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Project G.I. Jane – Restomod Suzuki Samurai


G.I. Jane

ZUKIWORLD’s tricked out little Samurai

Editor: Eric Bewley

ALBANY, OR -What is at the heart of a Samurai owner’s lust for a vehicle that has been shunned by the masses? It appears that there are two completely diametrically opposed camps that find the Suzuki attractive. The first is a group that is looking for an affordable means to either be a part of the off-road society or to use as a platform to demonstrate fabrication skills and engineering talents. The bottom dollar is primary motivation and regard for the vehicle is at a minimum. For example, I was speaking with a Samurai owner a couple of weeks ago that was extremely proud of their new 1.6 8-valve conversion they just installed. There was a twinkle in his eye as he pontificated his bargaining skills in regards to engine and adapter kit. When asked why there were ball-peen hammer marks protruding from underneath the hood, they stated: “I used a hammer to beat the hood up so the air cleaner bolt wouldn’t hit it.” Not fully understanding the motive for destroying a perfectly good hood; I mentioned there may have been an alternate, less damaging, method for fitting the engine. In response, they proclaimed, “Who cares? It [referring to the Samurai] didn’t cost me hardly anything… This is my beater.”

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The second group of Samurai owner has a real love affair with this orphan of automotive legal grievance. There’s something about this little car that engages this owner. Not only do these owners spend hours in their vehicles, exploring, traveling, and sight seeing; time is spent thinking about their Samurai. Dreams of modifications to enhance performance awake the individual and true happiness is spending “Quality time” in the garage. Money is of little concern, and modifications that involve hacking half of the body tub off with a torch, removing the inner and outer fenders for that extra inch of wheel clearance, or performing a permanent motor mount repair by using a few links of chain from the hardware store never cross their mind. A repair or modification must be done right and make sense to this group of Suzuki evangelists. A group that loves their vehicle and the involved driving experience it provides.

You have got to want to drive a Samurai; for driving a Samurai is not a beige experience like most of today’s cars. There’s no turn the key, dial the cell phone, and drink your cup of coffee while whizzing down the freeway to pick up your kids from soccer practice. You know your driving this vehicle and it needs you to be a part of that driving experience. The latter group embraces this concept and revels in the little idiosyncratic ways the Samurai is different from the crowd.

Meet G.I.Jane a Suzuki Samurai that flies in the face of the modern ‘bigger is better’ hack and slash  ideology. A concept vehicle, if you will, that focuses on what makes a Samurai special to their owners and accentuates the positives of this rugged platform. After experiencing many sizes and forms of Samurai, I felt that the ‘most joy’ came from when I first discovered the Samurai. My modifications were light, simple, small. In fact, the whole vehicle was small but it didn’t detour from the adventures that were had.

G.I. Jane has few but important modifications. A, tried and true, Sidekick 1.6L 8-valve engine with isky torquer cam, header and 2 1/4 inch free flow exhaust. This engine package, Installed with a CALMINI adapter kit drives a stock transmission and a GRS2 equipped PetroWorks t-case, stock ring and pinion with Detroit EZ lockers put the power to the ground through 29×8.5 TSL Super Swampers.

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I felt it important to show off the really great lines a Samurai has under those D.O.T. legal-schmegal fender flares. So, the flares were removed and the body cleaned up underneath. A 2″ CALMINI lift kit is all that is needed to easily run the tires. Bumpers were modified for fit and to pay homage to the Samurai predecessor, the SJ410.

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Other subtle choices included retaining the stock Samurai induction which works well with the 1.6L engine. A Swift GT steering wheel and Samurai JX instrument cluster grace the clean yet Spartan interior.

G.I. Jane captures the spirit of Samurai. Adventures are extremely fulfilling in this simple effective vehicle which looks just as good getting groceries as it does out on a 12 day desert adventure.


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