Sometimes you do something for fun. That’s what I told my wife in between her asking “how much?!” and proceeding with a tirade about how modifying cars is a total waste of money.

    She’s used to it by now, having met 13 years ago when I owned a Subaru WRX that had too much work done for far too little gain, and living with car-obsessed me who owns nine cars I sometimes, maybe, drive.

    Take that into consideration, and a unique four-wheel drive showing up one day in the garage didn’t really come as much of a surprise to her.

    So how did we get here?

    Late last year I bought a Suzuki Jimny. Over the course of the last few months, it has slowly morphed into a Mercedes-AMG G-Wagen-wannabe thanks to Vogue Industries and a robust body kit from famed Japanese manufacturer, Liberty Walk.

    The idea of buying a Jimny had a lot of appeal – Comparisons Editor Mike Costello bought one in 2019.

    Although my Jaguar F-Pace is ‘kind of’ capable on a soft beach (when it’s perfectly flat, within five minutes of a Jaguar dealer in case something goes wrong) a real four-wheel drive in the stable was a must.

    After all, what other car offers the Jimny’s level of off-road capability, cool factor and decent technology with the added bonus of Japanese build quality at around the $30,000 mark? 

    Why take a perfectly good car and spend $30,000 making it ridiculous(ly cool), but less capable off-road? There’s no right answer to that question. But when I look at or drive the car it makes me happy, and that’s probably the best answer I could hope for.

    I’m a sucker for the Mercedes-AMG G-Wagen but paying $300,000 is steep for a car my wife refuses to drive because it’s too tall to fit in some shopping centre car parks and ‘drives like a truck’.

    The G-Wagen is also a five door and I would only buy a three-door… so, say hello to my little friend, the Suzuki J-Wagon.

    To be upfront, when we started this project the idea was to turn the Jimny into a baby Land Rover Defender. Then the new Defender came out and kind of ruined that idea by not paying all that much credence to the original.

    The beauty of the G-Wagen is that it’s been historically the same car in terms of design since the 1970s when the Shah of Iran (at the time a big Mercedes-Benz shareholder) all but forced the German company to make a comfortable military-style vehicle for his daily commute.

    The Shah might be long gone, but that type of vehicle has become a hit across the world. One only needs to travel to Los Angeles, where the G-Wagen is about as common as a Toyota Corolla.

    Furthermore, there’s no denying the Suzuki Jimny takes some design inspiration from the big German, the Defender, and even the Jeep Wrangler. The profile of the car from the side is actually pretty damn similar to the mighty G, which is why Liberty Walk created the Baby G kit for the Jimny.

    Like all good ideas my inspiration for the J-Wagon was not my own, but stolen from Suzuki Queensland, which itself created a white G-Wagen Jimny with the same liberty walk kit in 2019.

    While I would never go for a G-Wagen in white, I immediately fell in love with the look of the car, its uniqueness and presence. Perhaps more importantly, it was universally loved by all those that saw it.

    The J-Wagon is like a little kid wearing a superman costume, and everyone loves that.

    The total build of this car cost around $30,000 on top of the purchase price, which like buying a Jimny and spending the equivalent of a another Suzuki Jimny on modifications. Totally worth it, if you ask me.

    For those with a Jimny, you don’t have to go the whole way to get the G-Wagon look. Simply replacing the headlights and taillights will go a long way to giving that awesome design without going over the top.

    In fact, so many Jimnys on the road these days are modified in some little way, which continues Suzuki’s tradition of designing cars that lend themselves to cosmetic modifications.

    Back in the day, the original Suzuki Swift was the second-most modified new car in Australia. 

    Here is a cost breakdown of the project in its entirety:

    • Vikor Jimny headlights, blacked-out headlight upgrade: $1500
    • Vikor Jimny tail lights, G Wagen LED-style tail light: $900
    • Jimny King wheels, 20-inch blade gloss black: $1800
    • 20-inch street tyres: $1500
    • Suzuki Jimny, Liberty Walk Nation G Mini Works Premium Complete bodykit with hood: $16,000
    • Labour to install bodykit and accessories: $1600
    • Vinyl wrap work: $4500
    • Tyre fitting and balance: $40.00

    As you can see the bodykit itself is actually not that expensive, but making it work is tricky as the panels all come unpainted.

    We decided to wrap the panels instead of painting them and, although we were concerned it might not look that great without primer, it turned out really well.

    Having put a few thousand kilometres on the Suzuki J-Wagon around Brisbane, it has quickly become my favourite car to daily drive.

    There is nothing else like it on the road, and being practical and easy to park makes it an ideal runabout that (with the right wheels and tyres) can double as a off-roader.

    I can tell you the Jimny turns as many heads as a Ferrari or Lamborghini. In the Jimny’s case it’s usually accompanied by a big thumbs up, where you tend to get a different finger in the supercars. 

    Countless people have asked me what the car is and what it cost. The LB badge on the front confuses a lot of non-car people into thinking it’s a brand they’ve never heard of.

    When I tell them how much it cost to build, most say “Oh wow, I thought it would be way more than that”.

    I have also had two serious offers to buy the J-Wagon from me already, even after I told them it will be in the mid-$50,000s.

    In saying that, there are a few things I would change. Firstly, the wheels. I admit I left that decision to Vogue and I am not happy with the choice (although plenty have told me they look great).

    I’m going to fit something less Kardashian and glossy to suit the rest of the car’s stealthy matte look. I actually think these wheels would look better on a white car.

    I’ll likely use the stock wheels and fit some big four-wheel drive tyres for the rare occasions I head to the local beach and get perfectly-framed photos for Instagram pretending to be off-roading. As you can see in the photos here, I have been trying an off-road wheel option as well, but I’m yet to find one I really like.

    Additionally, the orange stripes are awesome and definitely add a sense of occasion to the car, but they’ll likely get changed out to no stripe or gold stripes (for that maximum G-Wagen look).

    Other than that, the next step is to upgrade the stereo, probably change the seat fabric to black leather and then… if my wife is not watching, add a turbocharger kit to the Jimny.

    If I’m really feeling it, maybe even some side mounted exhausts to complete the look in its entirety.

    For now though, this Suzuki J-Wagon will spend the next few months touring Suzuki Queensland dealerships as a show car. It between its modelling duties, it will make plenty of appearances at Cars & Coffee events in Brisbane.

    If you see it out and about, please come say hi.

    Alborz Fallah

    Alborz is the founder of CarAdvice (sold to Nine and now Drive) and co-founder of CarExpert. He is an honourary adjunct professor & entrepreneur in residence at the University of QLD. He loves naturally-aspirated V8s, V10s and V12s and is in denial about the impending death of the internal combustion engine. The best way to reach him is via Instagram.

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