V6 Suzuki Coupe


Prior to the SR1 Speedster project, in the mid 80’s I had taken on another little automotive challenge, starting with a diminutive and stock standard 1974 Suzuki Fronte GX Coupe. This model was originally powered by a three cylinder, 360cc 2–stroke engine mounted right at the back of the car. These vehicles were only 3 metres long and weighed only 500kg, and actually went around corners pretty good in standard form.

Wanting to do something a bit different, ‘Plan A’ was to install a large capacity (1100cc) bike engine, but this would get a bit tricky, requiring a secondary gearbox to get a reverse gear, etc. I also had a spare 302 Ford V8 sitting around, but this was just too long to fit in the space available, so I eventually opted to mid-mount a 3 litre Ford V6 mated to a ‘Type 3’ Volkswagon transaxle, and even this combination was a tight squeeze for length. (This was before the days that high performance Japanese import engines were readily available, so it was a bit old-skool). The V6 had a substantial amount of internal work performed on it including 'matched' manifold and head porting, valve reshaping, addition of screw-in rocker studs with push-rod guide plates and concluding with a full balance job that would allow it to run comfortably to 7000rpm. The very ‘short’ exhaust system sounded pretty good in the upper rev ranges.

The rear (back seat area) of the car was gutted and new structural members were made and welded into the original unitary body. A 4-point roll cage and two removable cross-members were also installed. The original rear semi-trailing arms were retained, but the rubber pivot bushes were replaced with solid versions, and Koni coil-over shocks replaced the original rear suspension units.

A full set of 22 gauge steel ‘boxed’ guards, sills and front air dam were fabricated and welded to the original bodywork. The rear aerodynamic ‘wing’ (with internal frame) and its side supports were made from aluminium and the wing was stabilised with cross-over diagonal strain wires, tensioned by aircraft turn-buckles mounted inside the bodywork. The car was painted a ‘Morello Cherry’ red with a ‘flip-flop’ red pearl over top, which gave it golden sheens in the sunlight. I also airbrushed the ‘polished gold’ Suzuki ‘S’ logo on the bonnet. The ‘normally used’ engine cover and surrounding panels were covered with vinyl finished acoustic foam. The finished car definitely attracted a bit of attention.

With the heavy V6 motor and all the extra materials put into the car, the finished weight ended up at 850kg. A trip to the Meremere drag-strip was an interesting experience. Wearing a helmet meant I had to lean forward to avoid it squashing into the roof directly above my head and compressing my neck. (It was also difficult to hear the engine revs properly with the helmet on). The low gearing of the VW transaxle, combined with only 13 inch rear wheels meant I never normally used first gear when driving on the road, so with a second gear take-off and a slipping clutch, I managed to nett a 14.1 second run. I’m sure the car was capable of considerably better, but I couldn’t do it on the day.

Check out a few photos of the finished car and the build below.