GRM $2005 Challenge

1989 Suzuki Samurai

Primary individuals producing the project:  David L. Burkhead and Stephen Brinkerhoff

Home page for the Grassroots Motorsports (GRM) $2005 challenge.

Genesis of the project:

Steve Brinkerhoff acquired the 1989 Suzuki Samurai ($50 with a bad engine) and thought it an interesting challenge to take one of the worst handling cars ever to hit the public streets and turn it into a race car.  David Burkhead agreed with him and the two began the project.

Phase 1, October 30, 2004

Click on an image to enlarge.

Our starting point, a 1997 Suzuki Samurai, one of the worst handling cars on the
road.  Not only does it have a high center of gravity, but it has live axels front and
rear, attached to leaf springs:

This is how the engine was found in the car.  The head was disconnected and set
to one side.  The exhaust manifold was disconnected.  Plastic parts such as the air
filter box were laying loose in the engine compartment.

Our plan called for stripping out the car in preparation for removing the body from
the frame.  First step in that was removing the doors.

Doors are held on with brackets secured by phillips-head screws.  We first tried
to remove them with either a regular screwdriver or an impact driver.

The impact driver was unsuccessful.  The screws were in tight and painted in
place.   So we tried something different.   We used a hammer and chisel.  We'd 
tap the chisel into the edge of the screws to make a notch, then strike while
holding the chisel at an oblique angle.  This generated enough torque to break the
screw free.  Once loosened slighly in this manner, they unscrewed easily.

On the inside of the door, there was a strap that served to prevent the door from
opening too far.  We disconnected this at the door side.

Once we got the doors off, we removed the seats.  What a lot of filth there was in
this car.

Another view.

With the front seats out, we now began disconnecting the roof.  More stuck Phillips
head screws that needed the chisel treatment.

Once we got that initial "stick" broken, they unscrewed easily.

We were first going to remove the windshield and longitudinal  members as a

That meant disconnecting the longitudinal bars at the top corners from the roof
support just behind the doors

First we unscrewed the bars at the corners starting with the "chisel method"

Next, the longitudinal rails that, supposedly, form part of the "roll cage" (although
I couldn't trust my neck to it).

After removing those four screws, the corner pieces would not come free.  Here's
why, an additional pair of screws (one on each side) that we had missed at first 
because they were recessed into holes.  This is a particular problem because 
these screws were just as stuck as the others and, being recessed, we couldn't
use the chisel method.  

The result is that we had to remove the entire top as a unit.

More screws to be unfastened.  It's interesting that all these body fasteners are
Phillips head screws.  Most car's I've dealt with use a variety of sizes of hex head

The upper seatbelt mount had to go.

With the back end free at last, we finish up with disconnecting the windshield 
from the rest of the car:

With a couple screws here,

A couple screws there

Everywhere screws screws, but eventually we get the top off.

And heres the car with the top removed.

Another view

And now we've got the back seat out as well.  What a mess. However, hidden
among the filth was some change, $0.60.  The first recoup to our budget from the

The back side of the dash panel.  Note, the rear door is just open.  We haven't
removed it yet.  The car is still outside until we make some room in the garage
and the door makes a good "pushing surface" for when we roll it inside.

The other end of the backside of the dash.

Next step was to pull the engine and tranny.

First we needed to get that cylinder head and carburator, which we weren't going
to reuse, out of the way.

Which we accomplished by simply cutting all the hoses and removing the throttle
cable (which we may reuse).

Next is a matter of getting the short block which remains out.

And now the engine is gone.

Next the tranny had to come out.

That meant first removing the shifter.

In addition we disconnected the short driveshaft between the transmission and the
transfer case and removed the bolts that secured the rubber transmission mount to
the frame.  Once that was done, we could pull the transmission out.

And here the transmission is out, temporarily set crosswise in the engine well so
we can replace the shifter to cover the hole.  After all, we might be using this
transmission later on a different project.


November 6, 2004

No pictures this time.

This day was dedicated to first looking through junkyards.  Earlier, Steve had visited
a local "race shop" and had seen a Miata front suspension, including the crossmember
to which the suspension components bolt.  He thought this would make the perfect
choice for our project.  It would lower the car significantly (our target is a 3" ground
clearance), and suspension doesn't get much better than double a-arms with a good
geometry.  Unfortunately, the person who had the crossmember and suspension wanted
to keep it as a "spare" for his Spec Miata race car.  That meant we couldn't get hold
of it so we went looking at several junkyards to see if we could find an equivalent.

Unfortunately we couldn't.  There are other junkyards yet to try, which we couldn't
get to before closing time so maybe next week.

After a morning of unsuccessful junkyard crawling, we went back to Steve's house to
do some garage cleaning.  We had to make a hole into which the Samurai would fit.
The cleaning done, we pushed the Samurai into the garage.  Mission Accomplished.

November 7-11, 2004

Spent some time on research work, aimed at several goals.  One is to find another source
for the suspension units we're looking for.  Another is to find a "fair market value" for
the 1963 Oldsmobile 215 V8 that Steve has in his garage and has offered for this
project.  Still another is to see if maybe we can find a wrecked Miata cheap from which
we can pull the parts we want.  Of course, that runs the risk of costing more than we can
recover from selling other parts from the donor car.  Depends on how cheap we can
get it.

More to come.

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