The Sidekick and Geo Tracker were Suzuki's answer to the Samurai's safety concerns: a wider-track, lower center of gravity, with more steel and a larger engine—just what G.M. needed to satisfy a hungry sub-compact 4WD market, albeit, the origins of the Geo Tracker.
In the mid-'nineties, I did a considerable amount of guiding and consulting work for Chevrolet and GMC truck, including media runs and instructing at Tread Lightly 4WD Driving Clinics sponsored by Chevrolet. As a result, I was in line for a very unusual request: Two Geo Tracker engineers (actually procurers) asked whether I thought it feasible to take a Tracker over the notorious Rubicon Trail. Confident that they meant a properly outfitted and modified Tracker 2-door 4x4 model, I answered, "Yes!"
The consulting gig that resulted was the first-ever traversing of the Rubicon Trail with a Geo Tracker—actually a pair of Trackers! On a shoestring budget, I had Steve Kramer, co-owner of Calmini Products, lightly modify one of the Trackers, providing our "recovery" and winching source. Mods were limited to a pilot 2-inch lift kit, 29" tires on stock rims, a Lock-Right rear differential and a 5000-lb. capacity Warn winch fitted to a custom tubular front bumper. An aluminum belly pan skid plate was attached to each vehicle's vulnerable undercarriage...I raised the bar by toting a USA VenturCraft Sportsman trailer behind the support/lead rig.
The two Trackers turned a typical 12-hour Jeep 4x4 trip into a 46-hour marathon, complete with high-lift jacking and repeated winching of the stone stock (as per a G.M. stipulation) second Geo Tracker. I served as camp cook for myself and three other men: Steve Kramer, the photographer sent by Chevolet and one of the two Geo engineers. I made and broke down camp on the nights we slept, and I drove both vehicles through the roughest stretches, all the while maintaining team moral over endless days and nights on the Rubicon.
Much to his credit and our friendship, Steve Kramer came along and worked shoulder-to-shoulder with me on episodes like the blowing apart of a front half-shaft in the dark of night on the trail...We picked CV balls front the dirt and salvaged enough clean CV-grease to repack, reassemble and re-boot the hyper-extended shaft. Cautious articulation kept that joint together for the balance of the trip out.
The venture and publicity stunt generated a national ad campaign for Chevrolet's Geo Tracker. I scooped the event for Geo News and Chevy Truck magazine. Chevrolet was pleased and displayed the lead/support vehicle at the SEMA Show that year.
Ask me if I know much about the Geo Tracker and Sidekick, and I'll share that I likely know as much as any four-wheeler on Earth! I can tell you how many hours it takes to deplete a tank of gas, where best to place a Hi-Lift jack or Warn winch lead, how to angle up V-8-size boulders in a sub-compact 4x4—and why I value my XR350R Honda dirt bike so much...These days, unless you have a well-equipped, 33" to 37" diameter tire equipped 4x4, consider the Rubicon Trail off-limits unless you have a great deal of time and resources on your hands...A motorcycle like my Honda can cover the trail in four hours.
This forum is for Sidekick and Tracker enthusiasts, those who value the many merits of these tough sub-compact 4x4s. Take my word, they'll readily do what the designers intended—and more if you have the right equipment and a sense of adventure!—Moses Ludel.