ALAN Johnson, founder and owner of Piranha Off Road Products, probably knows more about Suzuki 4x4s than anyone in Australia. So we asked him a few questions about the tough little off-roaders.
Article originally published in December 2014 issue of 4X4 Australia.
4X4: What started your interest in Suzuki 4x4s?
AJ: I owned a Land Rover Series 2A and spent most of my time working on it. My brother purchased a LJ50 and it never broke down. I sold the Land Rover and bought an LJ80 hard top. My 4WD passion bloomed and the Victorian Suzuki 4WD Club was formed. And the fun began!
4X4: How many Suzuki 4x4s have you owned?
AJ: Probably over 30 from LJ50, LJ80, various Sierras, Vitaras and Grand Virtaras.
4X4: How many do you own now?
AJ: Ten that go, nine that don’t go.
4X4: In your opinion what is the best Suzuki 4X4 ever made?
AJ: I love them all but the 1.3 [litre] Sierra with a five-speed gearbox was the quantum leap from toy to serious car. Long trips were now seriously possible. The world opened up.
4X4: What are the best points of the Sierra and/or Jimny?
AJ: Sierra: simple; reliable; adequate power; cheap and easy to modify; timeless style; Japanese quality; an outstanding car for its time. Jimny: coil springs; 1.3 EFI motor; quiet; comfortable; capable with minor modifications; great fun at an affordable price.
4X4: What are the worst points of the Sierra and/or Jimny?
AJ: Sierra: noisy by modern standards; slow, but more time to enjoy the trip; hard to get a good one now. Jimny: needs bigger wheels really badly; needs lower gearing if bigger wheels fitted; but genuinely a good starting point to build a mini monster off-roader.
4X4: What are the key modifications needed to make a Sierra and/or Jimny better off-road?
AJ: Sierra: 30 x 9.5 [inch] tyres on 15x7 [inch] rims; quality springs and shocks; diff breathers; bigger battery or dual batteries; bigger alternator; snorkel; lower ratio transfer box; diff locks; chrome alloy front axle and CV joints; fuel tank guard; extractors and better exhaust. Jimny: springs and shockers; possible body lift; bigger wheels and tyres; snorkel; diff breathers; cut guards to allow fitment of tyres; extractors; diff locks; chrome alloy axles; tank guard; fit Sierra transfer box with low auto gears.
4X4: Closing words?
AJ: Buying, driving and modifying a Suzuki is life-changing. A Suzuki is a small fun package that opens up a world of off-road travel like no other. After 35 years of Suzuki passion and adventures, and at nearly 60, I’m attempting the first ever solar-electric Suzuki to cross the Simpson Desert. A world record beckons and the fun never stops.