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Trail Tough Products * 133 Taft St Medford Oregon 97501*

1-877-SUZUKIS (877-789-8547)

Project 180 - The Build...

Project 180

This year Brent elected to take a break from professional Rock Crawling series - other than the Grand Nationals - which freed up some time for him to try some other interesting off-road type motorsports. We showed up at the Pacific Northwest 4 Wheel Drive Association Summer Convention . We really were not aware of what that meant. We showed up with our 2.3L equipped Suzuki Samurai affectionately known as “Scrat” - assuming there would be various Northwest 4 wheeling enthusiasts running whatever they brought. However once we arrived, we figured out that this was a Series with mostly purpose built 4 wheel drive vehicles. …slammed flat fenders with Rumpety V8’s and nothing larger than a 31” tire from Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and who knows where else.


These things look FAST - drifting like sprint cars, throwing rooster tails from here to next year!! Brent told Linda….”Let’s just go…this isn’t what I thought it was”.  But Linda encouraged him otherwise and said “Let’s just have fun with this”. We knew that “Scrat” kicked it in dirt drag racing beating out most V8 equipped trucks from prior experience. They signed us up for the street / trail class - we borrowed a helmet, and gave it our best shot. We beat all but one in the dirt drag races for our bracket, logged a very impressive time in the barrel races, as well as what they call an obstacle course - which we would call more of a dirt/mud autocross track and then blew away everyone in the offroad course . Low and behold we qualified - mostly with Scrat on 2 wheels with our 33” tires and flexy suspension for the final “Top Eliminator“ course. 


In this course, the top 9 contestants from all classes - Pro, street/trail, mens, womens, long wheelbase, short wheelbase, ATV, competed for the best time in an all new  “obstacle course“. 


We were beat only by a fiberglass S10 LS powered tubed pickup - the same one that got us in the drags - and an RZR. We did not know the final standings until the awards stand and were completely surprised to be awarded the coveted First Place “Top Eliminator” trophy which is earned by achieving the best  compilation of scores from each course.


Needless to say we HAD FUN!! The thing of it is  - Brent just cant leave it at that…….NOW his obsessively creative  mind is reeling…now you may understand the madness behind his new - purpose built “Project 180”….using stuff we already have in our parts yard.


After studying the rule book to see what we could get away with, we start by disassembling two O3 ZR2 Trackers then cut the frames in half. Now we put the two front frame clips together.


This gives us a platform with the widest track width, independent front and rear suspension, an adjusted wheel base of 100” inches front and rear sway bars, and rack and pinion steering. The rear steering rack gets removed and we will fix the steering arms. We took the 17” Walker Evans beadlocks off of the old Honda rock buggy and install new Hankook M/T 265-70-17 tires. These wheels just cleared the large disk brakes on each corner with little grinding on the calipers. We plan to install the 2.3 liter Aerio SX motor and Sidekick 5 speed transmission. We figured out that we could move the engine, tranny and T case 11” inches back and 2” inches lower in the frame for improved weight distribution and roll center.



We also elected to use the 89 1.3 Sidekick bell housing and our adapter plate. This way we can use the lighter 1.3 flywheel and Samurai centerforce clutch for the best throttle response. We are also preparing the steel XL-7 3rd members and axle housings with ARB’s and 4.30 Ring and Pinion. The T case will be used in Low Range only with stock gears for this application. We have already determined that this engine gearing and tire size combination is optimum from previous trial and error testing. Stay tuned for more pics and story as this build continues........wanna see whats next?? Stay tuned...HINT...180 divided by 2 = .................Sorry for the delay in updates. But here it goes. In an effort to keep it small and lightweight - and maybe a little aerodynamic - Brent made the unlikely choice of using a Suzuki X90 body.


Substantial internal trimming, clearancing and fitting was required....thus the delay..we have added a few photos of how it is turning out.


We are currently opening up the wheel wells to accommodate the new 100" wheelbase.

Here is how that came out.  Next...seats and interior stuff.




We have the cage designed - we built it out of 1 3/4". We have hung the steering column and added the seats.





Now, the rules call for 1/4" scatter shield which has turned into a creative little project and will require reconstruction of the firewall and the tunnel. For hard, fast and tight cornering, we decided to try a 2 to 1 steering quickener. The hand over hand 5 turns lock to lock on the Samurai proved to be way too much! So we will experiment with this. We were able to rework some Samurai radiator stancions in order to build brackets to mount our Vitara radiator - which had to be tipped back at a pretty steep angle to clear the hood.


We used a 2 door Sidekick gas tank with an in-tank fuel pump and cut it into the floor of the trunk with a short filler hose. We cut a piece of sheet metal out of the back of the top that we removed in order to fill in the old fuel filler hole in the fender.


Our standard "Double Tough" Sidekick bumper main frames seem to lend themselves pretty nicely, so we just built new mounting brackets for them.



We have reconfigured the firewall and made it easily removable for serviceability. We also shortened the shifters for a little shorter stroke - quicker shifts. It is just enough room for the pedals.


Frame is now all finish welded, painted, and ready for final assembly.




Steel XL7 axle housings and 3rd member cases have been installed with 4.30 axle gears and ARB RD209 Air Lockers. When using air lockers in these axle housings, the stub axles need to shortened 3/8" and regrooved due to the large spider pins in the ARB and also regrooved for the snap ring. We have also machined all new isolation bushings from DuPont Delrin for hanging the housings and the 3rd members as well as the A-Arm bushings to replace the rubber ones.


We have turned the body upside down and we are filling the cavities with expanding foam. This will keep the mud from accumulating in places we don't want it and substantially minimizes the dentability when the inevitable rubbing occurs.  Now off to the body shop. We decided that Satin black would  make for easy tough up or repair since body damage IS expected. Now that it is finally back from the paint shop we are ready for final assembly.


The fresh tranny, T-case and Vulcan clutch is installed with custom

built scatter sheild for safety.


The motor and tranny is installed in the chassis and safety loops for

the drivelines.


Ready to re-fit the body.


With the body in place, it is time to install the new bumpers, lights,

and grill. Since this is just a race car, the lights will not be functional.

The old yellowed headlights got a coat of silver paint and the tail

lights we decided to tint dark. We did all the tube work in Navy grey.

Because the strut towers needed to be where the inner fender wells

were, we made new inner wheel well liners from inner tube material

attached with interior push-pin clips. This will isolate and keep mud

and debris out of the engine bay and trunk area.

Now it is time for the tedious task of forming and routing brake lines,

fuel lines, and building the wiring harness. We fashioned a center

console for the master cut switch, ignition switch start button, and

ARB air locker switches. Nothing extra - just business.



The rules do require a 2 1/2 lb fire extinguisher within reach of the

driver when harnessed in. Much larger than I would have liked it

to be but rules are rules.

Today it is off to the exhaust shop......we will entrust that job to

J & L Muffler of Medford. As soon as they are done it is test and

tune time!  Will take it to Camas Valley Fun Days September 21,

22 and see how well this thing actually works!