Friday, March 6, 2015

The Teal Terror Gets A Hardtop and a Bunch of Other Parts From Canada

Suzuki Sidekick Hardtop


When I originally bought my 1995 Suzuki Sidekick (aka The Teal Terror), I was excited to have a soft top. I mean, I could take the top off or fold it down for fun-in-the sun action, right? Well, it turns out that I rarely ever took the top off. First off, it's kind of a pain in the ass to remove, especially with my roof rack (not shown above). Secondly, when Mercedes is in the car, she sunburns easily and we usually leave the top on. Oh that's right. I also live in waterlogged Oregon. Hey, at least the top didn't leak.

Suzuki Sidekick with trailer

While cruising the interstate on a trip back from Walla Walla, Washington last year ("A city so nice they named it twice."), we were going head-on into the wind at 70 MPH. The truck was very noisy. We started talking about how it'd be nice to have a hard top. It'd be quieter on the highway and it'd be more secure than a soft top, too. After all, these tops are easy for car prowlers to slice open and take your stuff. Ask me how I know. I could buy a brand new hardtop for $895 plus nearly $300 in freight. However, I really didn't want to spend that much. Off to craigslist!

At Gary's Auto Wrecking in Canada
Spencer atop a pile of Suzukis in Canada. 
I'd cruised craiglist for months looking for hard tops down here in Oregon or Washington to no avail. However, I noticed that, for whatever reason (maybe because it's freaking cold in much of the country?), used hardtop were plentiful in British Columbia—a five hour drive from here. On several previous occasions, I considered going to Canada and picking one up, but never made it happen. However, last weekend I finally pulled the trigger, found a good top, and bought it. More on that in a second.

Off we headed to Langley BC, where we'd visit friends and hit up a 4x4 junkyard to strip parts off of other Sidekicks, Trackers, and Sunrunners. And yes, we brought our trailer just in case. My buddy, Spencer, had sent me photos of this wrecking yard full of Jeeps and Suzukis. And sure enough, there was a treasure trove of Sidekicks, Trackers, and Sunrunners (By the way, Canada never got the Geo brand, instead they had the Asuna marque. The Asuna Sunrunner was the same as the Geo Tracker). While at Gary's Auto Wrecking, I was able to nab all those little parts I needed to finish off the Sidekick: vents, switch covers, power mirror switch, door trim, various nuts and bolts, a new ash tray, and a few other little bits. This place was awesome and fairly priced; highly recommended. The only things I installed immediately were the new center vents (now they actually can be used) and the new power mirror switch which actually allows them to function for the first time since I owned the vehicle!

The next day, we picked up the hard top from a fellow Suzuki enthusiast. (He had a couple of Sidekicks and Samurais, and even a Suzuki Cappuccino!) The used top only cost $500 USD, and it had all the hardware and the weather sealing. No, it didn't exactly fit into our tiny-ass Dinoot trailer, but with the help of the owner, some 2x4s, a ratchet strap, and a floor mat (don't ask), we were able to make the trip from Mission, BC back to Langley at 60 KPH (that's 37.28 MPH to you non metric folk), ensuring our new-to-us top wouldn't end up on the side of a Canadian highway.

Removing the Suzuki Sidekick hard top
We brought the top back to our friend's house and installed it, which was pretty simple. It required we remove all of the soft top hardware and trim, which got shoved into the trailer. Yes, there was a little bit of finagling; a rusty bolt here, a missing knob there, but we got it to work, and then headed back to the U.S.

Once back on U.S. soil (and driving faster than 80 kph), we noticed the removable panel that covers the front seats made a ton of wind noise at 55 MPH and above. And by "a ton" I mean it was truly deafening. Like jet engine deafening. Like tornado deafening. Like Taylor Swift deafening. (OK, maybe not that bad.) The noise was coming from where the front of the top meets the weather stripping on the top of the windshield frame. Luckily for us, whenever we travel with The Teal Terror, we carry duct tape. After all, they say if you can't fix it with duct tape ... you haven't used enough duct tape. We stopped for gas and ran a line of tape across that seam as a test to make sure this is indeed where the noise was coming from. Sure enough, after the tape was in pace, it was as super quiet. Well, as quiet as a Suzuki Sidekick at 70 MPH on mud-terrain tires can be. It was MUCH quieter than it was before, let's put it that way. In fact, it was like driving a car with a real roof. Feel the luxury!

Installing the Suzuki Sidekick hardtop

The hardtop still needs a few things, like new weather stripping at the back hatch, and I need to fix that crazy wind noise up front with something other than duct tape. Oh, the tempered glass has some nasty scratches in it that'll need to be fixed, too. But overall, I'm really happy to have that hardtop. It'll provide a bit more security and comfort as it's not nearly as drafty anymore, which is great in the winter. Oh, and it's quiet. Well, it will be quiet. Soon!