PROJECT KICKER XL
CALMINI Products Solid Axle Swap putting Super Ahead of Dooper.
Story/Editor: Eric Bewley Photo: Eric Bewley, Dave Arnold, Sky Brown
ALBANY, OR. Project Kicker XL has received a huge boost from our friends at Calmini Products. We have installed their new Solid Axle Swap kit for Sidekick on our project vehicle and have been fortunate enough to put it through it’s paces for the last few months. We will make no bones about it, this new kit is revolutionary and will change the Sidekick / Tracker aftermarket landscape.
Back in the May/June time frame, I was approached by Steve Kramer of Calmini Products about putting a solid, or live, front axle under our Sidekick formally known as project Tricker Kicker. It didn’t take much convincing as it is well known that I was having a hard time keeping front end parts together. At the same time Jason Hutchision’s IFS project Gina Lee, was having no mechanical problems, I was blowing up basically every part between the front and rear bumper. Frustration was mounting and I was ready for a change.
Even with that type of motivation is was hard to leave the comfort and handling the IFS kit offered. One of the best parts about this car, something truly different than the Samurai, is it’s ease of operation. With the IFS suspension, the car drives smooth and predictable. I was worried about loosing that characteristic at the expense of creating an off-road monster.
My fears were soon put to rest upon receiving and driving the car for the first time. There are so many custom parts on this car it is truly amazing. A basic run down goes like this. Custom coil suspension all the way around with a triangulated 4-link in the rear and a 4-link with Panhard bar up front. Four 9-way adjustable shocks from Full-Traction adourn the corners. All links have serviceable joints from Daystar. The drivelines are Custom long travel CV shafts from J.E. Reel. The full Skid plate holds the modified T-case which sports front and rear Slip Yoke Eliminators, a key component to making the Sidekick drivetrain a viable option to the hard-core buggy maker, or avid Suzuki enthusiast.
These are all parts that pale in comparison to the fully custom scratch built front axle that uses the Sidekick rear 3rd member, and ARB with custom 27 spline sidegears which couple to Superior Axle Dana 30 Cromoly Axles. Knuckles are of Dana 30/44 design with adapters to use the Sidekick Disk brakes. Hi-steer with custom Drag link and tie-rod. Spindles are Dana 30, Warn Premium Hubs get the power to the ground.
Talk about knocking it out of the park! This combination of parts and suspension design create a bulletproof and flexible solution. I have had a blast driving this car the past couple of months. It has become my daily driver and weekend warrior. Handling both on and off road are incredible. There are really no compromises here. The staff at Calmini have really done a magnificant job and I would expect to see more and more SAS Sidekicks as people witness how well the kit really works.
In it’s final production form, this kit is planned to be a complete bolt on. Imagine that, a fundamental and significant vehicle change all done in a weekend with out using a welder. Something that was not possible a few years ago is now not only possible, it’s easy.