-breather.
Alan Kempton started Suzuki Lightning Conversions in 1986, the first year Samurais were legally imported into the U.S. Starting with two-wheel-drive V-8 conversions, the business naturally grew into offering V-6s in 4x4 models. We saw Alan in Moab one year, receiving a citation for running more than 125 mph in his custom 2WD V-8 Samurai. Getting a citation in Moab is not so special, as everyone gets at least one per visit, but getting one in a Samurai for an excess of 125 mph - now that's doing something.
The Samurai shown here was taken from Suzuki Lightning's considerable inventory and built up with the customer in mind. It's an '86 Samurai with the Advanced Kit, including a Vortec V-6 that had only 600 miles on the odometer and a 2004R tranny. The 2004R received some heat in the early to mid-'80s for not holding up, but hot rodders and others, including Suzuki Lightning, soon discovered the great ratios and the inherent toughness of the little turbo hydramatics. Alan's transmission builder is one of the best in the nation and reports no problems with any 2004R transmissions sold. Customers report no worries, either.
During the photo shoot, the Samurai's temperature gauge stayed rock-steady, and Alan took the 4x4 wherever we asked; he even offered to roll it on its side. The V-6 worked incredibly well in the Samurai; we think you could even pull a little wheelie on the street if you floored it.
Suzuki Lightning Conversions has developed great products for a great 4x4 vehicle. Samurais fit everywhere, are excellent 4x4s, and with the added horsepower of a Chevrolet V-6, can go just about anywhere when correctly equipped.