Restoring Forest Find Suzuki LJ20 Proves Challenging

Jan 29, 2023 3 min read
Restoring Forest Find Suzuki LJ20 Proves Challenging

After 40 years of sitting in the Sierra Nevadas, then being drug through a river, this rig is in sad shape…

We already showed you the recovery of an old Suzuki Jimny LJ20 trapped in the Sierra Nevada Mountains for 40 years (if you missed that, check it out here). That off-road recovery was pretty wild, with the rat poop-infested rig going for a nice swim. But now it’s in southern Utah as Matt’s Off Road Recovery turns the vehicle over to Fab Rats for a mild restomod treatment. However, Ed’s old off-roader is in pretty sad shape, so it’s proving to be quite the challenge.

Seriously, if you haven't checked out the crazy videos of this Suzuki's recovery, you got to watch them here.

After seeing more of what this Suzuki’s sad shape is now that it’s literally out of the woods, some are questioning if it would be simpler and saner to just buy another one. After all, these things don’t fetch much online. They weigh about 1,500 lbs., have a 359cc two-stroke motor, and can barely fit two adult men in the front seats. Basically, these are toys, like the predecessors of side-by-sides of today like the Polaris RZR.

What people don’t get is restoring this Suzuki LJ20 is about more than practicality. This vehicle has serious sentimental value for the owner, Ed, a guy who’s a valued member at Winder Towing. By giving it a nice restomod treatment, Ed can finally drive the vehicle he figured was long gone after it was trapped by an avalanche in the 1980s.

Also, this build is about doing something most people would think is impossible. Just getting the Jeep XJ they call The Banana to this Suzuki Jimny was a major feat, not to mention dragging the dead rig all the way back, partly via the river. Sure, it made for some entertaining YouTube content, but for the crew working on it the recovery was difficult and a little dangerous. Plus, Eric had to sit in a vehicle full of rat poop.

Thankfully, the rat poop washed away when this thing was underwater. However, the crew at Fab Rats found all kinds of interesting items inside, including some novels Ed probably read at his camp when relaxing in the evening hours.

Ed also fashioned a driver’s door out of wood, which funny enough is the only door on the Suzuki which can be opened at first. The motor is toast, the roof is rusted through, and one of the rear windows along with the panel under it is gone, replaced by just a piece of sheet metal. This thing is a huge challenge, but we’ve seen Fab Rats pull off some pretty amazing miracles.

Many times, Fab Rats does LS swaps on vehicles they’re resto-modding, so some were concerned that was the plan with Ed’s LJ20. Instead, they’re going to drop an engine from a Suzuki Sidekick into this, along with the automatic transmission. Some Dana axles from a Jeep CJ5 are also being donated, which come with 31-inch tires. The roof will be replaced, but possibly will be turned into the soft top version of this classic. In other words, when the work is done this “Golden Nugget” is going to look quite different and should be much more capable of a trail machine. It won’t be anything wild, though, because Ed’s not into extreme rock crawling or any such nonsense.

Check out the video for yourself.

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