Remember the 100th episode special of Dirt Every Day? Neither did Fred Williams or Dave Chappelle; they kinda forgot where the count was and celebrated the milestone, officially, at 103. But, boy was it a big one! Going to the island of Java in Indonesia to wheel with Fred’s long-time friend, Widodo, and the ProRock Engineering crew in that awesome Daihatsu Taft pickup conversion—fun times.
But this is season 10 and it’s time to go bigger and better! How? By building a Suzuki Samurai rock crawler pickup conversion thingy! Hey, the Samurai is marginally bigger than the Taft, so that counts. And Fred and Dave don’t have Widodo and his enormous workshop full of skilled fabricators to do most of the heavy lifting this time.
Building Your Own Rock Crawler
For the uninitiated, small, utilitarian 4x4s like the Daihatsu Taft and Suzuki Samurai are gold to rock crawling enthusiasts. The short wheelbases, low-cost barrier to entry, and aftermarket support for customization make them perfect for beginners and vets alike; it’s nearly impossible to build a Samurai without tons of approach, break-over, and departure angle. They’re lightweight and don’t need expensive, overbuilt drivetrains to haul them around. And the fun-size packaging means they can fit in places bigger rigs can’t, opening up so many more possibilities for activities and adventures.
Half the fun of wheeling is building that perfect rig, just for you. Sure, there are plenty of bought-not-built rigs out on the trails, but most enthusiasts like to build their own or are closely involved in the customization process of their off-road rig. It wasn’t Fred and Dave’s fault they got sick in Indonesia and couldn’t help out much with converting the Taft from a sub-compact 4×4 hatchback (we won’t sully the Daihatsu Taft’s name by calling it an SUV) to a pickup truck. There was also an elbow-room issue: The ProRock Engineering team wanted to get in on the fabrication fun, too.
But it’s time to fix that at Dave’s new shop up in Spokane, Washington! It should be easy, too. The Samurai Dave found is already on Toyota axles and Jeep springs with appropriate gearing for the tires and a proper transfer case. All Fred and Dave have to do is stretch the wheelbase a little, add a cargo box, and seal up the back of the cab. Easy squeasy! Throw some safety bits on, add a winch bumper—and don’t forget a proper, detached cargo box, otherwise it’s not a pickup
Build Your Rig Cheap, Then Get Out and Wheel!
For the rock crawler on a budget, there are plenty of options to help you build your rig on the cheap. Do you know how to weld and have some spare time? Don’t buy a pre-made steel winch bumper—buy a kit and weld it all up yourself, just like Dave Chappelle did for the Suzuki. It will take a lot longer to get your new bumper on your rig, but you can’t deny the cool factor of being able to say, “Yeah, I welded that up myself.” Plus, welding supplies are cheaper than a fully finished bumper, assuming you already have a welder and are confident in your abilities. Homemade rock sliders and skid plates can be cheaper alternatives to bolt-on parts from the aftermarket, as well.
The same company that cut out all the bumper pieces for Dave (Spokane WaterKinfe Inc.) also cut out a bunch of aluminum sheets for him to bend and weld into a proper cargo box. Remember, kids, Papa Holman says one of the criteria of a real pickup truck is a detached, open-air cargo box. The Dirt Heads couldn’t find a drop-side bed like the Daihatsu Gran Max unit they used in Indonesia, so the solution was to make one. Again, if you’re confident in your fabrication abilities and have the right tools, tackling a project like this can cut build cost dramatically.
Once your rig is ready, get out there and drive it! This show isn’t Fabricate Every Day, it’s Dirt Every Day. Fred Williams named the show as such because he wants to go drive, in the dirt, every day! So get out there, build your rig, go wheel it, and keep watching Dirt Every Day for great ideas on how to build and use your rig.