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Trail-Tested Time Machine: 1987 Suzuki Samurai JX SE

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This is a bit newer than we usually show here, but it’s unusual enough, and nice enough that I thought I’d take a risk! The 1987 Suzuki Samurai JX SE seen here is in Carlsbad, California and is listed on eBay with a current bid price of just over $3,600 with no reserve and six days left on the auction!

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This is a cool little thing, not to mention that it’s probably the nicest, original Samurai that you’ll ever see again. The owner says that this “one is in extremely uncommon condition sporting all of the original interior and the original soft top and shiny, not oxidized anywhere, original paint.”  They had a new one in ’87 and have been looking for another one “later in life”, so they found this one in 2009 and have only put 1,500 miles on it since then.

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This is a “JX” special edition, which added an in-dash clock and a tachometer. The body is in fantastic condition on this example, but the soft top could use some work, the seller says that the original top is “in fair condition. It has a couple of tears in the plastic moon roof, and one of the rear zippers needs re-stitching.” The “SE” added “color coded paint package, grey not white painted wheels, a “Special” dash emblem, and other decals and special upholstery that made it stand apart. It had its own emblem for the targa bar, and a different gear shift knob, a special 2 tone and smoke, not clear window soft top, and most notably, the only model with split, not a bench, rear seat.”

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Speaking of “special upholstery“, nice! There’s a tear in the driver’s seat, but luckily it’s in an area that could be replaced without too much trouble. There are a mere 59,900 miles on this little time machine, it should be good for another decade or two if a person keeps up on the maintenance and doesn’t drive it in the salty-snowy winters. The first thing that I would do, and it would happen the instant that the shipper delivered this to our garage, is to take that speaker enclosure out of the back. It would be a nice tip for the shipper when I handed that to them.

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This engine looks almost clean enough to eat off of. They must have spent some time, or money, or both, on detailing this vehicle, which is nice to see for a change. This is Suzuki’s 8-valve OHC, G13A engine, a 1.3L inline-four with 60 hp. The G13B with 16 valves had around 100 hp but it wasn’t available in the Samurai, at least in this era. The beauty of this engine is that it’s a non-interference type, so that means that you can put off and put off and put off changing the timing belt for too long, and most owners probably do.. but if the belt breaks, it won’t crash the engine like the G13B interference engine will do. This is the cleanest, nicest, best-looking Samurai that I think I’ve ever seen. Have any of you ever owned one of these little things? They can be a terror on the trails, it would sure be fun to try this one out.


  1. GTOJeff

    I have one just like this but it’s a hard top with air conditioning. Silver must have been the big color this year.

    Like 1
  2. John B

    A friend had one of these new in 1988. I rode in its rear seat once. My bladder and other internal organs have not forgiven me yet for being forcibly rearranged after going over a speed bump at 10mph. Never again…

    Like 0
  3. Doc

    OK true story, 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, a patient of mine had one of these, the earth opened up, the car fell in, earth closed up, they never got it out!!!
    She was not in the car.
    It’s not nice to fool Mother Nature.

    Like 0
  4. grant

    These and Geo Tracker’s were surprisingly capable off road and the engines are robust too. Don’t wreck them.

    Like 0
  5. Ben

    My girlfriend (and now wife) had one when we met in 89. Shortly after, I took the 5.0 badges off my new Mustang and put them on the Samuari. Hehehehe…. I got some funny looks when driving the Zuki after that. Boy, I sure do miss that Mustang….and the Suzuki too. At least I still have my wife.

    Like 0
  6. Eric

    Cute ute is how you describe a jeep compass not a Sami

    Like 0
  7. Randy Rush

    I rented one of these in Hawaii in 1987, stripper, no floor mats, not even rubber on the floor, drain plugs open, guess a lot of them got used on the beach. Pretty slow on the highway, but fun.

    Like 0
  8. Bob S

    My family went through one after the other of these on an island by the sea. (I’d guesstimate 4 or 5 at least) The best one was the first one (1982) and emissions and refinement took the fun out a little bit after each time we replaced it. The first one rusted the fastest and the last one (probably an 2002 or so?) seemed to hold up well. Some had leaf springs up front , but the last one was all coil springs. One thing I can say is that the electrics were fantastic, as was the off road capability. Pretty well impossible to get stuck. Not the greatest thing on the local highway. I’d say 50 MPH was about it.
    If you want to explore tough country, these are very impressive. Fun vehicles, they will never make again. Best with a Bimini top.

    Like 0
  9. Kiki

    This looks exactly like the one I had…. And was stolen from the target parking lot in San bernardino

    Like 0
  10. Francisco

    Drove one of these on a 14 day trip in Costa Rica and Panama. Tracks through rain forests, mountains, sandy beaches, you name it. It was the best. Better than the Land Rover on a previous trip. Air conditioned too!

    Like 0
  11. racer99

    Road legal 4×4 with good miles in great condition for half the price of a new ATV. I saw a nice one setup for trails with bed-liner sprayed interior, soft top, and boosted ground clearance that the guy had less than $2500 invested in. Great tough little beasts but can’t see it being a “collectable”.

    Like 0
  12. Bplaw

    Got a job selling these when they were all the rage, and bought one myself. I would take potential buyers on a test drive to the nearby mud hole to demonstrate the Samurai’s off-road capabilities, then drive it through the dealership’s car wash to show that the top didn’t leak. Great little vehicles as long as you weren’t in a hurry. I recall driving mine across the 7-Mile Bridge in the Florida Keys facing a headwind, and having to downshift to 4th. Even then, 57 was all I could get out of it. 65 was about tops in normal conditions. They came in a base (“JA”) version, a deluxe “JX” version, and this limited “SE” version. If you buy this, be sure to keep any beverages in a cup with a lid. The ride will jar the fillings out of your teeth, and your coffee will be decorating the ceiling.

    Like 1
  13. KM

    — This is a cool little thing, not to mention that it’s probably the nicest, original Samurai that you’ll ever see again. —

    Wrong. I have a 1987 Samurai JX which, according to the appraiser, is the nicest one he could find in the entire country. Truly a remarkable garage find, appraised at over 25K. It has the Toyota carburetor, 2 inch lift, 30″ diameter tires, and even the original steering wheel with horn button. It is Iceland blue with the original stripes and decals, no rust, and with top speed exceeding 70 MPH. To top it off, I still have the originals of any replaced part. :)

    Like 0

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