Celebrated former Four Wheeler Feature Editor Ben Stewart used to say: "Real Jeeps have round springs." He coined this phrase shortly after the Wrangler TJ was introduced, when everyone else was fixated on the shape of the TJ's headlights. Historically, what he said wasn't true, but we all knew what he meant. When Jeep gave the plucky little Wrangler coil springs, it set a new precedent for out-of-the-box flex, ride, and handling. There was no doubt that it smoked its leaf-sprung predecessors. In short, it performed.
So here we are, eight years later, wondering if coil springs could work the same magic for our little leaf-sprung Suzuki Samurai. There was one way to find out; we contacted the folks at Rocky Road Outfitters and got our hands on their trick front and rear coil-suspension kit for the Suzuki Samurai. For those of you not familiar with Rocky Road, they've been in the 4x4 biz since 1997. Owner Glenn Wakefield actually started making Suzuki parts in 1988 after he bought a Samurai and found that there weren't many aftermarket parts available. (Some of you may remember Wakefield and his built-from-scratch Samurai, dubbed "Zukini," from the 1997 Top Truck Challenge.) Nowadays, Rocky Road offers a variety of parts for Suzukis as well as Jeeps of all lineages. In the near future they'll add a full collection of Toyota parts to their resum. The Rocky Road folks are also active in the 'wheeling world, engaging in trail maintenance in their home state of Utah.
Rocky Road Outfitters says that this 8-inch-lift coil kit will accept up to 33-inch-diameter tires and 35- or 36-inch tires with a body lift. They also offer a 6-inch coil kit designed to fit 31- or 32-inch-diameter tires. This kit has a relatively high install difficulty rating. You'll need a fair amount of cutting and welding experience, and it helps to have a thorough understanding of suspension tech and geometry. Part of this is due to differences in specs from Samurai to Samurai, which force changes to be made in the placement of some components.
The photos and captions will give you a basic idea of what we installed, and how it does what it does. Many of these images were taken when the suspension was mocked up for testing and before final welding and painting took place.
1. The lower coil mounts weld to the front axle (passenger side shown). They provide a mounting location for the lower coil springs, shock absorbers and the control arms as well as the track bar on the passenger side. Nothing has to be removed from the axle for them to be installed. They rest above the existing spring pad and self-align for pinion angle.
2. Here you can see the passenger-side front control arm being mounted to the coil mount. Like the rear control arms, the new Y-arm front control arms are 35 inches in length and they're manufactured from 3/16-inch-wall DOM tubing. Interestingly, Rocky Road points out that they are twice the thickness of the stock Samurai frame. The bottom of the front shocks mount to longer bolts integrated into the control arm/coil mount.
3. The front of the rear control arms and the rear of the front control arms mount to framerail mounts that weld to the frame. Here you can see a mount tack-welded in place after we mocked up the suspension system.
4. This is the new center crossmember that serves as the mounting point for the front of the rear Y-link. It is made of 2x2 square tubing and comes with four welded-on Y-link mounting brackets. The new crossmember is welded to a pair of gussets that are in turn welded to the outside of the frame.
5. Here is the mini truss and center Y-link mounts welded to the rear axle. This component provides a center mounting point for the rear of the Y-link. We took the liberty of beefing the Y-link mounts with some gusseting.