James & Maddie’s Buggys—July 2017 Project Update

James & Maddie’s Buggys—July 2017 Project Update
June 23, 2017 Coleman Mcvea

By “Zuki” James Blackburn

How It All Started

My first “Zuk” was a 1988 “Tin Top” Suzuki Samurai. At times I wish I still had the old Tin Top.  Some time later I bought a 1986 “Sami” buggy with a completely stock drivertrain: engine, transmission, T-case and axles.

I stretched the wheelbase to 112 inches using a 3 link suspension and Toyota axles; front and rear.

It was fun enough, but I wanted to go faster. So, I swapped out the stock 1.3 liter 4 cylinder engine for a Lexus 4.0 liter V8 with a Toyota r150f transmission, coupled to dual ultimate Toyota transfer cases.

Later I swapped out the front Toyota Mini Truck axle for a hybrid FJ-80 with Hellfire Fabworks knuckles, RCV chromoly axle shafts and Trail-Gear full hydraulic steering. The rear axle is a stock FJ-80.

The next upgrade was to change the suspension from a 3 link to a dual triangulated 4 link front and rear and stretch the wheelbase another couple inches giving me a 115 inch wheelbase, which happens to be 3 feet longer than it was originally as a stock Samurai. My fiancée (now my wife) Maddie and I took 1st place in the 2014 Moab Dirt Riot Mod Class. This rig is still going strong and we love getting out in it.

Zuki James Catching Air

Jame Blackburn’s Buggy at Tibble Fork Reservoir, American Fork Canyon, Utah, USA

Jame Blackburn’s Buggy on Trail in Southern Utah, USA



He Who Dies with the Most Rigs Wins!

Last year I traded one of my motorcycles for a 96 Geo Tracker.  It has a 1.6L stock engine with Toyota E-Locker axles front and rear, Toyota W56 transmission with dual Toyota T-Cases.  The tires are 33″ BFG KM2s.  It is a cool crawler.

His and Her Buggy’s

I built Maddie a buggy some time back and she loved it.  She competed at the 2015 Old School Rock Crawl and placed 5th in the Legends Class.


We are in the process of upgrading her rig now.  We scavenged the axles, engine, transmission, and transfer case and scrapped the rest.


All these items came from the old buggy and will go in the new.

James, Maddie and Rover Blackburn

We are customizing a 1987 Suzuki Samurai tin top body and putting it on a custom built 2×3 tube frame.  It should be up and running by the end of the year.

Maddie Blackburn’s New Buggy Being Built




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