By on February 16, 2010

When my other son Will was a toddler, he loved to put on my size thirteen shoes and shuffle around the house with them. He called it Shook. This Samurai brings that memory back very vividly.

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34 Comments on “Curbside Classic Outtake: Keeping Up With The Big Boys Edition...”


  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    These are excellent little trucklets and far more reliable and capable than people really give them credit for. They’re like the Lada Niva, only reliable and not utter garbage, and seem greatly prized. I always had a lot of fun driving them.

    It’s a pity no one’s taken another kick at the small offroader can. I suppose the X-90 (which was awesome, by the way) scared them off.

  • avatar
    210delray

    Looks like a rollover just waiting to happen. Those were deathtraps as bone stock, without the absurd lift kits.

    • 0 avatar
      littlehulkster

      The CR report on the Samurai was a horrific hackjob. They ran hundreds of tests on their standard course and all drivers said the Samurai was the best SUV tested and had no handling or maneuverability problems.

      Then David Pittle, CR’s boss, created a special modified test specifically to get the Samurai to roll. No other vehicle was put through this test, and it still took 15 runs to get the Samurai to tip at all.

      I don’t know what Pittle had against the Samurai, but when you watch these videos, it’s pretty clear he had something against it.
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F6_1o_FxsNs&feature=related
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R0Xq4kH8gNM&feature=related
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ui9oAeXniqg&feature=related
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wFGKSv_kSCE&feature=related

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      To CR’s credit, it is really, really easy to get the car to tip. I had it on two wheels on more than one occasion.

      But hey, it’s also really easy to get a supercar stuck on speedbump. Right tool, right job, etc.

    • 0 avatar
      Disaster

      Consumer Reports definitely got themselves in hot water with this one but it isn’t comparable to the Dateline Audi sudden acceleration article where the Audi was purposely modified. Consumer Reports proved that the Samurai could tip over with certain steering inputs and that it was more likely to happen with the Samurai than other trucks. Because of CR’s report, and Ford’s Bronco and Explorer incidents, roll over standards have been initiated by car manufacturer’s. Trucks now designed with better CG/track width ratios and stability and yaw controls. The consumer is safer.

  • avatar
    jaje

    Anyone who adds a lift kit to their truck should get fined and ticketed as it now makes them crash non-compliant with federal bumper and crash protection safety standards (side impact beams built into doors). I’m all for off roading and having fun but not when you turn your trucks much higher bumper (likely with huge metal brush guard) into a battering ram for peoples faces in side impact crashes.

    • 0 avatar
      deernet

      I had to register just to comment on this, because its so absurd. Every state has laws regarding lifted vehicles and what you can and can’t do to them. In Tennessee, where I reside the law is “There can be no more than 4 inches between the body floor and the top of the frame. The distance between the bumper and the ground is 24 inches for GVWRs of 4.500 and less; 26 inches for 4,501 to 7,500; and 28 inches for 7,501 to 10,000.” Which is pretty generous in my opinion. You see a lot of people with lifted trucks and dropped bumpers.

      The people who are so worried about all the big trucks on the road should consider something bigger than a Prius’ or Civic.

      Also, here is a good list as to laws in each state.
      http://www.fjcruiserforums.com/forums/how-technical-articles/40930-bumper-height-laws-state-state.html

    • 0 avatar
      Toad

      Jaje, I agree 100%; these lifted trucks should be kept off public roads. Not only are they unstable (high center of gravity, twitchy suspension), they also have terrible visibility (can you imagine being in Miata alongside one of these things). An OEM engineer could probably weigh in regarding what the handling and braking characteristics of lifted trucks are, but I would guess they are not good.

      And that does not begin to address the safety issue of what happens when very high bumpers meet much lower vehicles in a collision. Even commercial trucks have to have ICC bumpers so other cars do not slide under them in a collision; why does this rule not apply to pickups and other jacked up 4×4′s?

      I won’t even get into the profile of the drivers of these trucks, who do not seem to be the best decision makers on (and off)the road.

      I’m all for personal freedom (I have owned trucks and do own them now), but your rights end when your vehicle modifications obviously endanger other people.

    • 0 avatar
      jaje

      Welcome aboard deernet – States have varying laws regarding vehicle modifications so Alaska probably has laws (they probably require rugged 4x4s just to drive daily) that allow more leeway than California would require.

      The age old – slippery slope argument of drive something bigger if you feel unsafe is absurd (why the hell should everyone else change their cars when someone guy lifts his truck?).

      Now with most lifted trucks – I would bet most owners hardly ever look at the laws (just like those who modify their cars for high performance) and don’t care that their higher vehicles are actually a danger even to other large vehicles (as normal and even big SUVs and semi trucks are built to the same standard cars are). On top of that I often find most of the “lifted” trucks driving faster and more aggressively than others (and I’m a certified national high performance driving instructor and know when someone is driving too fast for what they are driving.

      Now please understand – I’m not against lifted trucks in general just when they are unnecessary and done mainly for aesthetic modifications or when they are used as a normal daily driver (there are lot of people who do it mainly and only for looks).

      Btw – I own both a big pickup and a smaller car. I use them for their intended purposes (i.e. truck for where I have to haul / tow and a compact hatchback for all my commuting and other driving).

    • 0 avatar
      cackalacka

      Welcome aboard, Deernet,

      Those of us who are aware of our nation’s finest being put in harms way for a critical resource (and have tailored or driving habits appropriately by driving modestly-proportioned vehicles) note your passionate disconcern for your fellow motorist’s safety.

      Our decision to drive a small car is an prudent one; asserting that our decision is foolish because your Freudian inadequacies require that you drive a 2-story building around, is beneith pathetic.

    • 0 avatar
      cackalacka

      I should add that I am not against lifts; I have many friends who have modded their trucks, safely, and enjoy off-roading or using it for utilitarian purposes surrounding their professions. I also have an idiot coworker who drives an H2 who has been known to spout the same BS you’re running here, i.e. “Those folks in eensy little cars are idiots because if I hit them, they’re dead.”

      All it takes is one dumba$$ off-roader going over the wrong dune to shut down a sanctuary from all vehicle access. If you’re going to drive something that has considerably more destructive capability than the average car, you owe it to the world to drive it in a thoughtful manner.

    • 0 avatar
      deernet

      I don’t agree with people lifting trucks just for aesthetic purposes, it makes them a lot more off road capable. That doesn’t mean that you should never drive your lifted truck on the highway either. I’ve driven lifted trucks before, also driven small cars, I just try to avoid accidents as much as possible in either.

      Also, I doubt that many people disregard the laws when lifting their trucks. I’ve personally seen cops pull out tape measures to measure bumper height. A lot of people with huge lifts will make brackets for dropped bumpers to be legal here.

      Currently, I’m driving a stock 4wd Explorer. It’s more capable than it looks. I’ve only gotten it stuck once since I’ve had it, in some soupy ass lake bottoms. As long as you don’t stop in the mud that thing will keep crawling along with all purpose tires on it. If the lift kits for the IFS Explorers weren’t so expensive I’d probably buy one. Once I get something else newer to drive I might just put a solid axle up front, then the skys the limit.

  • avatar
    TomH

    Set up like that, Zuk’s are surprisingly capable off road vehicles. Great low cost way to hit rocks & trails.

  • avatar
    porschespeed

    “These are excellent little trucklets and far more reliable and capable than people really give them credit for. They’re like the Lada Niva, only reliable and not utter garbage, and seem greatly prized. I always had a lot of fun driving them.”

    Hallelujah brother.

  • avatar
    brandloyalty

    Suzuki markets what amounts to a modern version of the Samurai. It’s called the Jimny, but isn’t sold in North America. Perhaps thanks to CR.

  • avatar
    gslippy

    My former neighbor had an 87 Samurai. He juiced it up with all manner of weldments, rust repairs, and wiring modifications to keep it going, but also to satisfy his off-roading tastes.

    The funniest moment came when he had the truck towed home, missing one of its rear axles. The axle, wheel, and tire departed the vehicle during some hard off-roading, and he nearly toppled the whole works down a hillside as a result of the imbalance. There were rocks, sticks, and mud crammed down the open axle tube, mingling with gear oil. We had it back on the road for him in a jiffy.

    He and the truck were loyal to each other for 20 years. He once rescued my pregnant wife in that thing when her car broke down. She thought the heavy-duty shocks would induce labor before she got home. You could say she’s not the off-roading type, especially in a vehicle missing the doors and roof.

    I miss him and the entertainment that truck brought to the neighborhood. Thanks for finding another great Curbside Classic!

  • avatar
    B-Rad

    I got a buddy who owns one of these. He scares me when he drives, but no more than 25% of that fright can be blamed on the Samurai. He loves the thing and loves driving it. I always suggest I drive.

  • avatar
    Rod Panhard

    I had one. Two of my friends had them as well, although one of them didn’t become a friend until many years later.

    The Samurai has enormous rotors on it for a vehicle of it’s size. If memory serves correct, they’re about 8″. That’s a lot of brake swept surface area for a 2100 pound vehicle. Consequently, in the 64,000 miles I owned mine, the brakes did not need service.

    The tires on it were the same size as the tires on my brother-in-law’s Bronco II. Consequently, the tires dry rotted in the Florida sun before the tread wore off.

    The damn thing was reliable. Several times whilst driving in one of Tampa’s summer thunderstorms, the water was deep enough that it came over the bonnet of the lorrylet. It did not stall, ever, and I recall leaving many Chevy and Ford products in my wakes.

    So, feel free to diss the Samurai. It was the best road-going agricultural implement ever sold in the United States.

  • avatar

    Great offroad vehicle that was cute enough to be a chick car back in the day too. I’d happily buy one for a grand and use it as a trail beater until it broke. Then it’ll get some proper axles and an LS-X of some sort so it can really dodge and climb the tough stuff.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      You know what would be awesome? An LS-X equipped X-90. In Pink.

      I can think of no stronger a source of automotive cognitive dissonance.

    • 0 avatar
      educatordan

      @psarhjinian, how bout a VW Beetle with a Olds Tornado trans-axle suffed in the back seat? I once saw it as a Readers Ride in Hot Rod Magazine but damned if I can find it by “googling.”

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      how bout a VW Beetle with a Olds Tornado trans-axle suffed in the back seat? I once saw it as a Readers Ride in Hot Rod Magazine but damned if I can find it by “googling.”

      If it were, say, 1970 I would say yes, but by now the Beetle has accumulated some cool. It will be a long time before the Suzuki X-90 does the same.

    • 0 avatar
      educatordan

      True, my girlfriend and I saw an X-90 in the Safeway parking lot a few months ago, it is likely the only one in the area given that the nearest Suzuki dealer is 150 miles away. Ironically the day before she had been talking about how cool she thought the old Geo Tracker/Suzuki Sidekick convertibles were back when she was in high school (she’s 26) we both thought it kind of sucked that the only two door 4X4 with a soft top you could still get was a Wrangler. She saw the X-90 and the first thing out of her mouth was; “What the h*!! is that?” I informed her that was one of the things Suzuki did with the basic bones of the Sidekick on a day they were bored.

  • avatar
    bmoredlj

    Once you get over how silly it looks, I truly do admire the Samurai/Rocky/Niva. Incredibly fun, maneuverable runabouts. However, lifting one to this extent without improving the engine must put undue strain on the little engine, what with all the extra work it has to do turning all that rubber.

  • avatar
    Facebook User

    I think it’s absurd that people are allowed to drive any vehicle on our roads and highways. There is no other activity with such a high accident/death rate that we tolerate. It’s obvious that no one has the skill necessary to safely operate a multi-ton vehicle at a high rate of speed in the presence of others. It’s absurd to single out one group of drivers over another when everybody is part of the problem.

  • avatar
    porschespeed

    @psarhjinian, how bout a VW Beetle with a Olds Tornado trans-axle suffed in the back seat? I once saw it as a Readers Ride in Hot Rod Magazine but damned if I can find it by “googling.”

    @ EducatorDan,

    Not sure about done to original Beetles, but I have seen at least 2 done into 911/912s. One guy ripped out the back seat and built the engine/trans cover out of out suitcases, just for stealth.

    You should be able to google that one up.

  • avatar
    fincar1

    I had to comment on the rant about bumper height. You see lifted trucks, lowered cars and trucks, half-ton pickups loaded down so the front bumper is half a foot higher and the rear bumper a foot lower. You know that most vehicles’ front bumper height is lower and rear bumper height is higher when they’re braking hard, which is why when a Civic rear-ends a Silverado the Chevy driver drives away and the Civic is totaled.

    Given all of the above, my own suspicion is that any attempt to legislate bumper height is quite meaningless.

  • avatar
    red60r

    The most absurd lift job I ever saw was one topped with a Fiat X1/9.

  • avatar
    porschespeed

    @red60r,

    As someone who has owned a few X1/9s…

    I have never seen a lifted X, and the whole idea is just so damned wrong, I’m off to search for pics right now… Thanks.

    The wrongest I’ve ever seen in person was a late 50s(?) 220 MBZ four door on some random truck/jeep chassis. Effen hilarious.

  • avatar
    Scottdb

    Sooo, is it standard practice in Eugene to park up on the curb?

  • avatar
    porschespeed

    @Scottdb,

    Though I haven’t had occasion to visit Eugene in quite a while, so things may have changed –

    It always was standard practice to be stoned enough not to notice…

  • avatar
    niky

    The modern Samurai, the Jimny, has gone all soft.

    Of all things… it comes with electronic fuel injection… and an electric 4WD switch.

    -

    Thank goodness it still comes with twin live axles… it’s incredibly good off-road, even in stock form on street tires… and properly set-up, it’s major fun.

  • avatar
    bugo

    We had a red ’86 Samurai convertible when I was in high school and drove like a bat out of hell. I jumped the thing on a crease in a parking lot and I had it on two wheels more than once. It’s a wonder I didn’t get killed in it. Top speed was around 85 and 0-60 was measured in minutes. It was a blast to drive in town or off road, but a chore on the freeway. The little engine loved to rev, however. It put out way more sound than power. I don’t think I’d want one now because the doors were about 4 inches thick and because of how tippy it was. Consumer Reports was right about how easy they are to flip. And ours had wide low profile tires on it. I can only imagine how tippy one with stock tires or even worse, one that has been lifted would handle.


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