This 1987 Suzuki Samurai SJ originally posted in July 2019 just as we started to prepare this week’s “Four By Friday” theme and we knew we had to share. You can see all of the details in Rahway, New Jersey where the private seller has it listed currently for $8,000. The NADA Classic, Collectible, Exotic, and Muscle Car Appraisal Guide lists their “Low”, “Average”, and “High” value range for stock examples at only $1,100, $1,950, and $3,600, respectively so the next caretaker will be paying a premium for what appears to be a thoroughly restored and properly modified Samurai.
In 1985, Suzuki made the bold move to launch its SJ-Series Samurai in the United States for the 1986 model year. Priced at $6,200, it was $2,500 less than a comparable Jeep Wrangler. This price advantage helped Suzuki move 47,000 units that first year and by 1987 was actually outselling the Jeep by nearly double. While only equipped with a 1.3 liter, 63 horsepower inline four-cylinder engine, the Samurai’s lightweight made up for it. The off-road community respected the Samurai as a real 4WD vehicle equipped with a low range, two-speed transfer case. Its lightness makes it a very nimble off-roader less prone to sinking in softer ground than heavier vehicles. The three-year success story ended in 1988 when Consumer Reports published dramatic photos and videos of the Suzuki tipping up onto an outrigger-equipped example to replicate a rollover one of its employees encountered in real life. By the of 1988 sales plummeted by 70 percent compared to the prior year.
Fast forward to today and Suzuki Samurais are considered a great beginner 4wd due to its simple design and ease of modifications with engine swaps and suspension upgrades so as the 1987 Restomod example presented in this post. The private seller states that he completed a “nut-and-bolt, frame-off, restomod” of his ’87. No, there isn’t a Chevy LS stuffed under the hood. This restomod received a transplant of a rebuilt, 0.020 over, 1.6-liter eight-valve, fuel-injected, inline-four donated from a 1994 Geo Tracker.
The seller reports he has put 20K miles on his Samurai in the three years since completing the restoration by commuting to campgrounds and hunting camps (that sounds like a lot of hunting and camping to us!) The owner reports he has never “mudded” or traversed higher than six inches of water with his Samurai. The seller provides a very detailed description of all of the modifications he’s put into this Samurai, so we recommend you read his post to learn more. This appears to be a well-sorted example that will run reliably anywhere you want to take it and is a great alternative to the sea of Wranglers that typically crowd the trails. Good luck with the purchase!