iZook – Suzuki 4×4 Tech Information, Accessories, Travel & Adventure

Samurai Special – From Alaska to Arizona

with Bill Johnston

Chris Villarreal bought his Samurai in 1999 and has been upgrading ever since. He has put in a lot of work, building many of the parts himself to get it the way he wanted it. He wheels in the desert southwest out of Phoenix, Arizona. The rig even has aftermarket A/C to fight the heat of the high desert.  


Chris moved to Arizona from Alaska in 1990 to go to school, little did he know he was moving to a four wheelers dreamland. He had done a little four wheeling in Alaska, although mainly on the roads! He never really thought you could take a vehicle over some of the stuff he sees today. Click through for a larger view...Click through for a larger view... His first four wheeling trip was back in 96. Chris and his wife took their extended cab Nissan pickup out with a local four wheel drive club, the Arizona Rough Riders. Even on that first trip they had to leave the truck behind at one point and ride along with the Jeeps thru the tougher section of the run (he was still making payments on the truck). Three years later he was getting to be a pretty good driver, kept the truck stock and dent free, although it did have a lot of Arizona pin striping. However, Chris was skipping the club runs that were rated too hard for the stock rig and he was really wanting to be able to run any trail the club went on. So his search for a dedicated 4x4 began.  Click through for a larger view...Click through for a larger view...He looked at Jeeps and early Broncos but just didn't have that kind of money to invest in a rig he would only use off-road. Then he discovered a Suzuki Samurai website while surfing around on the web (wish I could remember the site). These little trucks always interested him and the price couldn't be beat. He bought an 88 with 130k back in August 1999. Chris ordered a 4" lift kit and installed it the night before leading the Rough Riders on a run up to Crown King, in Arizona. The little Zuk got hot under the collar a few times but it allowed him to go a couple places he could not in his truck. The addiction just grew from there. Click through for a larger view...Click through for a larger view...He is now running 33x15.5" TSL/SX Swampers on Toyota axles. The tires stay in place using internal bead locks (Baumlocks). The rear axle is outfitted with a spool and the front uses an ARB air locker. The stock suspension has been replaced with YJ springs, secured with a custom shackle reversal up front and custom missing link shackles in the rear. Rancho 9000's control the bounce while Toyota power steering and Kong's custom high steering arms and linkages keep it straight. You can't miss the Sunburst Yellow paint and it's even harder to tell that it's been done in 'rustoleum rattlecan'.  Click through for a larger view...Click through for a larger view... The 1.3ltr motor was bored .030 over when it was rebuilt, adding Sidekick exhaust valves to the rebuilt head and an AAPA low end cam for good measure. The Thorley header feeds the 2" cat-back exhaust system. The GRS2 transfer case puts the power out to the custom long travel drive shafts. The rear drive shaft is also fitted with a CV joint to keep the the power to the gears in even the harshest angles.  Click through for a larger view...Click through for a larger view...The tubed front end keeps the bodywork off of the tires when getting twisted up, while the custom front and rear bumpers and rocker panel protection tries to keep the rocks at bay. Sometimes the rocks win, but that is the challenge then, isn't it? Click through for a larger view...Click through for a larger view...Chris challenges his rig on the trails around Phoenix all the time. The rougher trails (where body damage is the norm) can get a bit expensive if you want your rig to look good. So Chris just strips off what he doesn't need depending on the days trail. It's nice when you can put the parts back on later and crank up the A/C... 

Chris has his own web site where he documents his vehicle upgrades and some of the trails in his area. It is certainly worth taking the time to visit. Tell him iZook sent you!



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