With Bill Johnston
Moab, the Mecca for off road enthusiasts everywhere. Every year there is a huge gathering there for the Easter Jeep Safari. The American Suzuki Association holds their annual Zukfari at the same time. This year there was a marked increase in the zook population and everyone noticed. The zooks really held their own, at least those that were running... but I'm getting ahead of myself. Let me start from the beginning.
We left El Paso on Saturday morning fighting a huge headwind. So we moved the little camping equipment trailer I was towing to one of the larger vehicles. Good thing we did, because after a couple hundred miles a weld decided to fail on the trailer steering lock and the trailer (built on a front sammy diff) lost control of its own steering until it flipped on it's side at 75 mph. Good thing the highway was almost empty. We cut off the nose of the trailer and set what was left on the front of a vehicle trailer one of the other guys had for his full size Bronco.
On Sunday we started out early so we could get to camp in time to set up and relax before hitting the trail on Monday. We had just crossed into Colorado when I heard a very unwelcome sound. The zook had been burning oil but I didn't realize how bad it was until that moment when the engine let go. The oil light came on and I headed for the side of the road. The clunking noise from the oil pan told me that the bottom end of the engine was toast. With limited machine shop options on the road, I realized I needed another engine block if I was going to do any wheeling...
Cortez, Colorado is not the place to be if you need to find a rental tow dolly... Actually we found several, but finding someone to open their shop on a Sunday afternoon to rent one to us took a bit of phone book searching. It was about this time I started realize the fact that we were now traveling on highway 666. I am usually not superstitious, but think about it. Once we found a tow dolly it was only 2 more hours on the road until Moab.
When we finally got to Moab, it was easy to find the campground. It is located on the main street at the north end of town. Slickrock Campground is one of the only places to stay in town that will let you work on your vehicle on the premises. I had heard this before getting there but never thought I would take advantage of this to such an extent! As soon as we went through the front gate I realized this was the place to be. There were at least 6 Unimogs at the front of the campground and the back area was filled with zooks! Kind of gets one thinking... how about using a 'mog to tote around the zook from event to event? Talk about both ends of the spectrum! From that point on, Slickrock became known as Zook Central to the zook pilots in and around Moab. I was overwhelmed by the response I received from those I finally got to meet. Many of the names I recognized from various Suzuki mailing lists finally had faces to go with them. I decided then and there it would be best to try and replace the engine in the campground. Where else could I get as much helpful insight from some of the most knowledgeable zook folks/vendors/manufacturers in one place at one time!
After meeting as many folks as I could, I started trying to find an engine. As luck would have it, I found someone that brought 2 extras! I met up with Blake Savage who has a really clean orange Sammy with a GTI engine in it. He brought a spare GTI motor for himself and a 1.6ltr to trade with. This meant that I would have to move up to a larger engine. Well, if that was my only option I would have to take it. Go ahead... twist my arm.
Of course with the 1.6ltr I would need an adapter kit, so I hit the vendors and found out there were none packed away. I placed a call to Brent at Trail Tough Suzuki Stuff and he came through like a champ. He sent me just about everything I would need. I actually needed more than just an adapter kit because the 1.6ltr block was bare and needed gears, pulleys and assorted extras.
The whole week wasn't spent under the hood though. While I was waiting for the parts to come in, I had errands to run and goodies to pick up for the ASA Zukfari Dinner. The American Suzuki Association threw a great get-together with dinner, a huge raffle and a chance to talk with some of the most respected names in the Zook community. I talked with Tim hardy for about 30 minutes before I realized who he was, soft spoken and a great guy. The ASA Zukfari Y2K attracted more zooks than I have ever seen in one place at the same time. The title to this article actually came from a sign that hung in the ASA area. Many of the zooks that we have seen in articles across the web and in print were there also. Almost every aftermarket Suzuki component manufacturer was there in person, and most of them made it to Slickrock Campground to meet with the rest of the zook folk. Here is part of the group that went out to run the Moab Rim Trail led by Gary Munck from Petroworks. He used a new Petroworks creation (Samurai) decked out in bright yellow paint, custom dash and a host of Petroworks goodies including a newly installed 1.9ltr turbo diesel. This photo was shot about halfway down the line-up. It's amazing how much we customize our zooks, take a look at the one following Jake Palmbergs 400ci monster zook. It almost looks like a Chevy van... 😉 Here are the vehicles Jake brought down from Canada. Yes, that is a long wheelbase Sammy out front. It raised a few eyebrows including my own. It looked very impressive running on 31's with a SPOA conversion and the factory removable hardtop. This one was brought down from Canada for one of his customers.