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1991 Suzuki Samurai Build - Rhino Hunter

Posted in Project Vehicles on October 1, 2007
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Some folks think sitting around a campfire sipping beverages from cans is a total waste of time, but for us this is where some of the greatest story ideas come from. Recently we were halfway through a cooler when the latest trend in off-road vehicles came to the center of our discussion. We weren't discussing the merits of rock buggies or cab trucks. No, it was these off-road carts also known as side-by-sides (or glorified golf carts depending on who you ask), made popular by the Yamaha Rhino that we have seen booming on and around all of our favorite tracks. But as the night progressed and the cooler got lighter, the discussion began revolving around whether or not these little rigs were any good or worth the $10,000+ price tag many of them carry, and there were definite camps with differing opinions. Before the last can was tilted bottom-up we realized there was only one way to answer our query. It was simple, we would get one and run it head to head against an equally priced 4x4 and really show whether or not these little buggers are all that good.

For some reason I volunteered my Cheap Truck Challenge Suzuki Samurai for the competition. I figured with what I had done with it so far, and with a few more upgrades, this little rig would send the Rhino running with its tail between its legs and a few Samurai sword scars to boot. In case you missed the multiple articles on this little truck over the past three years, I bought it for less than $500 and proceeded to upgrade the suspension and tires. Then I bought another Samurai that also got some upgrades like lower transfer-case gears and better steering. Next I decided to combine both little trucks and put all the best parts on just one since I didn't have storage space for two 'Zukis in Los Angeles. Over the following months I also added a winch bumper and winch, a better fuel tank, and power steering.

So with less than a month before my showdown with the Rhino, I looked over the list of components my Japanese warrior had and found a serious deficit in the traction and gearing categories. Yep, the Samurai needed lockers and gears, especially since I knew the Rhino has these bits in its goofy full independent suspension-and I wasn't about to be spinning tires out in the bush. Luckily the Samurai is also one of the easiest and cheapest trucks to upgrade these parts in, and it can be done well within a Rhino hunter's budget. This month we upgrade. Check back next issue when we go head to head with the latest trend off road.

PhotosView Slideshow
'91 {{{Suzuki}}} Samurai (used) $450
Oil change and battery $68
Computer upgraded $250
Spring-over axle kit $250
Welding to install SOA kit ${{{100}}}
Rollcage $400
Winch $1,700
Winch bumper $380
Power-steering kit ${{{240}}}
Power-steering box $450
Crossover steering ${{{300}}}
Low transfer-case gears ${{{600}}}
Transfer-case bearing kit ${{{200}}}
Tires $700
Wheels $220
Headlights $190
Shocks $1,200
Gas tank $365
Fuel pump $125
Axle gears 4.56:1 (pair) $500
Bearings (pair) $260
Install (both axles) $520
Lock-Right lockers (pair) $540
Birfield rings (pair) $100
Samurai Total $10,108
Yamaha Rhino MSRP $9,799


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