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Unibody durability off road #4974762 01/10/19 04:15 AM
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avacado11 Offline OP
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I always see videos or pictures of off road capable trucks/SUVs being ran hard in the dunes or charging thru ruts on dirt trails.

My friend drives down dirt roads and hits ruts hard in his stock Wrangler JK like a baja truck without long travel suspension. I would never drive my Subaru down a trail like that, I don’t want to break or bend any suspension components.

So does body construction effect how durable a vehicle can hold up to abuse like that? Running into ruts, having suspension bottom out or come close to hitting the bump stops.

Would having body on frame be more durable or would the extra weight do more harm than good to the suspension? Does it even matter for stuff like that? I understand rock climbing where the frame is under constant stress but for super bumpy roads...would it matter from a durability standpoint. Say something like a Jeep Grand Cherokee vs a Chevy Silverado 1500


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Re: Unibody durability off road [Re: avacado11] #4974763 01/10/19 04:35 AM
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Shannow Offline
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That's been on my mind lately too.

My wife's Captiva is super stiffer in the body than my Colorado (In can see the movement in the box on the bed through the rear view mittor), and I've soend a few hours under the Captiva today and really like how the box unibody is put together and stresses transferred through it (plus can transport a single bed and mattress with the rear seats folded down.

On damp dirt roads, especially clay, the Captiva feels really quite torsionally rigid, with the suspension doing it's job, and the unibody being the platform for it all....in my 80s and 90s with 70s and 80s unibodies, chassis flex made suspension tuning hit and miss. My parent's R16 at 380,000km cracked the windscreen one day when I pushed it into a roundabout hard...the box flexed enough to stress the glass.

Wife's Captiva, I stuck the floor jack under the front subframe at the suspension pickup point, and with the tyre less than half inch off the concrete, the other side "slid" in as the suspension relaxed, and the tyre adopted a cambered position...there was nearly no load on it...that car is stiff.

Subarus and Captivas with a couple of inches of lift do well around here on the trails and the slippery stuff, ground clearance being the major issue, and decent tyres in sizes that fit (Toyo Open Country on wifes, jagged that one).

Not good at rock ledges, with no low range...but themed 80s subarus with low range did pretty good.

Unsure how well they last before they start busting windscreens like Ma and Pa's old Renault...but bush bashers need work/repairs typically anyway.


If it's the truth....it can handle the pressure !!!
Re: Unibody durability off road [Re: avacado11] #4974765 01/10/19 04:48 AM
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Silk Offline
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Here's a bit of a comparo...they all have a chassis except the Pajero which is a unit body and full independent suspension. About 6 minutes in check out the Pajero compared to the Prado.



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Re: Unibody durability off road [Re: avacado11] #4974767 01/10/19 05:05 AM
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Shannow Offline
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And a little suby brummy



If it's the truth....it can handle the pressure !!!
Re: Unibody durability off road [Re: avacado11] #4974774 01/10/19 05:18 AM
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You still have some...they all rusted away in 3 years here.


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Re: Unibody durability off road [Re: Silk] #4974777 01/10/19 05:32 AM
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Yeah, there's even a couple those older ones with the "power bulge" in either side of the bonnet around here.

edit...1988, a friend had one of those "power bulge wagons"...when we used to drive long distances, he jammed a jandal down beside the accelerator as a rudimentary cruise control.

Last edited by Shannow; 01/10/19 05:34 AM.

If it's the truth....it can handle the pressure !!!
Re: Unibody durability off road [Re: avacado11] #4974791 01/10/19 06:18 AM
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Here’s the way I think of it... you either have something so solid it has no give at all, like a really stiff unibody, or you have something that has some give, like a body on frame.

In the case of a stiff unibody, it’s great for on road handling. But stiff isn’t always good. Think like a piece of steel. It only has so much give before it breaks or bends permanently.

Now the body on frame. It’s got some more give to it, more springy. Kinda like a leaf spring. It can tweak a bit and return back to normal.

Now, what I’m describing here are very vague generalities. There are unibody vehicles that off-road great (Jeep Cherokee), and there are BOF vehicles that would fold in half off road.

Last edited by Skippy722; 01/10/19 06:18 AM. Reason: Fat thumbs

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Re: Unibody durability off road [Re: avacado11] #4974845 01/10/19 08:06 AM
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Your friend drives like a fool. You can bend axles,frame etc from driving like that. " As fast as necessary, as slow as possible".

Some times you may need to get up a little speed to get over an obstacle. But dont be smashing over things constantly.


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Re: Unibody durability off road [Re: avacado11] #4974895 01/10/19 09:08 AM
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I have a feeling constant abuse and high miles will fatigue a unibody, more because it is glued together. Steel has an infinite fatigue life so in theory as long as you stay under the fatigue limit you should be good.

However, I know that if you plan take a air cooled Beetle off road it is recommended that you install a cage to reinforce the unibody. I'm sure that one is welded together.


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Re: Unibody durability off road [Re: avacado11] #4974900 01/10/19 09:10 AM
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meep Offline
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^^^ this ^^^


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Re: Unibody durability off road [Re: avacado11] #4974930 01/10/19 09:47 AM
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Originally Posted by avacado11

My friend drives down dirt roads and hits ruts hard in his stock Wrangler JK like a baja truck without long travel suspension. I would never drive my Subaru down a trail like that, I don’t want to break or bend any suspension components.



There's no reason you can't drive down that trail in your Subie, just don't do it like you're racing in the Baja 1000. Easing over things isn't going to hurt anything but if you find yourself doing it very much a unibody might not be your best choice. Keeping a vehicle stock and avoiding underbody contact will keep you pretty safe, if it's going to drag don't do it. Find a new line or stack rocks.


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Re: Unibody durability off road [Re: avacado11] #4975099 01/10/19 12:58 PM
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The unibody Pajero didn't do too bad for what it is, and it was weird seeing that Prado without all the luxury stuff, as it's sold in the US as a Lexus. I know, Top Gear but it's a Range Rover being at least used for something else but a mall/soccer cruiser.


Re: Unibody durability off road [Re: avacado11] #4975207 01/10/19 02:51 PM
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The 1984-200? Jeep Cherokee was unibody and a sought after off roader. They seem to last.

Re: Unibody durability off road [Re: AZjeff] #4975251 01/10/19 03:49 PM
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Originally Posted by AZjeff
There's no reason you can't drive down that trail in your Subie, just don't do it like you're racing in the Baja 1000. Easing over things isn't going to hurt anything but if you find yourself doing it very much a unibody might not be your best choice. Keeping a vehicle stock and avoiding underbody contact will keep you pretty safe, if it's going to drag don't do it. Find a new line or stack rocks.
But they drive fast on rough roads during the commercials! It's AWD right? That means it should be unstoppable and never break, because it is a Subaru after all.


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Re: Unibody durability off road [Re: Skippy722] #4975321 01/10/19 05:08 PM
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avacado11 Offline OP
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Originally Posted by Skippy722
Here’s the way I think of it... you either have something so solid it has no give at all, like a really stiff unibody, or you have something that has some give, like a body on frame.

In the case of a stiff unibody, it’s great for on road handling. But stiff isn’t always good. Think like a piece of steel. It only has so much give before it breaks or bends permanently.

Now the body on frame. It’s got some more give to it, more springy. Kinda like a leaf spring. It can tweak a bit and return back to normal.

Now, what I’m describing here are very vague generalities. There are unibody vehicles that off-road great (Jeep Cherokee), and there are BOF vehicles that would fold in half off road.


if both vehicles hit a rut that bottoms out a suspension, which body construction would have a higher threshold in general? A unibody designed with off road in mind(ex. Grand Cherokee that’s trailrated) or a Half ton BOF with off road HD suspension(Silverado z71).

Would a 3/4 ton or 1 ton hold up any better with a even stiffer frame or would that work against it? What about fancy suspensions like Chevy Zr2 or Ford Raptor. I’m assuming that stuff is just for comfort. But would a well designed IFS be a weak point compared to a solid axle?

Last edited by avacado11; 01/10/19 05:12 PM.

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Re: Unibody durability off road [Re: AZjeff] #4975374 01/10/19 06:32 PM
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avacado11 Offline OP
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Originally Posted by AZjeff
Originally Posted by avacado11

My friend drives down dirt roads and hits ruts hard in his stock Wrangler JK like a baja truck without long travel suspension. I would never drive my Subaru down a trail like that, I don’t want to break or bend any suspension components.



There's no reason you can't drive down that trail in your Subie, just don't do it like you're racing in the Baja 1000. Easing over things isn't going to hurt anything but if you find yourself doing it very much a unibody might not be your best choice. Keeping a vehicle stock and avoiding underbody contact will keep you pretty safe, if it's going to drag don't do it. Find a new line or stack rocks.


I have eased my way thru some ditches with my outback, points where the car was on opposite corners. It was cool to see but I know it’s not good for the unibody. The alignment was still good and no creaks/rattles, but I’m always afraid to blow a ball joint or control arm from hitting a rut too hard, or worse bending the suspension mount points. I can fix scraping with a lift and and skid plates.

I don’t off road my Subaru that much anymore after a ball joint went from hitting a 6” deep rut at 10 mph. But my next car will have to be more durable off road. Wranglers are nice but I’d want something more civilized


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Re: Unibody durability off road [Re: avacado11] #4975482 01/10/19 08:07 PM
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Skippy722 Offline
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Originally Posted by avacado11
Originally Posted by Skippy722
Here’s the way I think of it... you either have something so solid it has no give at all, like a really stiff unibody, or you have something that has some give, like a body on frame.

In the case of a stiff unibody, it’s great for on road handling. But stiff isn’t always good. Think like a piece of steel. It only has so much give before it breaks or bends permanently.

Now the body on frame. It’s got some more give to it, more springy. Kinda like a leaf spring. It can tweak a bit and return back to normal.

Now, what I’m describing here are very vague generalities. There are unibody vehicles that off-road great (Jeep Cherokee), and there are BOF vehicles that would fold in half off road.


if both vehicles hit a rut that bottoms out a suspension, which body construction would have a higher threshold in general? A unibody designed with off road in mind(ex. Grand Cherokee that’s trailrated) or a Half ton BOF with off road HD suspension(Silverado z71).

Would a 3/4 ton or 1 ton hold up any better with a even stiffer frame or would that work against it? What about fancy suspensions like Chevy Zr2 or Ford Raptor. I’m assuming that stuff is just for comfort. But would a well designed IFS be a weak point compared to a solid axle?


The BOF, in general, will “survive” a hit like that better than a unibody. As for suspension, it depends what you’re doing. Bombing down a fire trail, out in the desert or something like that? I’ll take IFS. Rock crawling? Solid axle. I’ve always wanted a pre runner... crawling slowly over rocks doesn’t appeal to me. I want to do 110mph flying over stuff lol


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Re: Unibody durability off road [Re: Skippy722] #4975491 01/10/19 08:13 PM
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Originally Posted by Skippy722
Originally Posted by avacado11
Originally Posted by Skippy722
Here’s the way I think of it... you either have something so solid it has no give at all, like a really stiff unibody, or you have something that has some give, like a body on frame.

In the case of a stiff unibody, it’s great for on road handling. But stiff isn’t always good. Think like a piece of steel. It only has so much give before it breaks or bends permanently.

Now the body on frame. It’s got some more give to it, more springy. Kinda like a leaf spring. It can tweak a bit and return back to normal.

Now, what I’m describing here are very vague generalities. There are unibody vehicles that off-road great (Jeep Cherokee), and there are BOF vehicles that would fold in half off road.


if both vehicles hit a rut that bottoms out a suspension, which body construction would have a higher threshold in general? A unibody designed with off road in mind(ex. Grand Cherokee that’s trailrated) or a Half ton BOF with off road HD suspension(Silverado z71).

Would a 3/4 ton or 1 ton hold up any better with a even stiffer frame or would that work against it? What about fancy suspensions like Chevy Zr2 or Ford Raptor. I’m assuming that stuff is just for comfort. But would a well designed IFS be a weak point compared to a solid axle?


The BOF, in general, will “survive” a hit like that better than a unibody. As for suspension, it depends what you’re doing. Bombing down a fire trail, out in the desert or something like that? I’ll take IFS. Rock crawling? Solid axle. I’ve always wanted a pre runner... crawling slowly over rocks doesn’t appeal to me. I want to do 110mph flying over stuff lol



The unibody Mitsubishi Montero/Pajero has participated in the Dakar rally among other for many years. Not exactly crawling.


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Re: Unibody durability off road [Re: nthach] #4975511 01/10/19 08:30 PM
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Originally Posted by nthach
The unibody Pajero didn't do too bad for what it is, and it was weird seeing that Prado without all the luxury stuff, as it's sold in the US as a Lexus. I know, Top Gear but it's a Range Rover being at least used for something else but a mall/soccer cruiser.




I hope Land Rover paid TG well for that ad...I mean episode.

That said, the RR's are decent off road, really good considering what they are. Putting aside the shilling for LR, it is a cool video.


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Re: Unibody durability off road [Re: avacado11] #4975585 01/10/19 09:51 PM
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No problems.

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Re: Unibody durability off road [Re: avacado11] #4975672 01/11/19 12:22 AM
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This was a bit of a story around town some time ago...two vantage points





If it's the truth....it can handle the pressure !!!
Re: Unibody durability off road [Re: avacado11] #4975700 01/11/19 01:32 AM
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A 3/4 or 1-ton is a bad off-roader regardless. Weight and length are not your friends. My WJ in 2WD will run circles around my Rams in 4WD hi or lo in pretty much anything serious.

The stiffer load carrying suspensions do no favors either. Not that my Rams are incompetent. My WJ just does pretty much anything they can do with greater ease.


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Re: Unibody durability off road [Re: avacado11] #4975731 01/11/19 04:15 AM
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It pays to have a winch in NZ.



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Re: Unibody durability off road [Re: avacado11] #4975737 01/11/19 05:05 AM
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My BJ42 had a PTO winch...that was brutal


If it's the truth....it can handle the pressure !!!
Re: Unibody durability off road [Re: avacado11] #4975792 01/11/19 08:18 AM
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I have no personal experience with the new ones but I punished the subarus I had decades ago and didn't experience unibody issues with them. The GLs were nothing I'd feel confident with in aggressive rough driving but the 97 legacy I had was absolutely stout. The only damage it sustained was from bottoming out on soft parts like the fuel tank. I was young, drove a lot of trails, and didn't dodge potholes during tight corners and it never, ever, had any alignment or chassis-softening problems. As long as ground clearance wasn't an issue, i'd feel more confident in that at speed than a wrangler. In addition, that one was an AWD with limited slip center diff, Not FWD with rear wheel assist. It was by far the most sure-footed vehicle for that kind of driving I've owned, though with limited power and all wheels pulling, it was not one for easy hooning on-road. It was a blast off road until moving past its clearance limits. I had a mild spacer lift on mine.

Due to the continual washing out and repaving of a certain part of back road on my commute, I also jumped it twice per day. After years of continual washout and repaving, it became a woop-dee-doo with a big pit in the middle. You either took it at 2mph or 45. you'd be airborn over the washout so each way. I'm not kidding. Obviously, I had this down to an exact science with the precise speed and line to achieve a landing on the ramped back side for the smoothest approach, but I still did it. Both ways, M-F. The previous honda civic I did this with landed with much more grace, so while I eventually got it right with the subie, it took me a few commutes before dialing it in, so we had a couple of hard landings. At 36,000 it had a recall for the front a-arms. The originals were tack welded while the replacements were fully welded. They replaced mine. I asked about the old units and the alignment. They told me the old units looked fine and the original alignment was still spot-on and none was required.

That said something to me. I know what I'd put that thing through.

Last edited by meep; 01/11/19 08:43 AM.

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Re: Unibody durability off road [Re: avacado11] #4975806 01/11/19 08:40 AM
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on the flip side, I went from a jeep ZJ to a WK a few years ago when the WKs were new. Its chassis (WK) did not impress me at all in terms of rigidity. In fact, it flexed or regular roads more than any other car I noticed. Hopping the curb to my driveway at crawl resulted in door and dash creaking. Door creaked on gently rolling pavement. I finally stuck my fingers between the door and roof one day with the window down and could feel the door moving up and down relative to the roof as a matter of driving a 25mph residential road. It was really disappointing and I never really got over it, realizing just how much body flex that JEEP had. And they'd advertised a 50% increase in torsional rigidity when going from WJ to WK. I really wanted to love that WK - it did a lot of things well despite cost cutting. But that was a massive chink in its armor to me.

So maybe it varies by vehicle.

For a lesson in body rigidity trying putting a volvo s60 on 4 jack stands. All cars will flex a little, as the jack stands themselves probably aren't on glass-level concrete, but they'll give a little and settle in. The S60 was less cooperative, usually with one of the four stands not contacting the car. I'd have to shuffle them around for a bit or keep the jack in play above the loose jack stand for stability. Those vehicles are .stiff.

Last edited by meep; 01/11/19 08:44 AM.

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Re: Unibody durability off road [Re: avacado11] #4976313 01/11/19 05:34 PM
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Same on a hoist (lift), but not often. But everytime on the old BMC 1100/1300 - there was always an arm free when lifting those, zero flex.


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Re: Unibody durability off road [Re: meep] #4976552 01/11/19 10:15 PM
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Originally Posted by meep
In fact, it flexed or regular roads more than any other car I noticed. Hopping the curb to my driveway at crawl resulted in door and dash creaking. Door creaked on gently rolling pavement. I finally stuck my fingers between the door and roof one day with the window down and could feel the door moving up and down relative to the roof as a matter of driving a 25mph residential road.

For a lesson in body rigidity trying putting a volvo s60 on 4 jack stands. All cars will flex a little, as the jack stands themselves probably aren't on glass-level concrete, but they'll give a little and settle in. The S60 was less cooperative, usually with one of the four stands not contacting the car. I'd have to shuffle them around for a bit or keep the jack in play above the loose jack stand for stability. Those vehicles are .stiff.



Thats interesting, as what Shannow said, I faced a smiliar issue with my previous car. I was speeding on the highway once and sudddenly a truck stopped and i had to brake hard, the whole car chattered and after that I heard a tick tick tick sound coming from the dash/windshield at 80kmh and above, i thought it was the speedometer cable, so i slowed down and the sound went away , i sped up it came back, I stopped the car to check in the engine bay thinking perhaps my gearbox is giving trouble, but I dont see anything wrong. So i continued my journey, then a few minutes later, all of a sudden a loud pop, and immediately the windscreen started cracking and the cracks slowly spread all throughout the glass. I know there was no stone hitting the glass, so I surmised it must have been chassis flex. You see, at hard corners or going up inclines with either front wheels, the door ajar warning would come on, indicating that the doors have somehow twisted away from the switches, it must have been chassis flex, That car also had lots of squeaks and rattles over bad roads, but it was a econobox after all.
Now my current car is a luxury car ,though its old it seems to be in better condition than my previous car. But lately I have been getting some vibrations on bad roads and some creaks on braking, that seems to be coming from the pillar trims. It didnt have this sound before so maybe I have put back the trims wrongly after the reverse camera install.
Granted the left door is sagging on the hinges, in this case is the chassis flexing ?The door ajar warning is not coming on and when I take hard smooth pavement high speed corners I dont hear any pops or creaks. This car is much better built than my previous car and the creaks is like only 1/10th of it, but I am still worried. Is my chassis flexing ? Its a 89 toyota soarer, which is basically a Mk3 supra with no targa top.So is it possible my braking creaks are coming from suspension mounts and or the inner trims or sagging doors instead of chassis flex ?


Kyosho Optima Mid SWB, LWB and Lazer ZX
1991 Proton Saga 1.3S SOLD
1989 Toyota Soarer GT Twin Turbo L
1985 Kuwahara Survivor
1992 Robinson Pro
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