with Bill Johnston
Let's make it Rock!Part 3
We all know how well a stock zook can handle the 'standard' trails out there, so we took the Gray Ghost up to Las Cruces, New Mexico to hit a few 'not-so-standard' trails. How many trails have you been on that actually warn you that you will need to "Expect Vehicle Damage"?
This 2 day trip covered four trails. The first day we went down 'Big Jim', through Amatista Ledges and back up Habenaro Falls.
Dropping the air pressure down to about 7-8 psi we hit the rocks and were pleasantly surprised at the great articulation.
Seeing the zook up on the ramps in the driveway is pretty cool, but it doesn't hold a candle to when you drop into the first ravine with ease and you see jaws drop. Sean Farley (the owner of the Gray Ghost) was very impressed with the increased capability. We didn't take it easy on the drive train as you can see by the rock rash in the photo to the left. Yes folks, that is the new axle housing taking abuse and loving it!
On the right, you can see why it was so important to move the steering up and out of the way. The rocks can reach out and trash your day if they can get to your tie rod and drag link.
Here you can see the front suspension going through its paces. It is very important to not only have plenty of droop in the axle, but it needs to be useable droop. This means that there is enough weight on the tire to allow plenty of traction to pull you along. The shot at the right shows how well both suspension styles locate the axles. The rear axle is moved back about an inch and is in perfect position to make use of the open area behind the stock location. The front axle is moved forward about an inch from its stock location, but it could probably go farther without too much trouble. The high steer (Andy's Samurai Steering) kit takes away the problem that most folks find when moving the axles... that is, the 'binding' of the drag link on the front differential when the axle is moved too far forward.
I think these pix pretty much answer that one...
Here is the only problem we found with the new YJ rear suspension. Straight out of the box, the front spring mount was a real 'axle catcher'. But it only caught on this ledge... the rest of the trail it never came close. Does this make it a bad kit? Of course not! It was strong enough to take the abuse. These trails have rocks that will dent your hood if you get into the right situation, but you have to be ready for that and have equipment that can take the punishment. Even the bypasses on this trail have some bite. The photo on the left shows Sean taking a bypass around a relatively new obstacle that swallows vehicles whole. It actually ate a Unimog earlier in the season. This rig was like a mountain goat!
This buildup took a semi-stock rig and turned it into a veeeery capable rock rig. It went though both days with no significant damage, heck, it didn't even take any insignificant damage!
On the left, high steer installed and everything is straight after a couple of hard days on the trail.
On the right, this tie rod doesn't seem to be very happy after a long day on the rocks... yes folks, it's supposed to be straight. But now it is 'clearanced' so it can make it over the rocks... riiiiight!
This project vehicle couldn't have happened without the great Suzuki Aftermarket Parts Providers that we have today. Take a look at the companies listed below, and if there were any components we installed during this buildup that you would like to add your rig, drop them a line and take on the adventure yourself. It is well worth it!
Component Sources (in alphabetical order):
Andy's Samurai Steering
Hawk Strictly Suzuki
Rocky Road Outfitters
Trail Tough Products