Project Samurai, Part 8: Completing Interior and Controls

Nov. 08, 2012 By By Rick Sieman and Wes Holmes

Before installing the interior, we had Ric at Universal Bedliner from Mesa, Arizona, take our tub and completely spray the interior of the car with bedliner coating. Since we had to replace and drop the floor four inches, there were numerous overlaps that left the floor slightly uneven. As Ric was spraying in the bedliner, he was able to blend it in so it covered all the joints and imperfections, and it came out looking very smooth and consistent. This helps to deaden noise, reduce heat transfer to the cab interior and also helps protect it from rust. It also makes it very easy to clean up after a day on the trail – just hose it out. They do everything from Caterpillars to custom vehicles. Caterpillar, having discovered the benefit of this, now has Ric at Universal Bedliner spray their heavy equipment. The latest trend in off-road vehicles is to spray body panels,  trim and grilles, giving it a rugged, industrial look.

One of the great things about Suzuki its narrow body. While going down the trails, everyone else is grinding their door handles off on obstacles, but we can glide right through them. But the very thing that makes it nice for the trails makes it quite difficult when doing the interior. Every set of race seats we put in it felt like we were trying to stick a couch inside the narrow body. After trying several seats, it was off to the bone yard with a tape measure in hand.

Previous Project Samurai Stories:
Part 7 - Steering Upgrades

Part 6 - Exhaust, Driveshaft and Lighting

Part 5 - Insutrments and Hoses

Completed dash installed and ready to go, with updated gauges.

All the seats we found were way too wide, or the bottom of the seat from the small of your back to your calves was way too long. Keep in mind that the difference between Phoenix summers and hell is only about two degrees, making this task a rough one. Every vehicle was like an oven. We searched for three days through 75 or more vehicles and finally came across a 2000 Mazda Miata. BINGO! We knew instantly these were exactly what we were looking for. They had the look of a race seat and were the size we needed. It was a perfect marriage. Not only did they fit well but we had to do very little fabrication to the sliders. It was almost a factory fit.

Although the stock upholstery looked good, we didn’t want to settle for stock; we knew that we could do better. So off we went to the owner of Mendoza's Off-road Center in Phoenix, AZ. This is truly a one-stop off-road shop. Not only do they have an upholstery and fabrication shop, they also carry the best brands of accessories for 4-wheel drives and side-by-sides. We took a piece of chalk and starting drawing ideas on the upholstery to liven up the inside of the Samurai. We decided on black vinyl with silver carbon-fiber inserts would be the look we wanted.

All controls are between the seats and fall readily to hand. Howe Performance's rear steer joystick, Jamar's turn brake and in the lower left-hand corner is Trail Tough's rear driveshaft disconnect are all easily within reach.

We left them with Mendoza and his team to work their magic. Several days later we got a call that they were ready to be picked up – a surprisingly quick turnaround.  Not only did they look fantastic, they also included accommodations for our Pyrotect five-point race harnesses (seat-belts), map pockets, and bright orange stitching that really gave the seats some serious attitude.  Our belts came with easy-to-snap cam-lock buckles and adjustable crotch straps, making for a comfortable custom fit.

The 2000 Mazda Miata seats after Mendoza's Off-Road Center's magic.  He made them work with Pyrotect's  5-point harnesses.

The metal dashboard that we previously built was now painted and installed. All the aluminum faceplates that Southwest Water Jets cut out for us let the gauges fall in perfectly. But we still needed some hard to get parts, so we called up Bret at Trail Tough.

They have everything for Suzukis, from differentials, long travel kits, and rear drive shaft disconnects, to the hard to find part that we needed for our dash, which was a heater face place. And sure enough, they had one.

The floor was dropped four inches and Universal Bedliner employees are prepping the tub to be sprayed.

During this time we decided to upgrade our gauges to ISSPRO EV-2 gauges. ISSPRO's EV-2 Series can match your OEM gauges to a "T." The LED lighting matches, as well as the colors and fonts. As a longtime supplier to truck OEMs, they understand the importance of finely tuned design details. ISSPRO's EV-2 has all the bells and whistles, such as Microprocessor-controlled stepper motor movements, LED back lighting, precision senders and a full 270° sweep. All the electronic gauges have a built-in warning light that is fully user programmable with just a laptop. Whether it's temperature or oil, boosts or volts, you can set the warning lights for when YOU DECIDE they should come on. We found this to be a great upgrade and highly worth the time. And also important, they are made in the USA.

With our gauges, switches and glove box in place, we moved on to the floor tunnel, where we installed a brake bias valve. The Parker Hose Advantage Store carries this valve, along with all the fittings and custom brake lines needed to accomplish this task. This valve can be a great asset to you. When you hit that nasty, gnarly hill that you are half way up and can't make it, your car starts sliding sideways. Simply shut the front brakes down and let your rear brakes do all of the stopping and your front wheels will now roll, allowing you to be able to steer coming down that hill.

A smooth and flawless finish was the final finish to the interior.

We also installed a hydraulic parking brake valve from Jamar. This, too, is a great thing to have. When you’re on a very steep hill with a manual transmission and you stall the motor, lock the brakes up, get on the gas and gently ease out on the clutch. Once the clutch is engaged, simply hit the park valve, disengaging it, and continue up the hill as if it were an automatic. What this means is no heel/toe on the gas and brake pedals, while working the clutch at the same time.

We also installed a turn brake from Jamar for doing “diggers.” The quality and finish is incredible. We've already installed a rear wheel disconnect from Trail Tough Products, and this works in conjunction with the turn brakes. How is it used?  Example: disengage the rear driveshaft from the transfer case using the turn brake to lock up the right rear wheel. Then turn the front wheels to the right, keeping the right rear wheel locked up with the turn brake and the rear wheel will pivot while the front wheels dig in and give you a sharp turn, thus giving it the name "digger."

A great thing about Jamar is that, if we were doing an independent front end, they have the highest quality spindles and hubs for doing this.

Previous Project Samurai Stories:
Part 7 - Steering Upgrades

Part 6 - Exhaust, Driveshaft and Lighting


Part 5 - Insutrments and Hoses

To further add to the controls in the center of the Suzuki is a Trail Gears twin stick, a lifesaver when the rocks get big and nasty. Trail Gears twin stick and upgraded input shaft will get you out of there without breaking off the output shaft on the T-case.  With the 1.9 Kerma TDI diesel, spider track housing and Yukon gears and RCV axles, this turns the Suzuki into a real "Jeep killer."

Acme Adapters
P O Box 2258
Clackamas, Or. 97015
Jeff Kerr

Advance Adapter
4320 Aerotech Center Way
Paso Robles, Ca.  93446

AAPAK Airconditioning 
1845 Grand Ave
Phoenix, Az. 85007
Tawn Berman

Chanda Precision Motorworks/King One Winches
#101 519 34 Ave SE
Calgary, Alberta, Canada, T2G1V1

Dominion Sure Seal
6175 Danville Rd.
Mississauga, Onterio, Ca.L5T2H7

Falken Tires
13649 Valley Blvd
Fontana, Ca.92335

FASS Fuel Systems

FK Rod Ends
865 W Queen St.
Southington, Ct. 06489

Howe Performance
12476 Julian Ave
Lakeside, CA 92040
Office Phone: (619) 561-7764

2515 NE Riverside Way
Portland, Or 97211

Jamar Performance
5500 E. La Palma Ave. Anaheim, CA  92807

K-Four Switches
Santee, Ca. 92072

Karway Transmissions
868 S Country Club Dr
Mesa, AZ. 85210

Kerma TDI
3000 Eaglebend Dr
Box 2142
Avon, Co.  81620

King One Winch 
18424 Mount Langley St
Fountain Valley, Ca. 92708

King Shocks
12842 Joy St.
Garden Grove, Ca. 92840
Mike or Brett

Light House

Lithionics Battery  
2449 McMullen Booth Rd.
Clearwater, Fla. 33759

Meziere Enterprises
220 S. Hale Ave.
Escondido, CA. 92029
Phone: 800.208

Mittler Bros. Machine and Tool
10 Cooperative Way
Wright City, Missouri 63390
Mike or Pam

Parker The Hose Advantage Store
3526 E Broadway Rd.
Phoenix, AZ
545 SE Bridgeford Blvd Unit A
Bend, Or. 97702

Purosil Silicone Hoses
Purchased through Parker Hoses  

534 W Brooks St.
Ontario, Ca.91762

Rally Tops
Los Angeles, Ca
Jerry Mancini -

Randy's Ring and Pinion
10411 Airport Road
Everett, Wa.98204
Neal Hollingsworth ext. 5587
Kevin ext 5581

RCV Performance
611 Beacon St
Loves Park, Il. 61111
765-362-1909 765-307-7441
Owners Craig and John 815-877-7473
Reel Driveline
448 South Reservoir, Pomona, CA 91766

Reid Racing
1917 Oak Park Blvd
Pleasant Hill, Ca. 94523

Rigid Industries
4641 E Ivy St
Mesa, Az. 85205
Rock Monster Wheels
250 Ewing St
Trenton, NJ 08609

Rocky Road Outfitters
1920 WendellLane
Heber, Utah 84032

Ron Davis Radiators
7334 N 108th Ave.
Glendale, Az. 85307

Shake and Shoot Bedliner
Dominion Sure Seal
6175 Danville Road
Mmississauga, Ontario,
Canada  L5T2H7

7510 Hygiene road
Longmont, co. 80503

Team Allied Exhausts
Systems 710 W. Broadway Suite 506. Mesa, AZ 85210

Trail Tough Products
1031 Narregan St.
Medford, Or. 97501
supplier Brent Bradshaw

Universal Linings
60 W Baseline Rd
Mesa, Az 85210
P 480.844.8833

Wired Rite Systems
5793 Skylane Blvd
Windsor, CA  95492

Vyne Powdercoating
2452 W Birchwood Ave #113
Mesa, Az. 85202 

Yukon Gear and Axle
10411 Airport Road
Everett, Wa.98204 Newsletter
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