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Our Suzuki SJ410 Samurai Jeep* was the probably best car we’ve ever had and the worst at the same time. *I use the word “Jeep” advisedly, in the same way that we all know Dysons aren’t Hoovers, but they still get called that! Now comes the difficult part – justifying my first statement. We were looking around for our very first “second” car, if you see what I mean. We didn’t want to spend much on it, but were looking for something a little out of the ordinary. There it stood on the forecourt of a relatively trustworthy 2nd hand dealers near us (well, I’d had another car from them in the past, and that was OK) – a 1988 bright yellow SJ410 (Samurai) hardtop with relatively low miles recorded. I had my reservations, but my wife was in love with it straightaway. Since she was destined to be the principal driver, who was I to argue – and she was right, she could get a lot of shopping in it! THE GOOD NEWS So what makes it the best (YELLOW) car we’ve ever had? It was bright YELLOW. It was cheap to buy and insure. It was my wife’s first (YELLOW) car. It was very easy to find in Tesco’s carpark, being taller and YELLOWer than most cars. It had “tall” profile tyres, saving me a fortune in mangled hub caps – Mrs Nibelung is not the world’s best parker, and tends to use kerbs as a physical guide to parking accuracy! Should have been a tram driver – come to think of it, they’re making a comeback, and she’s been looking for an “out” from teaching! This woman should never own alloy wheels with a car attached. I digress……After opening the YELLOW tailgate, which was actually a hinged door, it had plenty of headroom for taking dustbins to the dump, and the back seat was removable for those extra large square items that cost £15 to have del ivered. Did I mention it was seriously YELLOW? Access to the engine was great, unless you were short, in which case, something to stand on would be useful. Opening the bonnet lid, which would lay right back against the windscreen revealed a huge chasm with something looking like a model aircraft engine at the bottom. “Hellooooo down there Mr. Dipstick, need any oil?” The gear change was surprisingly positive for something so long and waggly. We both loved the high up seating position, which gave an air of authority in traffic jams, and helped with the planning-ahead that I will cover in the next section. And now…. THE BAD NEWS This list may be a bit longer. It was tall and very narrow, and therefore, cornering needed to be planned ahead, if you weren’t going to start seeing the world at 90 degrees to the horizontal. It had crude leaf-spring suspension at both ends making for an excrutiatingly-uncomfortable stiff ride. The front passenger side had a dashboard grab-handle – after couple of West London’s many speed-ramps you could see what this was for. At least the driver has a (bus-sized) steering wheel to hang on to! The combination of a “live” front axle and worm-drive steering gave it a very vague feel on the road – even driving straight needed planning ahead too, as any pothole was fair game in making it wander off course. Of course, you wouldn’t notice this off-road since you would put this down to the terrain, but on a smooth road……whoops! Come to think of it, the only off-roading we did was to put two wheels up the kerb to use an ATM in Ealing! For a 1000cc engine, fuel consumption was terrible, around 25 mpg I think, but you have to think more in terms of how heavy it was, not the engine size. 4 wheel-drive system could only be used off-road, unless the surface was very sl ippery, otherwise you risked transmission damage. (There was no third differential in the centre of the car to allow the front and back wheels free rein to go at different speeds. Probably all for the better though – the fuel consumption was bad enough as it was, without giving the poor thing more bits to turn. It was noisy inside, due to a singular lack of any real soundproofing to speak of. This, coupled with the tendency to wander, put you off doing more than 50 mph on ANY road. VERDICT Would I have another one – no! Did I like it – yes! Summing up, it was fun to own, but a genuine pain in the arse to drive. No doubt, if we’d been inclined (bad word to use under the circumstances) to go off road, we’d have had a bit more fun, as I’m told they were surprisingly able, despite their ability to fall over in the hands of the uninitiated. With hindsight, it’s easy to see why it was low-mileage when we got it – who in their right mind would travel any distance in it?! I miss it, in a funny kind of way!
I owned an F reg 1.0 Samurai, as my first car and had relatively no complaints apart from the lack of speed, they're painstakingly slow, be warned!! Good for a young driver or learner because you can't drive fast! The speedo doesn't go past 90mph and the cruising speed is a heart stopping 57mph so don't go near motorways, it just isn't worth thinking about !! Great around town, nippy and reasonably small. Not very comfortable and the noise on the 4x4 tyre can get loud. The soft-top looks the business in the summer, but people like slashing the plastic windows and security doesn't exist!! It's very easy to drive (slowly!) and easy to work on, lots of space and not at all complicated, i've seen harder jigsaws!! For engine parts it uses the same engine as a Bedford Rascal as these are more common. Watch out for the rust though, bad cases in the joins of the wheel arches, and all the floor especially the footwells. Generally quite a nice motor but quite hard to find a good one!!