The Flip
William McKeehan
William McKeehan
February 22, 2022

The Flip

The Flip

I've often wondered what it would feel like. I assumed that it would be scary. I assumed that it would hurt a lot. I guess the actual happening was somewhat anti-climatic. What am I talking about? An end-over-end flip in my Samurai.

The Samurai has never been what I would consider a stable vehicle. After laying it on its side a couple of times, I put a set of truck axles under it to make it more stable from side to side. And after my wild ride up trail 12 at the last Dixie run (the Samurai's front tires were off the ground several times), I have been talking about increasing my wheelbase - I guess I didn't get that done quickly enough.

It happened at the Southern Four Wheel Drive Association's 20001 first quarter meeting in Livingston, KY.

I had signed up for a level 6 ride (the most difficult ride planned for that weekend). Overall the ride was going well. We encountered a couple of spots on the trail where I had to back-up, downshift and get the little Samurai motor going to make forward progress, but the winch had not been needed at all.

It was shortly after noon when we came to this portion of the trail. It did not look significantly bad. Going up a hill (pretty steep) - there was a big stump on the left side and a good-sized rock on the right. Stephan had to give it a few tries to get over it - but he made it. Larry made it with no problems. Further up the hill was the problematic spot (many people had to winch over this area). Everyone's attention was turned to Larry to see if he would make it or need to pull cable.

I knew that to get over the first spot with the Samurai I would need to have the engine up to about 5,000 RPM and I would need to hit it pretty hard. So putting the Samurai in 2nd, 1st and Low range, I began to tackle the hill. As my right front tire went over the rock, I felt the front-end get uncomfortably high in the air. I backed out of the gas and pushed the clutch to the floor - I thought I was safe. At this point, things got really slow - the Samurai seemed to sit there with it's front tires up in the air for a very long time - I was waiting for it to come down. Then, slowly, the front began to rise. At this point, I knew that it was going to flip - and there was nothing that I could do to stop it.

I don’t' know exactly what went through my mind at that point, but I don't remember being terrified or worried that it would continue to roll down the hill (it was a long way to the bottom). As the Samurai performed its roll, I sat frozen with my foot pushing the clutch to the floor.

Starting by sitting back on the spare tire (and leaving a perfect impression in the mud), the Samurai did one complete role - landing on its tires. It also landed the rear axle on a tree bending the left rear leaf spring, and thankfully stopping the Samurai's decent.

The factory roll bar did its job. The toolbox did not. I could not open my door - the role had bent the driver’s side in pretty good - the roll bar prevented it from hitting me. Looking in the back of the Samurai, I could see that everything was shaken up pretty good. My cooler managed to stay in place with the strap that was holding it. The tool-box also stayed in place, but the latches that held it shut were ripped off and everything that was in it was now somewhere inside (and a few items outside) the Samurai. I also had a large plastic storage box where I kept spar parts, fluids, etc. This box was not in place - it was busted and the contents were strewn all around the Samurai.

But, taking a pause to inventory myself, I seemed to be all right - no cuts, no bumps on the head, nothing.

I could not open the driver’s door to get out - When Larry got there, he was able to pull it open for me.

Stepping out of the Samurai was another experience - my legs were extremely shaky. I was shaken up pretty bad. Thank goodness for great friends - in a matter of seconds (and after everyone made sure I was ok), they began the recovery of the Samurai. They managed to get the hood opened (which we then removed - thanks Darryl for carrying it out). Using the winch from someone behind me they were able to pull the front end and radiator away from the motor enough to clear the fan. I climbed back in the Samurai and she started like nothing had happened. The radiator was leaking, but it did not have any major punctures in it.

After that we managed to get the Samurai (with a now dead winch) around the remaining rough spots and to the top of the trail. Keeping an eye on the water level in the radiator I drove it back to the Shell station and put it on the trailer.

With a new body - and about 24 additional inches of wheelbase, the Samurai should be up and running before too long.

To all who were there and showed concern - thank you. I am feeling fine - not even sore.

To all who were there and helped - thank you. Without your help, the Samurai may very well be setting in the woods today.

This was certainly a trip I'll never forget.