with Lance K. Schall
Why lift a Suzuki X-90 and turn it into a trail vehicle? Well, the easy answer would be: Why not? Its a Sidekick underneath and Calmini has responded to an enthusiastic following and markets suspension lift kits for Sidekicks. I have had a Calmini lifted Samurai for 16 years (it is currently undergoing a totally custom build-up). We installed a ProComp lift kit on my brothers Sidekick, so I was familiar with the Suzuki family. I liked the quirky X-90 when it was first introduced in 1996, and immediately saw its trail potential. However, it wasnt until 2001 that I got around to buying one with the intention to modify it right away.
There are better vehicles for a number of different uses. If I wanted killer off-road performance, I'd buy a Unimog or a Hummer H1. For on-road performance, I'd get a Ferrari. The aftermarket modification market is built on the idea of owners who want something a little different than the balanced product (both in performance and cost) that the SUV manufacturers churn out. I wanted something a little different!
The reaction I get on the trail from Suzuki people is always positive. Other wheelers typically ask about it, starting with a variation of: What is it? The simple answer I give is that it is a rare derivative of the Suzuki Sidekick (total US production around 7200 units) that has a trunk instead of a back seat. Thats a pretty accurate description and seems to get peoples heads back into a familiar spot. Usually, by the time Im going slow enough for somebody to talk to me, we are at a spot in the trail that makes it clear that the vehicle is fairly competent, so no derogatory comments along those lines are heard!
This installation may be derived from the first Calmini Sidekick 3 inch suspension lift delivered. It bolts directly up to an X-90 with no changes. I want to emphasize that I do not want to imply any slam against Calmini because I butchered their kit. They did some thoughtful engineering here and jumped into a risky venture. The kit is good and I hope they have been successful with it. My installation is extensively modified because Calmini's design target differed from mine. I would like to further thank Steve and the other Calmini staff for their enthusiasm and assistance, on more than one occasion, with technical discussion and my incessant questions. Calmini was also kind enough to sell, at a fair price, various extra parts of the kit for me to experiment with. All of my custom welding was carried out by Spidertrax. Not only are they talented and Suzuki enthusiasts, but their shop is right up the street from my house! If you will indulge me for a moment, I can explain my thinking. It is important before embarking on any extensive modification project to truly understand your objectives. Be honest with yourself about your intended uses for the vehicle and appreciate why the stock vehicle does not perform those tasks. If part of your goal is cosmetic, admit that to yourself. Now you have a basis to begin your design process. The next step is having the experience or training to know how to get from here to there. My garage: ------------} Calmini wanted to lift a Sidekick, make a competent trail vehicle for rock (and secondarily, snow and mud), allow maximum articulation, survive high speed/stress thrashing, avoid customer welding, avoid fender trimming, not require traction aiding differentials ($$$), fit a certain tall (but not too wide) tire, and sell the kit at a price most people are willing to pay. I wanted to lift an X-90, make a competent trail vehicle for low speed snow and mud work (and secondarily rock). This means high ground clearance and big tires, and allow use of wide (but not too tall) 30x12.50 tires (because I liked the way they looked). I wanted to retain a comfortable street ride as much as possible both in regards to suspension and drive train harshness, limit articulation in the back so I wouldn't have to modify the wheel tubs, and keep pavement cornering capability. However, I expected to trim the fenders and weld the kit to my X. The desire to retain similar engine rpm and performance, and for the odometer and speedometer to read correctly necessitated R&P gear sets and a Vitara speedometer drive gear. Part time lockers front and rear retain good street manners without giving up anything in trail performance. Keep in mind that some of my tinkering was due to model year differences from one Suzuki chassis to another and also detail differences between an X-90 and a Sidekick (or differences between various Sidekicks).
In the front: Installed Calmini lift kit parts (painted black). Removed and discarded OEM front anti-roll bar.
Clearanced the front differential housing with a grinder and Calmini bracketry.
On front left hanger, only 3 holes in the casting have threads. I tapped the other one so I could have 4 bolts in the hanger.
Drilled holes in strut tower to allow some camber adjustment. Cut and re-welded brake hose tabs on struts to relieve stress at full droop.
Trimmed fenders with Sawzall.