Introduced in 1986, the Samurai has become a classic 4×4, offering a rugged drivetrain in an extremely lightweight vehicle. Of course, no off-roader can leave their vehicle stock for long, and thanks to the Suzuki’s time on the market enthusiasts have figured out ways to use stock parts from other vehicles to get better performance without the high price or fragile nature of custom parts. Combined with a few inexpensive aftermarket pieces, your Samurai can get around better on road or off for surprisingly small sums of money.
The Samurai came with a longitudinally-mounted version of the 1.3 liter engine used in the Suzuki Swift and Geo Metro. While adequate in these small cars, the engine is quite lacking in something as boxy and heavy as the Samurai, making power improvements the most desired modification of most owners.
Fortunately, it’s very easy to swap this motor with the 1.6l used the Samurai’s replacement, the Suzuki Sidekick / Geo Tracker. This is essentially the same engine with a larger displacement, which has a different oil pan and uses an electric fuel pump instead of a mechanical one. An adapter plate is needed to bolt the engine to the transmission, but otherwise fits in the stock mounts for the original motor, and can use the same accessories and hood.
There is a considerable amount of adjustability available with stock components. Three inches of lift can be achieved with larger springs alone; greater increases in ground clearance will require more modification. The stock drive shafts should be able to cope with as much as four inches of lift, which will also require longer brake hoses to cope with the wide range of movement.
Toyota’s small truck axles are known for their strength and wide variety of applications, making them a popular swap in small SUV’s; the Samurai is no exception. Rear axles can be sourced from any 4Runner or Tacoma, while solid front axles are available from trucks and 4Runners manufactured before 1986. Numerous aftermarket companies make saddle pads that can be welded onto Toyota axles, making them compatible with the Suzuki suspension. Adapter plates will be needed to use the stock axles, but the same brake hardware can be used.