This 1986 Suzuki Samurai Stole An Off-Road Record From a New Jeep Wrangler

Back in 2007, the Chrysler Corporation set its eyes on the Guinness World Record for the highest altitude achieved by a car. It built two modified Jeep Wranglers, teamed up with a German off-roading team, navigated the Ojos del Salado volcano in Chile, and set a 6,500-meter record. Weeks later, a pair of Chilean locals broke the record in their 1986 Suzuki Samurai.

Jeep sets its sights on a Guinness World Record

Closeup of a 1986 Suzuki Samurai's wheel parked atop a mountain, a valley visible below.
1986 Suzuki Samurai | Gonzalo Bravo via Youtube

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Back in 2007, Jeep was launching the “JK” generation Wrangler. Some Jeep fans were skeptical of the big four-door Jeep without its beloved inline-six engine. So the brand decided to cement its reputation for building the most capable 4x4s with a world record.

Jeep set its sights on the Guinness World Record for the highest altitude achieved by a motor vehicle. It knew it would need a carefully chosen mountain, an experienced team, and a special vehicle.

First, Jeep chose the Ojos del Salado volcano in Chile, the second-highest mountain in the world. Then, it took two Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon SUVs and upgraded them with Goodyear MT/R tires, winches, and electronic altitude measuring technology–according to AutoBlog.

Finally, Jeep contracted expedition leader Mattias Jeschke of Germany and his experienced Extrem Events team to make a run at the record.

Jeep’s altitude record: 21,804 feet

Two 2007 Jeep Wrangler Rubicons parked on the slops of a Volcano in Chile after setting an altitude record.
2007 Jeep Wrangler on Ojos del Salado in Chile | Stellantis

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Jeschke took the modified Jeeps to Chile and spent five days navigating the slopes of the Volcano.

Jeschke faced hurricane-strength winds, -22 degree temperatures, and a punishing high-altitude glacier traverse across sheer ice. When Jeschke finally broke the record, reaching an altitude of 21,804 feet he proclaimed “The Wranglers are unbeatable.” Then at Jeep’s direction, he erected a sign: “Jeep Parking Only: All others don’t make it up here anyway.”

Chrysler Corporation was especially proud of the world record:

“This was exactly the challenge to separate the new Jeep Wrangler Unlimited from all other 4×4 vehicles. A climb like this in not just off-road, but extreme conditions, is a testament to the performance of the vehicle’s powertrain, suspension and overall quality.”

George Murphy, Chrysler Group Senior Vice President of Global Marketing.

Suzuki’s altitude record: 21,942 feet

Green 1986 Suzuki Samurai parked atop a mountain in Chile.
1986 Suzuki Samurai | Gonzalo Bravo via Youtube

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What Jeep didn’t know was that two local Chileans were determined to win the altitude record before a foreign team took it. Gonzalo Bravo and Eduardo Canales are off-road enthusiasts hailing from the coastal town of Concón, Chile. Bravo owns a 1986 Suzuki Samurai (called a Jimny in many markets).

The Suzuki is painted lime green and had a supercharged G16A 4-cylinder engine. In addition to lifting the 4×4 and upgrading its tires, Bravo installed a supercharger on the engine–according, again, to AutoBlog. This makes sense: when dealing with such thin air, a little boost could go a long way.

The duo attempted the altitude record on the Ojos del Salado volcano several times. The first time, they had to turn back because of poor weather. The second time, their engine caught on fire. But they towed their Suzuki back to the shop, repaired it, and set out a third time.

The bad news was that Jeep had already taken the record on Ojos del Salado by the time Bravo and Canales made their third attempt. The good news is that the German team had set a record and returned home, so Bravo knew exactly how high they had to climb to bring the record home to Chile.

On their third attempt, Canales and Bravo successfully navigated Ojos del Salado and its glacier. They surpassed the record set by the Jeep team, finally turning back at 21,942 feet above sea level.

Closeup of a green Suzuki Samurai loaded on a trailer.
1986 Suzuki Samurai | Gonzalo Bravo via Youtube

The Chileans might say they also picked up some litter on the way: Bravo pulled up the “Jeep Parking only” sign and brought it home. And while the record-breaking Jeeps are probably in a museum somewhere, Bravo swapped a Toyota 2JZ GTE turbocharged I6 into his Samurai and is still blasting around the dunes near Concón.

See Bravo’s footage of his Suzuki’s ascent in the video below:

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