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4x4 4 Sale: 1987 Suzuki Samurai with an RX-7 Rotary Engine Swap!

The Samurai-7 is the ultimate little off-roader for rotary rebels.

The Suzuki Samurai is an awesome little four-wheel-drive rig that was a rebadged Jimny sold in the U.S. between 1985 to 1988, during which time it shared the road with both first- and second- generation Mazda RX-7s. The diminutive Samurai packed an equally puny 1.3-liter SOHC eight-valve inline-four good for about 60 horsepower, while even early RX-7s had at least 100 horsepower from their rotary engines. But what if you swapped that Wankel rotary goodness into the Suzuki? Wouldn't that be freakin' cool? I would call it the Samurai-7.

The best part is that someone already did all the work—and you can buy the result today on Craigslist for only $4,900! Now that's a steal. As far as we can tell from the photos, it has a Holley carburetor, suspension seats, a custom dash, custom wiring (all in yellow to make diagnostics, uh, easier), MSD ignition, cutting brakes, a swapped in radiator, a front shackle reversal, and rolls on big-ass Goodyears—probably 33s on 15x12- or 15x12.5-inch wheels. It's for off-road use only and isn't street-legal but it is lifted, has a handbrake lever for drifting, a light bar on the front bumper, and a Bully tailgate net around back. There's even an RX-7 badge on its gray little hood.

The vehicle is located in Hesperia, California. We reached out the seller, a man named Luis, and he says he's owned it for about nine months and bought it from a buddy who knew the guy who made the swap. Since I couldn't talk to the builder, we reached out to an in-house MotorTrend Group expert instead.

"This kind of rotary engine swap something I actually penciled out to do to a flatfender back when I was at Jp Magazine," Christian Hazel, editor-in-chief of Petersen's 4-Wheel & Off-Road tells us. Here are Hazel's notes that he took after he took a quick gander at the ad:

  • Rotaries run on the warm side. That partially explains the huge radiator and other coolers stuck behind the front bumper.
  • Back in the early/mid '00s there were a couple companies making rotary-to-transmission adapters and/or bellhousings. I don't for the life of me remember them. Quick Time makes a conversion bellhousing that will mate to some Borg Warner, Muncie, Richmond, and other transmissions. Can't recall if there was one that retained the Suzuki transmission but I know there are adapters to mate to Toyota five-speed and auto transmissions. This could be running a Toyota tranny and T-case if I'm guessing (which I am). 
  • Aside from the twin cutting brake levers, there seems to be only one shifter. I'm guessing that's for the T-case, which makes this an automatic. That would also peg that big cooler in front of the radiator as a tranny cooler.
  • I'm wondering if the Touch Tek VI switch on the dash is set up to electronically shift the transmission? I can't figure out how the transmission is shifted otherwise (assuming that shifter on the floor between the seats where the normal Sami T-case shifter is in fact a T-case shifter. )
  • I'm no expert but that looks very much like a nonturbo 12A engine from a '79-'85 RX-7.
  • Carburetor is a Holley double pumper with mechanical secondaries. I'm guessing 650 cfm, which is the smallest double pumper, but still a REALLY big carb for that engine.
  • Rotaries use twin coils, hence the dual MSD Blaster SS coils.
  • There's a waterproof-ish looking fuse block next to the carb.
  • Shackle reversal setup on the front suspension. These normally have shackle-forward front suspension.
  • Wheels look like 15x10 and I'm betting the tires are 33x12.50 (maybe 35x12.50).
  • Tailpipe is comical.

The reason for selling? Luis says he prefers to take his quads out more these days and doesn't have enough time to off-road the little two-seater. He has his eye on a Duramax diesel work truck, too, which will be easier to haul the kids in. His loss is your gain, no?

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