Live Auctions

Resto-Modded Tin Top: 1987 Suzuki Samurai

A few days ago, I had flagged a clean Suzuki Samurai in Maine for writing up here on Barn Finds. Wouldn’t you know, the truck was gone within a few hours. It was a fair price but not a steal, which provides good evidence that these 80s rock-hoppers are definitely getting a second look from the next generation of collectors. This particular Samurai has been nicely updated – not restored – with some big ticket maintenance items addressed. Find it here on craigslist in Santa Barbara for $12,000.

The Samurai was always treasured by the off-road community for its impressive out-of-the-box capabilities despite not being particularly large or powerful. It could scramble with the best of them and was dirt-cheap to maintain, making trail-side repairs a breeze. Of course, like many vintage Japanese vehicles, rust was an issue, along with being relentlessly abused on the trail, farm, backroads, wherever – the Samurai was not a vehicle that was marked for preservation. Limited supply today is what makes them a smart buy in the collector truck market.

This particular Samurai is a bit rarer than most owing to its hard top (better than 75 percent of them were seemingly optioned with the soft top.) The seller notes he has replaced the engine in his truck with a rebuilt OEM unit from Petroworks, and made numerous other upgrades at the same time: an aluminum radiator; new hoses; rebuilt and tuned carburetor; front end alignment; new front brakes and rotors; replaced U-joints on driveshaft; Doug Thorley smog certified Tri-Y header; and more.

The Samurai also appears to be deliciously rust-free, which in and of itself makes it worth buying. The seller has also replaced the headliner, door cards, and seats with nicely upgraded items to make the spartan interior seem more complete, and the truck has obviously been resprayed as well. The seller notes it could use new leaf springs and tires, and that the A/C doesn’t work, so it’s a pretty short list for the next owner to tackle. This Samurai appears to be worth every penny, and I doubt it will last long.


  1. Claudio

    I owned its twin many moons ago , that was in the nineties
    The author is right as these things were beasts in the woods and i beat the crap out of mine , a big frozen flower pot flying down from 2 stories up killed my little blue turtle
    I used this tiny thing as a daily workhorse in the montreal area as a secutity technician and it was great to park in the crowded streets and even better the snow covered spots , where cars could not get to

    My kids hated it as they had the rear seating and the ride was so harsh !
    I can’t believe the asking price and i would never pay this
    But i have been considering a topless tracker/geo/sidekick for about 2 years now …

  2. Stan

    Great little hunting rig, add some BFGs, a winch, and a roof rack and go 🦌

    Like 2
    • Rw

      Already has roof rack

      Like 3
  3. Rico

    My baby brother test drove a first year samurai and on his test drive brought it over to my house. He opened the hood and asked “What do you think?”
    I told him that the motor on my Harley was bigger.
    He went out to the mountains in our area and got it stuck and I had to pull it out with my 67 Chevy 1/2 ton short bed step side pickup with 2 wheel drive.
    He bought an Isuzu whatever it was called instead of the Suzuki and kept it for a couple of years.
    Me? I still have the Harley AND the 67 pickup.

    Like 4
  4. Gary Gary Member

    My son & I built one of these a few years ago, although ours was a Geo Tracker, which was just a GM badged Suzuki. Engine was a very reliable Isuzu 4-cyl. Ours was a 1997, but they were basically the same throughout production. They have the perfect weight & engine power to, literally, go anywhere & through just about anything. A real hoot to take off road.

    Like 6
  5. chrlsful

    just turboed the above but a white on red model.
    Has the same style roof, no bull bar.

    Like 1
  6. Jon Hellinga

    Restomod is a stretch for this vehicle. It has a few “upgrades” that will improve reliability and maybe a bump in HP.

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