SX4 Trail Ready Paragliding Expedition Vehicle

Day 1

Stock SX4

Well I bought me a Suzuki SX4 a month ago. I'm currently working on gathering parts to build it into a trail ready paragliding rig. I enjoy paragliding on a weekly basis. The sites I drive to are all about an hour away from home. Most of the trip is on the highway, but when you arrive at a flying site, you then need to go up a dirt trail for 10-40 minutes depending on the site. For this reason, I needed a vehicle that got good gas mileage but also could get me up to the launch sites. I understand that this SX4 will not be able to rock crawl or go into low range, but with selectable 2WD, AWD, and LOCK modes and a little bit of lift help, this vehicle should get me to about 90% of the places I need to go. I will also be using the vehicle for camping and have a roof top tent setup I am planning on using (with the option of a garage winch for easy storage). Ok, I think I'm ready to start this build...I will do my best to keep the pictures plentiful and interesting.

Here is the SX4 on the day I bought it with 103,000 miles

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Day 2

The Roof Rack

The roof bars were selected to hold up the weight of the roof top tent for my wife and I. I added the Rhino rack fairing and some smaller bars to for a cargo holding area.

I had to buy a shorty antenna so that the roof top tent could sit flat and not bend the antenna.

Day 3

Gathering Lift Kit Parts

I am gathering some 2 inch lift parts for the SX4. From left to right are the Rocky Road Outfitters rear shock extensions, then the Rocky Road Outfitters rear lift spacers, an extra set of OEM stock pillow mounts and homemade front lift plate. NOTE: the wrong camber bolt kit is shown in this picture! I ended up using the 81260 (14mm) camber bolt kit.

There's a reason I purchased half the kit from Rocky Road Outfitters and built the front half. This is a new lift method we call the "Kanook Lift Method" that about 8-10 of us on the SX4 forum have tried that seems to be more robust and distribute the lateral load more evenly that other lifting methods. I have installed this lift on my first SX4 and it worked wonderfully. I ended up buying this SX4 to have a lifted SX4 with manual transmission instead of an automatic.

Anyways the idea of this new lift method is that you use a couple steel plates to stack another OEM pillow mount on top of the strut giving you the 2 inches of desired lift.

I need to install the struts tonight, I will post some new pictures soon.
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Day 5

Front Suspension Overhaul

Well, I decided to replace all suspension and steering components including inner tie rod, outer tie rod, lower control arm, sway bar links.

Here is a pick with everything removed! Putting it all back together was WAY easier! If you look close, you can also see where I ground down the control arm mount so the cv axle wouldn't rub while flexing. This is one of the drawbacks to lifting an SX4. Cutting the mount doesn't seem to weaken the mount much, I just hate cutting on my car with a grinder.

Day 6

Lift Kit Finished

I got the 2in lift kit finished last night, now I need a new pair of shoes.

The whole idea of getting the lift was to get a little higher, but also increase my approach and departure angles. I created this diagram to help me decide whether or not I wanted to modify and cut the front bumper for a pre-runner bumper. Creating a pre-runner style bumper should give me and additional 7-8 degrees of approach angle. I think I'll get some new tires and try a couple of the trails I go on. If the front scratches on the trails, then off it comes!

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Day 7

New pair of shoes

Got me some new tires today :)
General Grabber 215/75R15

Yes, those are 15" Jeep Ecco wheels 5x4.5 with 32mm offset, paired with hub centric rings (71.5mm-60.1mm)

Do General Grabbers and locking diffs qualify me for a trail rated badge?
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Day 8

First trail test run

We went paragliding yesterday and I took it up its first trail. It was the worst trail of the three that I normally go on. It made it totally fine. Even on the big dip, it didn't scratch the nose. I guess I won't be needing to build a prerunner style front bumper. Front and Rear skid plates are in, they will be my next install.

Here is the track log of one of the flights that day [video][/video]
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Josh, I really like your SX4. I especially like the Jeep wheels and "Trail Rated" badge. Many Jeeps with that badge will see less trail time than you already have in this thread.

I have serious question. You bought this car specifically so you'd get a manual transmission. How do you drive this on the trail without low range? Being a lifetime manual transmission Jeep owner, I've spent a lot of time on the trail in low range, with my foot off the clutch driving with the throttle and brake. Most manual transmission cars do not have enough reduction in 1st to go slow enough to avoid damage and enough engine speed to not stall. An automatic is different, since you can two-foot without stalling, using the brakes to keep the speed down and the convertor slippage to keep the engine speed up (makes a lot of heat, but oh well).

What is your strategy in this car? Are you ever wishing that you had the automatic when you are on the trail?

I've wondered about this with respect the the Subarus, and the new Jeep Renegade. With the Ren, the TrailHawk version gives you maybe 20:1 reduction and an automatic, but I don't know how dragging the brakes will mess up the traction control. These systems typically look for the slipping wheel and apply braking to direct power to the opposite wheel. Maybe the Suzuki has this issue too...