The Suzuki Samurai was just for fun

2022-12-17 13:16:29 By : Mr. Gerry Li

My Samurai ... lots of fun memories, but little get up and go!

People choose cars for many reasons: performance, room to haul a family of seven, luxurious style and comfort, brawn enough to haul a travel trailer, or perhaps to impress onlookers at the country club. The Suzuki Samurai did none of the above, but it was a fun drive! Clutch Disk Replacement

The Suzuki Samurai was just for fun

The Samurai shown here was one that my wife, Kathy, and I owned back in the mid-’90s. I don’t even remember where we purchased the tiny “Jeep wannabe.” But from the moment I got behind the wheel, I liked it.

We lived in West St. Louis County at the time. When our daughter Sabrina was 15, she learned how to drive a stick shift in that Samurai. I used to teach her in the parking lot at Westport Plaza on Sunday afternoons. She surprised me at how quickly she got the hang of using a clutch! I didn’t learn until months later that her mother had been taking her to practice unbeknownst to me.

As I often do, I added a few personal touches to our Samurai. If you look closely at the photo, you can see a Mack bulldog perched proudly on the front of the tiny hood. Yes, that is a real Mack bulldog I purchased new from the Mack truck dealer on the corner of Jefferson and Chouteau Ave. I thought it would be a nice touch, and the bouncy ride of the little four-wheel drive Suzuki made the bulldog bounce up and down much like on a real Mack truck.

You can also see the plate I mounted on the grill with the chrome letters “M-A-C-K” mounted to it. But that wasn’t the best surprise I had for other motorists!

My wife had been using our Samurai as a daily driver to her job as executive assistant to the mayor at the city of Clayton. One sunny afternoon, on her way home from work, she happened to pull up behind a “real Jeep” with four teenage boys waiting at a red light at Brentwood and Forsyth boulevards.

The boys were checking out the Samurai and it soon became obvious to my wife that they were snickering and poking fun at our Samurai. She was not about to let that slide, so she laid on the horn! Oh, I’m not talking about the stock Suzuki “beep-beep” horn. No, no! I had mounted a dual, chrome Hadley air horn (taken from my father’s boat), under the hood of the Samurai with 160 psi of compressed air powering it. The smile on those boys’ faces quickly turned to looks of surprise, and all of them nearly came out of their seats upon hearing the loud truck air horns from the little Jeep wannabe!

One of the things I liked best about the Samurai was that it had bolt-on doors that could be easily removed using a wrench, offering open-air motoring just like Jeep Wranglers.

The Samurai was the first four-wheel drive Suzuki sold in the United States. Introduced as a 1986 model with a base price of $6,550 ($17,554 in 2022 dollars), it was just two-thirds the price of a Jeep Wrangler. This from MotorTrend: “Suzuki originally planned to import 1,200 Samurais per month in its first year, but wound up selling 47,000 for the year, giving the Samurai the best first-year sales of any Japanese vehicle to that date. It took just more than a year and a half for sales to hit the 100,000 mark, and by mid-1988 Americans were buying 8,000 Samurais per month.”

With a 1.3 liter four-cylinder producing a mere 63 horsepower, with 74 pound-feet of torque, the little SUV was very underpowered to say the least! MotorTrend magazine did a road test, clocking the zero-to-60 time at 16.9 seconds and a quarter-mile time of 20.47 seconds at 64.5 mph, calling it “noisy and slow.” I remember having mine out on I-270 and with a good tail wind and going downhill, I could get it up to roughly 65 mph. Shortly after letting go of the Samurai, I picked up a Chevy GEO Tracker, made by CAMI, a joint venture between GM of Canada and Suzuki. It was a more refined, smoother ride that was quieter but with more power. The only thing I missed were the bolt-on doors of the Samurai.

After moving to Illinois in 1998, I sold my Samurai to a farmer who told me they were very popular in the farming community for their ability to tow small trailers around the fields.

Tri Power Trivia will return next week.

Auto reviews, driving trends and up-to-date news about life on the road.

Bruce Kunz is a freelance automotive writer. He is a regular contributor for Brand Ave. Studios.

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My Samurai ... lots of fun memories, but little get up and go!

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The Suzuki Samurai was just for fun

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