The fact they even pulled this off is nothing short of a miracle…
Sometimes the stars align as all conditions allow you to pull off something truly amazing. That seems to be the case when a team headed up by Matt’s Off Road Recovery traveled to the Sierra Nevadas in California to retrieve a Suzuki Jimny LJ20 which had been stuck and abandoned 40 years before. These guys have done some crazy off-road recoveries before, but nothing like this, which they’ve been referring to as “Operation Golden Nugget” for quite some time before.
Check out these guys’ completely awesome Chevy Corvair off-road build here.
A lot of people would say rescuing a Suzuki Jimny from anywhere isn’t worth the effort. That’s nice they have an opinion, but it doesn’t mean it’s an informed opinion. Apart from this LJ20 having plenty of sentimental value for the owner (more on that later) they genuinely don’t make them like they used to.
Back in 1970 Suzuki introduced its first 4x4, which also happened to be the first mass-produced 4x4 in the mini-car segment of the Japanese market. Being so small definitely has its advantages. For starters, just like the old Willys Jeeps used in WWII, it can fit through really tight spots. Also, it’s so lightweight it doesn’t sink into sand, mud, etc. like our portly trucks of today. Suzuki says it weighed just over 1,300 lbs. which is crazy. You’ll see during the recovery at one point these guys actually pick up and move the Jimny.
This off-roader belongs to Ed, an employee of Winder Towing and the one who usually gives the weather report on the videos. If you don’t follow Matt’s Off Road Recovery on YouTube, you don’t know Ed. For those who do, the old guy is a favorite with his wry humor and can-do attitude, always saying “we’ll get ‘em out” even when a job is next to impossible.
However, Ed wasn’t quite so optimistic about rescuing his old rig. The fact it was trapped by a landslide which buried the trail he used to get it to his plot of land in the mountains could be a good reason why. The terrain is especially rugged, especially since nobody has traversed it in any machine for decades. It’s not exactly what you would call ideal conditions, but these guys are highly experienced and crazy enough to try such a thing.
Just to get their Jeep Cherokee XJ lovingly called The Banana to the Suzuki, these guys have to cut down many small trees, trim limbs, move some large rocks, and do other trail maintenance. Still, it’s such a tight squeeze that the Jeep takes some damage, both going in and coming out. Since they’re getting ready to do some big modifications on the thing they’re not so concerned about the dents and scrapes, but it’s still cringe-inducing to watch.
Even more challenging is dragging the dead LJ20 back to the trailer they pulled with a big modern pickup. Fitting one rig through many tight squeezes can be quite the challenge, but trying to fit a second vehicle you’re towing through those same passes becomes almost impossible.
One area of the makeshift trail is particularly technical, so these guys decide to float the Suzuki in the river and pull it upstream to where the trail isn’t so challenging. It’s not a bad idea, but I honestly thought they were going to build a raft, load the LJ20 on, then pull it along using a winch. Instead, they just pull the thing through the water using the winch, and it doesn’t go as well as they had hoped. I don’t want to spoil too much because the three videos, one of them checking out the area and planning, then two of them doing the actual recovery, are entertaining. Sure, it makes for a lot of watching, but what else are you going to do? This is far and away better than the slop on TV and streaming services these days, especially since none of this is scripted, so you get reality with all its blemishes.