Twin-Engined & Terrifying:</br> A Monster Suzuki
Pushing boundaries

I’ve never been to Pikes Peak, but it doesn’t take much to realise that the people who choose to race cars up the imposing climb are all a little bit insane. Insane in a good way of course, but perhaps even more so when the road was still not fully surfaced. Nobuhiro ‘Monster’ Tajima definitely falls into this category.

Not only was Monster the first Japanese driver to win the event overall, but he did so in a car that he designed and built himself. These were the thoughts that were going through my head as I watched the shutters to Tajima’s private collection slowly rise up before my eyes. There is an insane amount of goodness stored in the garages located right behind the massive Monster Sport workshop, but today it was his 1995 Suzuki Escudo I would be spending some quality time with.

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I always enjoy looking at cars like this. They’re from an era where experimentation met danger and pretty much every single aspect of this hand-built beast seems to follow this general guideline.

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Tajima-san has been a long-time partner of Suzuki and the man behind the Suzuki Sports brand, so even back then it was only natural that he tackled the mountain in Colorado with an S-badged machine.

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By the time he was done with it however, the only thing that was left from the Escudo base was a generalised shape and perhaps the grille. Everything else you see was custom made with absolute performance in mind. Getting to the top of Pikes Peak in the fastest time seems to be an easy enough objective on paper – but in reality it’s the complete opposite. Back in 1995 when the Escudo was built, the highway was almost totally unsurfaced, so while half the job was to extract tons of power, the other – and more challenging aspect – was figuring out how to put all that power efficiently down to the ground.

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Tajima-san is very much a forward-thinker. Alongside his Monster Sport operation he owns a multitude of other businesses centering around research and development; nowadays doing a lot of work in electric car technology. He was among the first in Japan to really work on and experiment with aerodynamics. What he was doing then – 20 years ago – reminds me of what the whole time attack scene is in the midst of right now.

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As raw as it looks, every surface on the Escudo is sculpted to generate as much downforce as possible.

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That snow plough/front spoiler/splitter section is what grabs your attention first. It’s a no-nonsense addition that’s there to do a job, while taking the abuse that stretch of dusty mountain road used to throw at these cars. It’s obviously not there to smooth air flow though. The Escudo was wind tunnel tested at Monster Sport’s facility as having a Cd of 0.9. That’s substantial if you consider a Prius to have one in the low 0.2s.

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After seeing how aero design has refined over the last five years or so in Japanese and foreign time attack, it was really interesting to see touches that in some way or another we still see today. Things like this little flap riveted onto the first section of the front fender, attempting to redirect air over the protruding tyres.

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The entire rear section of the fender is open, helping air from underneath the car and inside the arch escape without creating drag, while allowing all the dust and gravel the tyres kick up to do the same. The Escudo sits on 17×10-inch SSR mesh rims fitted with special Yokohama rubber measuring 285/680 at each corner.

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The wheels alone give an impossibly cool stance and look to this off-road beast. Every body panel is made out of extremely thin carbon fiber to keep weight down and where extra reinforcement is needed Kevlar was used. You can see evidence of this in the wheel wells as well as underneath the car.

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Aiding as much traction and stability as possible is the massive rear carbon bi-plane wing. It’s held up by two carbon fiber stays, which themselves are affixed onto a secondary tubular structure that bolts directly onto the space frame that the whole vehicle is built around.

A deeper look
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Further aiding aerodynamics is the partially flat floor and the rear diffuser section, which turned out to be a very important part in this 1995 car. The V6-powered Escudo that was used from 1996 had an even more exaggerated rear diffuser section with a twin-tunnel design to really take advantage of under-car air flow.

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The reason most of the rear end is opened up is to let the custom-built turbocharged Suzuki G16A motor breathe as much as possible.

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Just in front of the rear driver’s side wheel is another opening where the turbocharger peeks through, and from where the short exhaust and wastegate screamer pipe dump their gasses from.

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What caught my attention the most was how compact the whole thing seemed to be. Compared to the standard road version of the Escudo, this thing sits much lower and much wider and oozes functionality from every angle.

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But of course, it isn’t until you remove the actual carbon body pieces that you realise how small and how well-packaged it really is. In an era where modern Pikes Peak cars are multi-million dollar projects, it’s impressive to see the level this car was at two decades ago, especially when you consider it was built on a fraction of that sort of budget.

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With the rear spoiler and cowl removed I could finally get a good look at the tiny 1,590cc engine that powers the Escudo. Thanks to a decent dose of boost, the four-cylinder mill is able to deliver a mighty 450PS. It’s obviously not built for longevity and as long as it can function at its best for about 10 minutes, it has done its job well.

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Because of the location, a normal air-to-air intercooler would have been hard to position and likely pelted with rocks and debris kicked up by the front tyres. A charge cooler does a far better job and helps guarantee low intake temperature all the way until the end of the run. On the passenger side a curved oil cooler was another addition needed to keep the engine running at optimum temperature.

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The turbocharger sucks air through this aluminium air box. The multitude of testing at Pikes Peak allowed Monster Sport to develop their own line up of ‘Power Filter’ air cleaners for a variety of Suzuki and Mitsubishi vehicles.

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The car still wears the 1995 Pikes Peak entry sticker on the passenger side door and if you look inside the cabin you can see a ’95 Pikes’ marking written with a magic marker on the ECU.

Two engines was a must
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Of course, Monster Tajima wasn’t really going to show up to Pikes Peak with a 450PS Escudo. Oh no. He needed at least 900 horses to get the job done, which is why there’s another boosted G16A engine sitting up front! This motor runs the exact same specs as the rear one, and has been made to work in perfect synchronised harmony. It’s a big feat pulling off something like this – especially making it all work to its best in a competitive environment. With a curb weight of 900kg, the Escudo boasts an impressive power-to-weight ratio of 1kg to 1PS. That’s the same as the new Koenigsegg One:1.

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The front engine’s turbocharger is pretty much located in the cabin where the passenger footwell would normally be in a road car.

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To feed it, air is scooped up by an intake that at first glance looks like a back-to-front side mirror.

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It’s then directed into this carbon air box in which the same aluminium filter box we saw in the rear is found.

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All of this fits inside the custom built Chrome Molybdenum steel space frame which supports all other componentry, from the steel and aluminium double wishbone suspension arms to the multitude of radiators needed to cool the engine and the 4WD driveline.

Hit play to the video above to see a quick walk around the Escudo – it probably adds a little more depth to the images you see here and it’s something we’re trying to bring you a lot more of in our features.

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If you thought the exterior of the car was all about function, well let’s just say Tajima-san obviously didn’t care much for creature comforts. The whole interior is focused around the driver with a small instrument panel mounted on a small makeshift dash. Opposite the driver’s seat is the massive fuel tank to get a nice and balanced weight distribution. And to further stiffen up the structure there are centrally-mounted steel pipes that are part of the 1995-spec cage. Roll cage design has certainly come a long way in 20 years!

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Of course, the most interesting things are the ones you don’t really see easily – like the shifter assembly which actuates a carefully set-up series of linkages that are mounted on pivots, to simultaneously select the same gear on the two straight-cut transversely mounted gearboxes. An electro-magnetic controlled disc clutch center differential then figures out the rest and channels drive via two LSDs to all four wheels.

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The throttle pedal is also mechanically linked to each of the two engines and mounted on a hinge that operates both throttles at the same time with the same progression. Sounds easy right? Well, it’s not! The clutch pedal too has to operate the two multi-plate clutches at the same time.

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Amongst all this complexity I found the stock steering wheel almost comical and actually wondered if this was a later addition used only to move the car around the garage and workshop. As you might expect, instrumentation doubles up as well, with twin tachometers, twin oil temperature and twin boost gauges.

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So there you have it, probably one of the craziest cars ever built in Japan and one that achieved a very important title for Monster Tajima and his team in 1995. The best thing of all is that Tajima-san, over the years, has never once stopped his unrelenting pace of research, design and experimentation – and we all know what he has achieved along the way. If looking at these cars brings as much joy to you as it does to me, then you’ll be happy to hear that this isn’t the last car you’ll be seeing from the Japanese icon’s private collection…

Dino Dalle Carbonare
Instagram: speedhunters_dino
dino@speedhunters.com

 

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85 comments

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1

u got me dino. u were stating about the exhaust pipes at the back but on the next picture, i saw them on the front fender then i clicked on the next chapter without looking at the title and boy was i surprised. haha. great write up man! speedhunters car of the year 2014 easy. i thought the simon mckinley escort had it but this is just next level shit. thanks!

2

Legendary car. I'm so happy that speedhunters spotlighted this legend.
I remember driving this car in Gran turismo 2 up Pikes Peak. God this car was tremendous. I also remember setting this car with maximum downforce in the back and zero downforce in the front to get the car to do wheelies and go 1000+ mph because of the weird physics of gran turismo. Hahaha.
Thank you Speedhunters for covering a car that was such a huge part of my childhood growing up.

3

i loved having monster come to little old new zealand for his race to the sky hill climb.
always fantastic watching him battle with rod millen and possum bourne.
such a nice guy to have a chat to, super friendly.

4

miksfield  Found some youtube links of what I mean.  Haha these clips bring back memories.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tqi4xK9gnSk

5

Completely and utterly mental. Nice piece Dino!

6

Two engines!? Wow! I was too young to understand what was going on but this thing is insane on all fronts!

7

Great read. This is such a cool article. Always liked the Pikes Peak Escudo, cool to see another form of a monster of an Escudo.

8
speedhunters_dino

@boron  LOL glad I got you hehe. Lots of surprises hidden away in this car!

9
speedhunters_dino

miksfield  I've been trying to get access to this car for many years!! Glad people seem to appreciate as much as me:)

10
speedhunters_dino

miksfield  That's actually an evolution of the car from a few years after. Was running a custom V6 motor not a twin-set up :)

11
speedhunters_dino

@simon  Yeah he is, his passion is pretty inspiring! Good news is he's coming down to NZ this year and bringing the Super86 :)

12
speedhunters_dino

sean klingelhoefer  Mucho arigatouz gozaimasheeeeeda ;)

13
speedhunters_dino

kphillips9936  Quite :D

14

The fuel cell next to the drivers seat is pretty intimidating, Tajima has balls of steel. Video was a nice touch Dino..wish we could of heard it run!

15

speedhunters_dino Fantastic work as usual Dino. Been looking forward for this feature and it didn't disappointed. Did you take some shots from the number 6 car (the evolution one) as well?

16

surly1911https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uAy_ceZ1WYg

Single V6 but a proper monster... :D

17

mr. tajima was also a great man too, i just knew that he drives an electric car in the last year pikes peak challenge, to support his campaign on the eco friendly vehicles and the global warming issue, he started the campaign because when he reach the finish line on the top he cant see the snow as much as the early year he race there, he's not just a racer, he's an eco defender

18

Thank you for the coverage Dino. This & the V6 Pikes peak Escudo are true legends in my eyes.

19

G16A ??lol this is G13B with vitara block thats the point of 1600cc... G13B is Suzuki Swift GTi engine..

20

Oh I remember this car. I love the 90's ness about the whole thing, carbon Kevlar was the shit and the rims are so massive for that car. So cool what Mr. Tajima and Mr Millen and others put together all those years ago.

21

Incredible car. Is the bi-motor Cultus still existing? (the one in Gran Turismo 2)

22

Much respect to car and driver. Synchronizing 2 engines and 2 gear boxes is no easy task, ...especially 20 years ago.

23

speedhunters_dino sean klingelhoefer  italianese? che buono! i keep telling myself i need to learn german an d japanese to add to my italian so i can have the main car languages covered :-)

great article! thanks dino!

24

I wouldn't exactly call that a small instrument panel, I wouldnt even be able to see over it.

25

This car was the most powerful machine of my childhood! Seeing it on a magazine, or even better, piloting it on Gran Turismo, made me smile

26

Epic coverage of a car that is, like many of us here, a childhood icon. This beast is amazing, I remember using this in Granturismo as my endurance car. It had so much power you could plant it in a wall at full throttle and still win the endurance race! Granted it was a circle course. Thank you for the amazing shots Dino!

27

Superb article on an iconic car, great work!

28

"It’s a big feat pulling off someone like this" I take it you got to know him well?

29

If it aint got engine noise, don't bother with the youtube again.

30

itsvoodoo surly1911Insane!

31

Where All GODZILLAS are BORN & MADE history.

32

speedhunters_dino  :) :) :) :) :)

33

Wow perfect article covering everything

34

Haha oh that stock steering wheel looks so out of place. But awesome, awesome feature, can't wait for some Pikes Peak coverage this year

35

CSAlltrac  this article definitely brought me back to the Gran Turismo days where having this car was close to a sure win, even if you do wall-scraping (yeah, i do fall asleep on endurance races).  happy to have waited to see this car in detail and more.

36

Nice one Dino!!

38

So. Amazing.  I can't say much more than that.  What a feat of engineering!

39
speedhunters_dino

jonas maurstad  Thank you Sir! :)

40
speedhunters_dino

oneslyfox  I think it's something they added after

41
speedhunters_dino

Nico Leone  Thank you!

42
speedhunters_dino

HSSLTYO  You didn't need to hit play ;)

43
speedhunters_dino

@hen  Yep is a cool guy! His enthusiasm is inspiring.

44
speedhunters_dino

tbtstt  Thank you!

45
speedhunters_dino

CSAlltrac  My pleasure :) Glad it went down so well

46
speedhunters_dino

Leebea W  Monster Tajima is big lol

47
speedhunters_dino

koko san  Indeed!

48
speedhunters_dino

Max_Ryde  Yep and I'll be shooting that on another visit :)

49
speedhunters_dino

SirGeo  Uh?

50
speedhunters_dino

KlevynB  Yeah just wish I can shoot the V6 one too but they don't have it there

51
speedhunters_dino

@andarmadi  He has set up Tajima Motors building electric cars, pushing technology with in-wheel motors. He's as much as a racer as he is an innovator

52
speedhunters_dino

surly1911  Yeah I really wanted to hear it but they didn't even try to crank it

53
speedhunters_dino

Swonz  Thanks!

54
speedhunters_dino

robzor speedhunters_dino sean klingelhoefer  More like redneck-nese ;)

55
speedhunters_dino

@R Moreira speedhunters_dino  That wasn't there...

56

what an amazing power system

57

A bit tired of this being the top post for two days now....more from Elmia please?

58

Thank you for the video, it really tell's lot more and shows where everything really are in the car. Would like to have subtitles, even if they didn't anything "important", just to give more depth.

59

Do the Puegot 208 Pike Peak next please!  Probably the sweetest car I've ever seen.

60

Rad to see this up Dino! Solid piece. 

Mizutani san is a cool dude. Funny to see him on SH!

61
speedhunters_dino

Artsee  Many thanks for all your help Art! ;)

62
speedhunters_dino

@mike  Doubt we'll get anywhere close to that for the time being. Maybe in 20 years? lol

63
speedhunters_dino

@Samuli  Yeah it's fun to film too, my filming and editing skills however need much improvement lol

64
speedhunters_dino

MatsKarlsson  You just made me cry :(

65

speedhunters_dino Artsee  No worries mate! Stoked.

66

in which country is the car?

67

speedhunters_dino

68

speedhunters_dino  After becoming very familiar with Rod's Pike's Peak Tacoma (I used to walk by it every day at work), this is really interesting to see in detail as a comparison. I'd love to see you get in there and share a similar insight with it and/or the Celica. Amazing machines. Great write-up and photos!

69

I remember you could get a version of this car on one of the very first Gran Turismo games. The big benefit was to enter one of the endurance races and use a rubber band on your controller so that the car would be full throttle and drag the outside wall the entire race. The car was so fast it would win the race even dragging the wall. You could turn the tv off and come back a couple of hours later to a big pay day!!! Anyone else remember this? I know-showing my old man knowledge:(

70
speedhunters_dino

Goodnewsamos  Oh I remember...

71
speedhunters_dino

JrgeAlvarez  Japan

72

Good to know I'm not alone!

73

I allway wanted to find a article on monster Suzuki cars. sure will be nice to see more on them Cultus gti suzuki sport.buy the way looks like the G16.Has a G13B head.

74

Goodnewsamos haha!! brings back memories!

75
Mohammad_Akbarpour

I saw Tajima way earlier once in a video of Pikes Peak interviewed by Bradley Hasemeyer when his innovative electric car caught on fire on the way up to the summit. Such a great guy who looked very serious on his way to build a better car next year. Great respect for his manner and work!
Captivated already by this new twin-in-one nice set of wheels!!!

77

What's the relation of this one and the 990+hp red escudo pikes peak that's popular in Gran Turismo 3 & 4? Is it the same monster, or does king tajima had several of them (before he switched to the sx4, & then the electric one)? If so, what's the happenings with the rest? The downforce and air-sucking elements looks differed between them though, not to mention several liveries over the years (white, blue, red then red over silver as seen on the net). The last monster escudo also had central seat position. But, for sure, all of them runs GRAVEL UPHILL, no, MOUNTAIN, like crazy, coz, it's a 1k hp ultimate rally 4wd machine...

78

Goodnewsamos  me too

79
PaulaPinkyTakington

KamilOsman  the relation is this is what started it off

80
anthonsianturi

Dino, would you mind to put more picture to gallery modified of SUZUKI CULTUS first  TAJIMA MONSTER.....The twin-engined Cultus was before http://www.speedhunters.com/2014/04/twin-engined-monster-suzuki-escudo/

81

Where would one find this car now-a-days? Can't seem to find any other info on this car!

82

Oh wow ! Did you look at the speed o meter ?, if so can you please tell me what it's top speed is ?
Thanks :D

83

Tajima San and Dale Earnhardt and bill Elliot are my childhood heroes tthank you for this tour of a legendary car

84

If you are sticking to Pikes Peak right now, a feature on the Peugeot 208 t16 would be awesome af. I love this "monster" Suzuki, but I also have much appreciation for the Peugeot.

85
Ricardo Sarmiento López

I love this article, I've read this a lot of times !! ... I have a Vitara too haha but it's fully stock, maybe one day I'll drop another engine at the back haha just kidding. Thank you Dino for covering this MONSTER !!

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