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Ryan Knoche: 1990 Suzuki Samurai

Posted in Top Truck Challenge: 2010 on November 1, 2010
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Photographers: Sean P. HolmanKen Brubaker

Monkey Bars
This massive '90 Suzuki Samurai has obviously come a long way since Ryan Knoche acquired it bone-stock in 1998. He reports that getting it ready for Top Truck was an adventure in itself. Knoche says he went through a series of "trans hell" misadventures while trying to prep a transmission, but was mercifully rescued from his misery by the folks at Art Carr Performance Products.

The first thing you notice about Knoche's Samurai is the incredible cage/chassis work. It was designed, fabricated, and TIG-welded by the owner. It ties into the factory frame, which has had 10 inches lopped off at the front. Among other things, the system is designed to house and protect the rear-mounted big-block Chevy-application radiator and 12-gallon RCI fuel cell. Up front, there's a Warn 9.5ti winch fitted with Viking winch rope. The rig sports 54-inch Mickey Thompson Baja Claw TTC tires on 12-inch-wide Dick Cepek DC-1 wheels with OMF beadlocks.


  • Owner name/city: Ryan Knoche/Hamburg, New York
  • Occupation: Self-employed
  • Vehicle model: 1990 Suzuki Samurai
  • Estimated value: $35,000
  • Engine/aspiration: 4.3L GM V-6/TBI, modified stock manifolds, Flowmaster muffler
  • Transmission: Art Carr 700R4
  • Transfer case: NP203/205, Jed's Machining adapter, LoMax 205 3.0:1 case
  • Suspension (f/r): Four-link, 16-in 2.5 King air shocks/four-link, 16-in 2.5 King air shocks
  • Axles (f/r): Dana 60, Crane knuckles, Ballistic double-shear high-steer arms, RCV 300M axleshafts, ARB Air Locker/14-bolt, RCV 300M axleshafts, ARB Air Locker
  • Axle ratio: 5.38:1
  • Wheels: 20x12 Dick Cepek DC-1 w/OMF beadlocks
  • Tires: 54x19.5-20 Mickey Thompson Baja Claw TTC

Ryan Knoche, Team #48

  • Most looking forward to: "Tank Trap. Do I really need to answer this?"
  • Not looking forward to: "Tow Test. The event that could cause the most catastrophic failure."
  • Playing in his iPod/CD player: "Metallica. A lot of other music as well. ABC (anything but country)."
  • Knoche says: "I have an alter ego and his name is 'Morris K'noche, Offroad Extraordinaire.'"

Nestled in and under the array of custom tubing is a screamin' GM 4.3L V-6 that has been heavily modified. It has forged pistons; shaved, ported, and polished Vortec-style heads; an Edelbrock camshaft and intake manifold; an MSD ignition, distributor, coil, and wires; Painless wiring; Melling high-volume oil pump; modified stock exhaust manifolds; and a custom exhaust with Flowmaster muffler. It also sports a Powermaster 200-amp alternator and a pair of Optima YellowTop batteries. It's bolted to an Art Carr-prepped 700R4 transmission that features a reverse manual valvebody and plate-style cooler. Power is split to the axles via an NP203/205 combo with Jed's Machining adapter and a JB Conversions LoMax 205 3.0:1 'case.
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