Join Date: Feb 2001
Location: socialist lib heaven mASS
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Re: Looking to buy first zook
Nobody else is taking a crack at this so I guess I will. Welcome to the ORC BBS, by the way!
There's no such thing as a "bad year" for Samurais, and i presume you are talking about samurais, since you didnt say Suzuki Samurai or Suzuki Sidekick. A Sidekick is the same thing as a Geo Tracker and both are made by Suzuki. The made and sold the Samurai from about 1986 until 1995, I think. The very early samurais had smaller motors (1 liter) and 4 speed transmission and are called SJ410. The samurai is the SJ413 and has a 1.3 liter motor. There was also a long wheelbase model sold in canada. The hardtops are just called hardtops, no special model number. There were different trim levels for samurais, JA and JX, with JX being the more "luxurious" model, if I can use that word about a sami without getting laughed at.
The only real significant change that happened to Samurais involved changing over from a carb to fuel injection. That happened (I think) in 1991? If you are looking for a hardtop, you aren't going to find one with fuel injection anyways (the hardtops got pretty rare after 1988-89).
Hardtops in general are harder to find than soft tops, but they are out there. I have had both and personally like the softop even though I live in New England, but that's jsut me.
The frames are pretty solid and you dont need to worry about rust issues there. The places samurais tend to rust are in the rocker panels behind the plastic trim (If its still there), around the welded on metal lips to which the fender flares mount, the windshield frame (on softops) and in the usual places on the body. The most common thing you might find a samurai sidelined for is a locked up transmission or transfer case shifter. This is often fixable with the replacement of a simple bushing at the bottom of the shifter, but dont bet on it! Make sure you are looking at a 4 wheel drive model in the first place..there are 2 wheel drive samurais. The motors are really durable and can last 150K miles easily if they are well cared for. They often leak oil at the back of the head from the distributor housing mounting point, this is another easy fix (Just a new O ring). The stock seats are almost always torn up..cheap stuff they arer made of. The interior panels are just cardboard and usually get trashed, too. You can make your own replacements or buy metal or plastic replacements in lots of places.
For a hunting rig, you barely would have to even think about any mods. The trucks are amazingly capable right out of the box. With very little trouble you can fit some aggressive 235/75-15 tires which are about 2.5" taller than stock, giving you at least an extra inch of clearance. The light weight of the rig and the very underpowered motor makes the apparently flimsy drivetrain very durable unless you start doing really crazy/stupid things and having very large tires or locking diffs.
There are a bunch of guys on here with yards full of samurais. Maybe try putting somehting in the "Wanted" section and see if anyone gets back to you on it. You shouldnt have too much trouble finding something decent.
I hope others jump in with more info or to correct my mistakes. I triied to leave out the fiddly technical details so as not to confuse the issue ( miniscule transmission ratio changes, etc.)
Hope this helps and welcome again!