The LITTLE ZUK THAT COULD
Paying homage to a club icon
Every club has one… no not the obnoxiously loud member that just won’t shut their mouth… but an iconic 4WD that always seems to lead the way.
The Too Far Off-Road club was once completely made up of Suzukis, mostly Samurais with the odd Sidekick thrown in for good measure. When I joined this Vancouver-based collection of small-4WD wheelers back in 2007, there were still quite a few somewhat unmolested Samurais running around - one in particular had just been given a complete overhaul. Despite having quite a few battle scars already pressed into the body, the yellow Samurai of Ingo Bludau was the cleanest dedicated off-roader as one could find.
Fast forward ten years and the little yellow Sami looks nothing like it once did. It has been over on its roof on multiple occasions and fallen on its side more times than the village drunk. The result is a body that is slowly trying to turn itself into a sphere, as a straight bodyline is nowhere to be seen. The drivetrain has to be constantly drained of mud, the engine somehow keeps starting after constant viscous abuse and the metal fatigue has rendered the steel into a doughy substance that we can only assume is being held together by some kind of witchcraft.
It was supposed to be retired years ago, dubbed a vehicle that only the builder could know how to drive, it has a maintenance-to-operation ratio reaching that of a Sea King helicopter – for every hour on the trail, it requires 30-hours in the shop to keep it alive.
Despite all this, the mighty yellow Zuk in all its decomposing glory, did what no one thought was possible. It saved several Land Rover Range Rovers stuck deep in the BC wilderness.
It was the Land Rover Range Rover that was the first vehicle to cross the Darien Gap, albeit, with an army of expedition members literally carrying it from North to South America. However, the rainforests of the BC coast did its own number on a couple of Rangies during the North West Challenge, an off-road event held between BC, Washington and Oregon Land Rover clubs, each taking turns hosting the event every third year. 2016 would be BC’s turn, and the locals surprised the Yanks with a trail that caught them offguard. The result saw a couple Rangies stuck high in the mountains with a couple broken driveshafts, broken winches and other miscellaneous issues that would make a return to a tarmac road all but impossible.
Enter the yellow Zuk. Being used as a marshal vehicle high up the mountain, the Zuk would provide winching assistance to the Land Rovers over the courses’ hardest terrain – if so needed. With the two Range Rovers making a gallant effort to make it to the top of the mountain, the loss of winching and 4WD abilities called the Zuk to action.
Piloting his machine with the skill you can only get through years of intimate experience with a single vehicle, Bludau and his tired little yellow Zuk not only got one Range Rover off the mountain through extremely difficult terrain, but got the second half way down as well. To watch the little Zuk tug and pull the giant Range Rovers in and out of every position was not just comical to watch (like watching a mouse pull an elephant out of the mud), but knowing the history of the Sami, made it just downright magic. Running winch lines to pull the Rovers over obstacles, towing them through washouts and over ledges, the work of the Zuk nearly outshone the Northwest Challenge itself.
With an epic day of wheeling and recovery, we had to pay homage to this wheeling wonder, the Zuk that just won’t die and keeps rolling when all around it fall. It might be battered, bruised, smoking and nearly unrecognizable as a Samurai anymore, but this vehicle belongs in a Hall of Fame with a medal.
With the aid of many club members, the little yellow Zuk tugged two large Range Rovers out of extremely challenging terrain.
Somewhere deep in the rainforest, a Land Rover is in need of a helping hand.