Restoring Forest Finding Suzuki LJ20 Proves Difficult

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After 40 years of sitting in the Sierra Nevada, then getting drugged in a river, this rig is in a sorry state…

We’ve already shown 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). This off-road recovery was pretty wild, with the rat poo infested rig bathing in nicely. But now, it’s in southern Utah that Matt’s Off Road Recovery takes the vehicle to Fab Rats for a light restomod treatment. However, Ed’s old off-roader is in a rather sad state, so it turns out to be quite a challenge.

Seriously, if you haven’t watched the crazy videos of this Suzuki’s recovery, you need 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 wondering if it would be easier and healthier to buy another one. After all, these things don’t pay much online. They weigh around 1,500 pounds, have a 359cc two-stroke engine, and barely fit two adult men in the front seats. Basically, they’re toys, like the predecessors to today’s side-by-sides like the Polaris RZR.

What people don’t understand is that restoring this Suzuki LJ20 goes beyond practicality. This vehicle has serious sentimental value to the owner, Ed, a guy who is a valued member of Winder Towing. By giving it a good restomod treatment, Ed can finally drive the vehicle he thought was long gone after being trapped by an avalanche in the 1980s.

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

Luckily, the rat poo got washed away when that thing was underwater. However, the Fab Rats team found all sorts of interesting items inside, including novels that Ed likely read at his camp when he was relaxing in the evenings.

Ed also fashioned a wooden driver’s door, which is pretty fun, it’s the only door on the Suzuki that can be opened at the start. The engine is burned out, the roof is rusted and one of the rear windows and the panel below are missing, replaced by a simple piece of sheet metal. This thing is a huge challenge, but we’ve seen Fab Rats perform some pretty amazing miracles.

Often Fab Rats do LS swaps on the vehicles they resto-mod, so some feared that was the plan with Ed’s LJ20. Instead, they’re going to drop in an engine from a Suzuki Sidekick, along with the automatic transmission. Some Dana axles from a Jeep CJ5 are also given away, which come with 31-inch tires. The roof will be replaced, but may be transformed into a soft-top version of this classic. In other words, once the job is done, this “Golden Nugget” will look quite different and should be much more capable of being a trail machine. It won’t be anything wild, though, because Ed doesn’t like extreme rock exploration or any other such nonsense.

Watch the video for yourself.

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