1987 Suzuki Samurai Reviews

1987 Suzuki Samurai 1.3 gas from North America

Model year1987
Year of manufacture1987
First year of ownership2011
Most recent year of ownership2012
Engine and transmission 1.3 gas Manual
Performance marks 10 / 10
Reliability marks 8 / 10
Comfort marks 8 / 10
Running Costs (higher is cheaper) 10 / 10
Overall marks (average of all marks)
9.0 / 10
Distance when acquired53439 miles
Most recent distance53439 miles
Previous carDodge Dakota

Summary:

Best investment ever

Faults:

Speedometer cable broke before I got it, seats are torn up.

General Comments:

Great gas mileage, I live in Iowa, we didn't get that much snow this year, but I used it to go trail riding and it did some pretty wicked stuff in the mud. With half floors I had the best time getting dirty that anybody could have. I'm 17 and in love with this little demon :)

Now my dad just bought one, and I have two of 'em, best investments ever.

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? No

Review Date: 1st February, 2012

5th Feb 2012, 06:28

Isn't the definition of "investment": money spent with the intention of making a profit?

Unless you bought it for $25-$30 and sold it for $50, your beater Samurais are no investment.

I'm just sayin'.

19th Feb 2012, 13:11

A investment is something you invest money in, hoping in return you get your personal satisfaction of the item (the little Sammy that can).

30th Jan 2013, 05:58

Investment, no. High resale value, yes. I suggest you get on Ebay and see what nice (especially stock) ones are selling for. These little trucks have become very desirable 4X4s with a strong following.

13th Jun 2014, 20:46

Wow, there are so many people harping on the use of "investment." It is very telling of how obsessed people are with money.

They forget that their definition is but one definition of the word. Here is another:

"an act of devoting time, effort, or energy to a particular undertaking with the expectation of a worthwhile result."

In the respect that he and his father have devoted time and money to enjoy off roading, then yes the Suzuki Samurai is a worthwhile investment.

If this investment brings returns in enjoyment and enrichment between father and son, then I say it is a sound investment indeed!

23rd Jun 2014, 22:51

Doubled my money on mine over around 10 years, plus drove it all over the place. They don't make them any more, so when I bought it, I considered it an investment, as the value would only go up with age.

1987 Suzuki Samurai 1.3 from North America

Model year1987
Year of manufacture1987
First year of ownership2008
Most recent year of ownership2011
Engine and transmission 1.3 Manual
Performance marks 6 / 10
Reliability marks 10 / 10
Comfort marks 6 / 10
Running Costs (higher is cheaper) 9 / 10
Overall marks (average of all marks)
7.8 / 10
Distance when acquired160000 miles
Most recent distance180000 miles
Previous carBuick LeSabre

Summary:

One tough, spartan little truck

Faults:

I replaced the brakes completely (new rotors, calipers, brake pads, brake drums, wheel cylinders, brake lines etc) when I bought the vehicle (160,000 miles). The front calipers were hanging up and in bad shape, so I decided that in such a small, open truck, I'd rather play it safe and buy everything new, even though I am usually a cheap SOB.

Wheel bearing at around 163,000 miles. The bearings and races were thoroughly destroyed; probably should have been replaced by the PO thousands of miles previous.

Replaced the knuckle seals and kingpins when I did the bearings. Water was getting at the bearings and into the hubs.

Rebuilt the hubs when I first bought the truck. Passenger side manual hub was rusted up and causing the 4wd to be inoperable.

Rotor, cap, wires, coolant flush, plugs, valve job, rebuilt carburetor, etc.

Cleaned out the heater box by drilling a hole in the box and using compressed air to get all of the leaves and debris off the heater core. Heater works amazingly well now.

Replaced the exhaust completely from the manifold back with a stainless kit from Trail Tough. Now I wish I had bought a header at the same time.

Endless small cheap parts such as the PCV valve, valve cover gasket, fuel filter, 02 sensor, steering shaft coupler (type 1 Beetle coupler fits perfect), and a lot of other things I can't recall at this time.

Rebuilt the shifter.

Rust. Hey, any 80's New England truck will have it. All the Samurai's I've seen have had mint frames, but as for the bodies, I once read someone remark, "The Samurai was Japan's way to smuggle rust into the U.S.", and I have to say that might be true. Pay close attention to the body mounts under the floors, as they tend to rust out around this area. I cut all the fenders and rockers out of mine, and welded in all new metal. The floors weren't too bad and got several layers of fiberglass. About a third of my hood was eaten away, but I have never seen another Samurai with this issue. Watch/check the windshield frame as well.

General Comments:

In my opinion these little Samurais are the most fun you can have on four wheels. However, you have to understand what they are, and more importantly, what they aren't.

They are extremely underpowered in stock form, they are very small, and the ride is rough. If I had the truck dynotested, I would be lucky if it had 25 HP at the rear wheels after 180,000 miles. Add off road accessories, a lift kit, larger tires, and gear, and you will be lucky to see 60 mph on the highway.

However, that being said, they are perfectly capable daily drivers that get great gas mileage, and are in my opinion peppy enough 0-30 mph unless you have really large tires without changing the gearing. Anyone who says that they are unsafe at highway speed and unfit for commuting, probably had unrealistic expectations. I liken it to people who buy small convertibles and then complain that there is no storage room. Know what you are buying, and how well it fits your goals in a vehicle.

OK, so you wanted a spartan, reliable little warrior of a truck? You really can't do better than a Samurai (Sidekick/Tracker might be a good start). They are tough as nails, easy to fix, easy to maneuver, and (my favorite part) easy to customize and personalize. I use mine as a DD and weekend off roader. It is not lifted two feet in the air with a monster motor crammed under the hood. I fit 29" mud tires under the custom fenders and replaced the transfer case with 12% lower gearing out of an SJ410. I have heard a lot of people who have gone the former route with their Samurais, complain that the truck was much more fun when it was small and nimble. I do, however, plan eventually to switch to Jeep YJ springs, and keep it sprung under to improve the flex, ride, and get approx 2" of lift. If your goal is to lift it though, the sky is the limit with all of the aftermarket companies out there making a variety of kits.

The truck does great off road. I can't go over or through some of the bigger obstacles in stock form like the big boys, but I can always find a technical way around, and this suits my preference. Also, it is just a blast in the snow. I am really not sure why, as I have owned other 4x4's that were not nearly as much fun in the wet stuff.

Even with high mileage, my Samurai runs great, starts on the first crank at any temp, and always gets me home. A year or so after I bought it for a few hundred dollars, I went on a 5,500 mile road trip to Utah with my cousin (77 VW Micro Bus), and the only thing that broke was the throttle cable that we replaced with an old choke cable. We beat them both up offroading in Moab, and then drove home with no issues. I do plan, however, to rebuild the motor with a more wild cam, larger 1.6 exhaust valves, high compression pistons, ported intake, and a CV carb. As an example of the ground-pounding power of the Sammi, I had to go 15 mph in second gear up the Rocky Mountains, with hundreds of pounds of gear (my cousin had to take it in 1st. The Truckers loved us).

I recommend fabbing in new seats. I replaced my ripped worn out seats with bucket seats out of an '89 Prelude Si, and now the ride is so much more comfortable; it is like I modified the suspension.

Conclusion: Buy a Samurai, remove the soft top, pull the doors off and drive it like you stole it. Worry about breakdowns, scratches, and body damage? Hell no. Just don't plan on winning any street races, or getting any friendly waves from Jeep owners.

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes

Review Date: 20th December, 2011

2nd Feb 2012, 12:58

*Original poster here*

When I wrote this review, I neglected to mention a particular event that further proves the Samurai's toughness (probably because it also proves my own incompetence).

Immediately after rebuilding my carburetor, I was excited to finally get it back on the truck and reap my rewards. After struggling to bolt it back down to the intake manifold (sacrifice a cheap 12mm wrench and bend the handle... it is definitely worth it), I fired it up and it ran great. Letting out a sigh of relief that I hadn't fouled the carb up, I decided to let it idle away in my driveway for a minute.

Well I got distracted for about 20 minutes, and when I returned to the driveway, my heart immediately hit the floor. I instantly remembered I had not refilled the engine coolant that I had drained over a week ago when I pulled the carburetor off. The engine had been idling away for over 20 minutes with absolutely no coolant in it at all. The whole driveway smelled like hot engine and burning paint, the temperature gauge was pinned to the top (measuring the air temp I guess, as there was no coolant in the engine), and it was running rough. I immediately turned the ignition off, but it dieseled for another 20-30 seconds before it finally quit.

Well assuming I ruined the poor little engine, I figured there was nothing for it, and I waited until it cooled down, refilled the coolant, and fired it up. It still runs just fine. I have yet to see any symptoms of a blown head gasket or cracked head/block. I assume I have done some damage somewhere, but it is yet to become apparent. I figure I will let the engine hit 200,000 miles before I rebuild it, but only for more horse power, as it still runs like a top.

Average review marks: 7.0 / 10, based on 20 reviews