1988 Suzuki Samurai JX 1.3 from North America


The most fun one can have, long-term, in an automobile with your clothes on!


Carb and engine needed rebuild.

Clutch wore out.

Top fell apart.

Seats and door panels needed reupholstering.

Fuel gauge only works below half a tank.

Transmission won't downshift into 2nd or 1st unless stopped.

Engine, transmission, transfer-case, and differentials leak.

Mild shimmy around 50-60 mph.

Loose ground caused the engine to not idle, and the carb to run too rich, which caused the cat to melt.

Cassette player stopped working.

U-joints wore out.

Rear wheel bearings wore out.

Brake drums wore out.

Radiator did not cool enough.

Water choke hose burst.

General Comments:

Most fun to drive automobile on the planet!

I've had stuff go wrong, but it is 23 years old! I consider it to be very reliable in that light.

I've put 16,000 miles on mine in a year, and LOVE it!

The Samurai is our trip-car of choice, and we have a '96 Impala SS and a Miata.

Breezer Safari Top is great when it is not too hot or too cold.

BesTop Duster with top on really helps A/C and heater work, as it cuts the space to heat and cool in half.

A/C still works!

Thorley headers and 2" exhaust really wake the engine up.

Geolandar tires are the best off-road tire in stock size. Work well on-road as well. 20 PSI is the correct pressure or the Samurai will hammer your back. The tires are literally half of the suspension on a Samurai.

It has just enough power for modern roads, but you have to floor it and rap it out to 6k to get to the power it has. You have to downshift to get it moving!

It's a lot more fun to drive a slow car fast than a fast car slow, and a Samurai is a SLOW automobile.

0-60 in around 20 seconds.

Top speed of around 75 mph with A/C on 85-90 with it off, but hills and/or winds cause that to vary wildly. Will do 45 in second gear going up Tioga pass!

19-25 mpg, depending on speed and A/C usage. I average 22 on a 40 mile round-trip highway commute, but can get 24 if I do 55 or 19 if I do 75 with the A/C on.

Manual steering is heavy when stopped.

Handles fine with the anti-sway bar attached and at stock ride-height. I love driving it on twisty roads!

Brakes work well.

The secrets to driving a Samurai is to be smooth and practice energy management. And rev the snot out of the engine!

Leave it stock and you won't break things. It is amazingly good off-road, bone stock.

Good luck finding one stock!

Seriously, the Samurai is the most fun you can have on 4 wheels, IF, you have the right attitude.

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes

Review Date: 15th June, 2011

15th Jun 2011, 15:30

Sounds fun to drive but a pain to live with, why's your MPG so low? It should be at least 30 average with one of these.

I honestly don't see your Samurai as being that reliable, I've had several cars from around 1988 that required less work, all of them cheap beaters.

25th Jul 2012, 21:02

I own a 1988 tin top that I bought on the 4th of July about ten years ago for $1,500 American dollars. It had 72,000 towed miles behind a motor home and 18,000 being driven around national parks. The only thing (s) it needs is a head liner and and the bumpers painted. It still has the original mud flaps. Around town it gets about 14 MPG, but on the freeway manages around 30 to 35 MPG. I don't know what that's about.

I drive it about 2 to 5 miles a day.

I have been reading about how the value of these cars are very high. Why?

About twice a week people ask me if it is for sale. Original red paint and completely stock. If I need to, I can drive it from Riverside to L.A. and back without any problems.


1st Feb 2013, 11:08

Yes, most fun truck to have. I have mine, and I'm turning it into a rock crawler with 33s on it =)

1988 Suzuki Samurai JL 4 cylinder from North America


Looked hard and long, and found just what I wanted!!


Just bought this Samurai tintop, and it arrived on Monday of this week. Had a newly built high performance engine installed before it was shipped to me, along with a new clutch.

My mechanic has gone over it, found some rust, and is replacing various bearings (noise in steering etc) and has to replace the disc brakes and calipers.

The gas gauge doesn't work, so having it repaired. Things like that, which one expects even on a one owner 1988.5 Suzuki Samurai.

Just wanted to say here, in-spite of all to be corrected, spent the day driving this amazing baby brute to emissions testing for State of WA as well as the licensing office. Handles like a dream, even with repairs needed, fun to shift through the 5 forward gears and has already received several 'thumbs up' from strangers.

Had quite a hunt to find one not all tricked out for off-roading, though indeed I do intend to head for the mountains and back roads to hidden lakes for good times away from the madding crowds.

Will keep you posted...

General Comments:

Great turning circle, handles lightly considering no power steering, shifts very smoothly, and the air flow through factory sunroof and operable back windows made even today's warm temps feel quite acceptably comfortable.

Smooth on the highway, though not a racer, for sure.

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes

Review Date: 12th May, 2010

27th May 2010, 09:03

Update: Delighted with the cost of mechanical repairs and body restoration. VERY easy car to work on, and my mechanic says it's impressive how many parts are readily available, at a truly reasonable cost.

Love driving this vehicle... have been averaging 30 mpg around town, where it truly excels~~!!

Parks in tiny spaces and threads through traffic easily; quite a surprise, that!!