1987 Suzuki Samurai - The Dung Beatle

Friendship Without Bounds

Harry WagnerPhotographer, Writer

Jason Jordan is a simple, hardworking man. He doesn’t need the fanciest new parts or the most horsepower to have fun on the trail. In fact, we think that deep down Jason gets a sense of satisfaction from embarrassing drivers of vehicles costing several times more than his lightweight buggy. Even though the buggy is simple, it is his own creation. Or it was until Jason and his wife Amanda learned that their daughter Hailey was diagnosed with a brain tumor.

What would you do for a friend?

All of a sudden rockcrawling didn’t seem that important. Jason immediately put the buggy up for sale to help offset Hailey’s medical expenses. He wasn’t getting a lot of interest in the buggy, and the guy who ended up buying it didn’t even know how to drive it and said that he just planned to cut it up for parts. Jason swallowed his pride, put his family first, and watched the buggy drive away with its new owner. This story has a happy ending though. Hailey is now cancer-free and back home playing with her three sisters.

The front Toyota axle has been upgraded with Trail-Gear Six Shooter knuckles, Longfield Birfields, and chromoly axleshafts; Trail-Gear drive flanges and steering arms; 5.29 gears; and a full spool.

There’s more to the story though. The guy who bought Jason’s buggy was actually sent by his buddies. Jason would never ask anyone for help, but his friends knew how hard it was for him to sell his buggy, so they bought it and rebuilt it to make it even better, and then gave it back to him on Christmas. Justin Keilman was the mastermind behind the whole plan and handled the fabrication work, sheetmetal, and paint. Trail-Gear, Fly-N-Hi Off-Road Center, and Phoenix Rack & Axle all chipped in parts. Charles Vacha, Chris Nazarewicz, and Ernie Young provided the labor.

They call the finished product the Dung Beatle [sic], a tongue-in-cheek reference to the Spidertrax Rock Bug. Piloted by Jason’s brother Tracy, the Rock Bug won a slew of rockcrawling competitions with Jason spotting. Both vehicles use fiberglass VW hoods, but that is where the similarities end. The Dung Beatle can now be found on the hardest trails in Arizona with Jason behind the wheel, his daughter next to him, and his friends along in their own buggies, enjoying every moment.

Jason’s buggy is incredibly light and nimble. The 1.6L Suzuki engine is not only lightweight, but its low horse- power doesn’t require huge axles or exotic components in order to survive in the rocks.

The front suspension consists of 12-inch-travel Fabtech air shocks that were hand-me-downs from Jason’s brother Tracy. They work in conjunction with a double triangulated four-link suspension and full hydraulic steering with a Trail-Gear double-ended ram.

The Dung Beatle started as a Suzuki Samurai, but there is not much Samurai left now. Justin Keilman replaced the firewall with aluminum panels that are cleaner, easy to remove, and allow better visibility from the driver’s seat.

Behind the seats 1 1⁄2x0.120-wall DOM tubework was used to hold the air shocks, a custom fuel cell, and a small cargo area. Justin Keilman built the cell to hold 12 gallons, which is plenty for the fuel-efficient four-cylinder to keep running down the trail all day long.

Jason “Bubba” Jordan wheels trails where rolling over is very distinct possibility. He sets a good example for his daughters by wearing a helmet. “I make them wear their helmets when they are out of the buggy too,” he says. “Wheeling the buggy is safer than climbing around the rocks in cowboy boots!”

Most of the guys Jason wheels with run 40- or 42-inch-tall tires, but he goes everywhere they go on 37-inch BFGoodrich Krawlers. The sticky tires are mounted on Trail-Gear Creeper Locks.

Jason and his daughter Emma traveled to Johnson Valley for King of the Hammers, where they spent time wheeling with the friends who helped rebuild his buggy, such as Justin Keilman, Ernie Young, and Kevin Carroll.

Elmer Heglund rewired the entire car as part of the overhaul. Auto Meter gauges in the custom dash monitor the oil pressure and coolant temperature. A quick release hub on the steering wheel makes it easier to get in and out of the buggy.

The rear axle is another Toyota steering axle that has been flipped to put the differential on the passenger side when used in the rear, lining it up with the offset output of the Samurai transfer case. Like the front axle, the rear uses Trail-Gear Six Shooter knuckles and steering arms, Longfield Birfields, and axleshafts, and a Trail-Gear double-ended steering ram.

The rear suspension mimics the front, with Fabtech 12-inch-travel air shocks and a double triangulated four-link configuration with Spidertrax links. The links are constructed from heat-treated chromoly—1 1⁄4x 0.090-wall uppers and 1 1⁄2x 0.120-wall lowers—all with 3⁄4-inch FK chromoly rod ends.

Tech Specs
1987 Suzuki Samurai Buggy
Engine: 1.6L Suzuki 4-cylinder
Transmission: Suzuki 4-speed automatic
Transfer Case: Samurai transfer case with Trail Tough 6.4:1 gears
Front Axle: Toyota 8-inch with 5.29 gears; spool; Trail-Gear Six Shooter knuckles, Longfield Birfields, and axles; Trail-Gear trunion eliminator and drive flanges
Rear Axle: Toyota 8-inch with 5.29 gears; spool; Trail-Gear Six Shooter knuckles, Longfield Birfields, and axles; Trail-Gear trunion eliminator and drive flanges

Springs & Such: Triangulated 4-link with Fabtech 2.0 air shocks front and rear
Tires & Wheels: 37x12.5R17 BFGoodrich Krawler KXs on 17x9 Trail-Gear Creeper Locks
Steering: Trail-Gear double-ended hydraulic ram, pump, and reservoir
Other Stuff: Optima RedTop battery, Auto Meter gauges, Warn short drum M6000 winch, Rigid Industries LED lights, Phoenix Rack & Axle drivelines

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