Finally picked up a new wheeling rig so I can get back into welding stuff back together after breaking it offroad (which is why I learned to weld in the first place). This post is the start of the adventure including getting stuck on my way to buying it. I also list some of the future plans and information resources!
History and challenge
I have always been an offroad nut. Since my first vehicle ‘The CrAzYbLaZe’ in high school that I constantly broke and modified to my second offroad rig ‘Ol’ Blue’. I eventually sold both of them once we had our first kiddo and hobbies went on the back-burner. As of yesterday though I am back in the game!
I have been looking for a cheap and light yet capable offroad vehicle for a while now. I have a hard rule for not buying any more vehicles with a carburetor (too temperamental for me). Fullsizes were too big, jeeps too expensive, so all arrows seemed to point to a single vehicle – the Suzuki Vitara (Geo/Chevy Tracker and all of it’s variations).
I have always been a fan of the Four Wheeler Magazine Cheap Truck Challenge. They go for a budget of ~$2,000 and go have fun with whatever they bought. I am going to shoot for a self imposed budget of $3,000
Picking up the new rig!
So after many months of looking I happened upon a gem of a Suzuki Vitara/Tracker/Sidekick. 4 cyl 5 speed 4×4 165k miles and a clean title! I debated on the 4cyl vs v6 but I wanted it to be super light and need to polish up on my stick driving skills. All of the V6’s I found were autos.
So this is where I call the guy with the Suzuki for sale and as soon as I told him what street I was on he said ‘oh man… ok… I’ll be there in a bit’. So apparently this road has a reputation, I just didn’t know it before it was too late. So he came out and attempted to pull the trailer with his pickup until it shut off and wouldn’t start again. So we all hopped in the Explorer and went back to his house for the 4×4 tractor.
So our 2.5 hour round trip turned into about 5.5 hours… But nobody got hurt and we all made it home fine. I am VERY thankful for the guy’s help (I will let him remain anonymous). We would have been totally hosed if he would have just left us out there or not had a tractor to help with.
I want this to be a fun light run around rig so I am hoping to keep the mods simple and the tires not too big. I want to be able to take it out and have fun without constantly working on it. I am $1,400 into it so far and will be updating as I go along to try to stick to my budget of $3,000!
- Fix a bunch of stuff to get it back to good working order (lights, brakes, oil changes, etc.)
- Weld the rear differential (Hobart Locker)
- 2″ spacer lift OR cut and lower the frame (link in resources below)
- 31″ tires (or at least more aggressive) & less backspacing wheels
- Manual hubs up front (weld the front diff selector to engaged)
- Build roll cage (or at least roll bar to begin with)
- Custom front bumper/winch
- Custom rear bumper (raise gas tank? Would have to cut floor out)
- Rock sliders (cut out rockers so they are high as possible)
- 3:1 or 4.24:1 t-case gears and twin sticks (the most expensive mods)
Here are links to some of the resources I have found so far and would like to save for the future:
- Pirate 4×4 Suzuki forum
- The Grand crawler/cruiser build – Frame cut to lift front suspension – this is a sweet build
- The Faux Wheeler – 2nd Gen Tracker with Calmini Lift
- Low-Range Offroad – Suzuki parts
- TrailTough – Suzuki parts
- Suzuki VIN Decoder
Stock pictures for future reference
Stay tuned for the build! This rig should be around for a long time.
Great article about Suzuki Vitara, It’s a nice car and performance also challenging. I think it contains a powerful technical feature for a rough road drive. I hope Suzuki Vitara/Tracker may ideal car to drive in any condition.