My Project: 1991 RHD Cultus 1.3i
Page 1 of 2

Author:  suzukitom [ Fri Feb 12, 2016 2:55 pm ]
Post subject:  My Project: 1991 RHD Cultus 1.3i


It's time to start a project log. This log will describe how a nice 1991 Cultus from Hiroshima Japan came to me in Vancouver, and the modest refurbishment and modifications I plan to make. An outline of my objectives are, in no particular order:

- Improve cabin air quality
- inspect, clean, repair and preserve chassis and interior components. The approach will be to disassemble any parts that are prone to corrosion and to apply rust- proofing measures.
- describe federalization/safety modifications for life in North America, and importation process (depending on interest)
- updating electronic gadgets (sound and visual aids)

I plan to post updates/respond about once a week, and in this initial post, its all about pictures!

The car is a 1991 RHD Cultus 1.3i 2 door saloon, with 59,000 certified kilometres. (36,000 miles). It is basically a stock JDM mid-level trim. It has branded floor mats, A/C with ECO mode, 5 speed manual transmission, tilt steering column and power steering, power mirrors, height adjustable seats, power windows, rear wiper and defroster, locking glove box. These photos are of the car before it left Japan.

Front view: Many of you may think my 1991 is a 1992-1994 model, but Japan always launches new body variants before the rest of the world gets them.


Rear view: The middle light has provision for rear fog lamps. There is no third light, and the defroster segments go straight across, instead of re routing around where the third light is normally attached. Notice the roof spoiler, just like the GTi.


Engine bay: This is the SOHC 16 valve 1.3 engine. The JDM variants used a throttle body. Yup they are glass headlights with clear corners. The original JDM bulbs have a yellow tint, probably for glare reduction


Interior: Notice the neat Cultus logs on the seat fabric protectors.


Dash: This is probably a rare odometer variant. It has only 5 digits and goes up to 99,999 Kilometres.


..All aboard the ship on its week long journey to North America.

Author:  CAMI Man [ Sat Feb 13, 2016 1:14 am ]
Post subject:  Re: My Project: 1991 RHD Cultus 1.3i

Very Nice :D :D

Author:  DTM GTi [ Sat Feb 13, 2016 1:50 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: My Project: 1991 RHD Cultus 1.3i

That looks awesome . I'm curious , considering expense of the whole process why not get top model Cultus with turbo and AWD ?

Author:  suzukitom [ Sat Feb 13, 2016 3:59 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: My Project: 1991 RHD Cultus 1.3i

Very hard to find any Cultuses (Cultii? ) anymore. So when you find a nice one.. ya buy it..

Author:  suzukitom [ Thu Feb 25, 2016 4:47 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: My Project: 1991 RHD Cultus 1.3i

In this week's update, I answer the question:

What did I have to do to get the car here? It makes for better reading if I first answer the question. Why did I buy a RHD car in Japan and pay to ship it back to North America? Was it worth the hassle? You decide.. Read on..

I decided that I wanted a Cultus for 2 main reasons:

(1) I wanted a well-optioned factory built Swift. For me, a fully-loaded North American Swift trim was pretty basic.

(2) I was curious about the relative quality of a JDM Swift/Cultus. Were they better, worse, or built to the same standard as exported Swifts sold in North America?

Step 1: Research

Owning a car in urban Japan means dealing with high gas prices, expensive periodic government inspections and maintenance requirements, congested streets and limited parking.

After a car is 3 years old, a car is subject to a rigorous inspection process called [Shaken]. Then, after 5 years, this process must be done every 2 years, regardless of actual wear or condition of the car. After 13 years, additional inspections are required. High mechanical shop repair labor charges make owning an older car less attractive than buying a new one.

A minority of car owners keep their cars much longer, especially if they can perform their own maintenance - this group made it
possible for me to find an older Cultus for sale.

Learn about [Shaken]:
LINK Shaken - Japan car inspection process

Now that early MK2 Cultuses are 25 years old, the biggest challenge for me was to actually find a decent one that was still on the
road in Japan, and available to buy. The last 3-door RHD MK2/3 style Cultus 4 cylinder hatch was manufactured in August 1998. From
1998-2000, the Cultus name was carried on in the form of a 3 door RHD Esteem hatchback. Finding a good one from this era would be
like finding a unicorn.

I had a choice between working with a North American car dealer to import/broker a used car from Japan, or to buy directly from a
Japanese car dealer, agent, or auction house. I learned that desireable cars to import to North America from Japan were mostly
high-end luxury/sport cars, 4X4 SUVs and vans.

Used JDM economy cars like the Cultus or mini-trucks are exported early, around 5 years of age to places where Japan does a lot of
trade, like New Zealand, Russia, Africa, or South America. By the time cars get to be 15-25 years old, used car choices are few.. the A MK2 Cultus is at least 4 generations old relative to the newest Suzuki Swift; importing a less than 15 year old Cultus variant from places like Pakistan or China would not be permitted by our federal government, as those cars were never designed or upgraded to meet modern safety and emission standards for North America.

I do not mention seeking a Cultus from a private car seller, because there are so few people that want to sell their cheap used car directly to a fellow citizen, much less a foreigner. For example, the Tokyo Craigslist today has exactly 7 Suzuki used cars or trucks that are at least 15 years old and therefore importable to Canada, and the oldest car in this group was a 1995 model, which means that none of these cars are old enough to import into USA under the 25-year federal safety standard exemption rule.

I decided that going through a local Vancouver dealer was going to be way too expensive. Why would a local dealer want to waste time to locate an economy car when they could make more money importing and reselling popular, but rare cars like a Nissan GTR? So, off I went to seek my own JDM Cultus, browsing public auction and dealer websites in Japan for several months until a Cultus listing popped up, in my case a local Japanese car dealer listing on

Step 2: Verifying condition of the car

One thing you notice after searching Japan car sites for a while is that stock photos are often used, and the actual car may be in far different condition. Even if the actual car is depicted in photos, the overall condition is hard to verify unless the seller is able to provide copies of maintenance or inspection records as well as high resolution photos of the underside of the car. I was pleasantly surprised to observe that any minor dings or scrapes are fully disclosed; dealers there appear to understand how picky buyers can be. When verifying body condition, one thing to note is that [rust] means [surface rust only], while [corrosion] means a [hole]. An ability to supply copies of regular Shaken reports will provide evidence of good mechanical condition.

Other objective facts about the car's condition are included in a 1 to 4 point Auction Grade Score. This number is almost always displayed during live car auctions, as well as shown within an individual car advertisement. I exchanged a series of emails to determine the condition of the car and then to negotiate price. I describe the meaning of the term [price] in this context, later in this post.

Thank goodness for Google Translate, and a reliance on simple, formal questions posed and answered in English, although there was
one awkward phone call when email went offline for the seller during a few days of the negotiation process. (The phone call went something like: Hello? Yes. Umm.. Hello? Thank you.. Hello? OK, I will send an email.)

The seller had to clean the car before shipping. Pictures of car on the hoist in Japan.

[Cleaned chassis photo: underside front]

[Cleaned chassis photo: underside rear]

Step 3: Negotiation

The process of verifying car condition is done concurrently with price negotiation, which does not resemble the wild negotiations
done in a typical North American used car lot. This is because Japanese car dealers familiar with export, will advertise their cars using a fair market value, using an export-oriented FOB (Free on Board) price. Sellers price used cars very competitively. Buyers that initiate contact with a seller are expected to quickly commit to buying the car, after verifying car condition and some minor price haggling.

If I agreed to pay a FOB price, my car would be simply delivered from the dealer's lot to the closest port that would ship to my location; the car would then be loaded (driven) onto the ship. To get the ship moving towards me would be at my cost, and at my risk. An alternative option I did not use was to ship a car in a shipping container, vs. driving it onto the ship, and driving it off at its destination, known as RO RO (Roll on, Roll off). For a small car like a Cultus, it only made economic sense to ship using RO RO method. A container would suit people importing a bigger more expensive car, or several vehicles and/or parts. It is definitely easier to import a car only, and to avoid problems with your import, it is not advisable that you do NOT put other things into the car, like engine parts.

Japanese car dealers are used to dealing with experienced buyers. It was up to me to know my maximum budget to pay to get this car, and have it cleaned, transported to the port, and then loaded onto a ship. If I was negotiating a FOB price, the ship would not go anywhere until I had arranged for shipping or agreed to pay the seller or someone else to help me with this task.

Since I never imported a car before from Japan, I decided to ask the seller to arrange freight, and marine insurance. So, instead of a FOB price, I negotiated a CIF price, which stands for Cost, Insurance and freight (to Vancouver). I would take possesion of the car after clearing customs. The insurance policy for me began at the moment the car was loaded onto the ship in Japan.

Step 4: A few words about the 15 year (Canada) and 25 year (USA) age exemption

This section in particular is just my strong opinion, so please read it with that perspective, and don't forget to do your own research about import rules for your own country and state, before deciding to proceed with an import from Japan.

JDM cars:

Before you pay any money to the seller, your JDM car should be:

- at least 15 years old, for Canadians in Canada importing a car into Canada or,
- at least 25 years old for Americans in USA importing a car into USA.

Make sure that the car's age is determined starting from the exact month and year of its production date. In the US, 25 year old cars qualify for NHTSA's FMVSS exemption (National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration - Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards). For a better JDM import experience, anything newer may be [too new]!

If you ignore these age considerations and try to import a [too new] JDM car, it may be refused entry at the port; you may be required to re-export it immediately, or you may apply to be allowed to modify the car and perform tests to prove that it will comply with federal safety and emissions standards for the model year in question. This could be done as if YOU were the car manufacturer, and may be entirely at your expense; you may need to hire a registered importer company to make the car compliant within a limited amount of time. And, there is no guarantee that you will succeed.

Non-JDM cars:

Canadians that want to import a newer, non-JDM car from USA, or Americans that want to import a newer non-JDM car from Canada may be able to import some less-than-25-year old cars, as long as the car was originally built to meet US and/or Canadian emission and safety standards, and is included in a government list of compliant cars.

Both the US and Canadian government agencies publish lists of US and Canadian specification vehicles that are eligible for cross-border importations. The link below is a recently updated US exemption list, for vehicles newer than 25 years old:

NHTSA (US) eligible cars list PDF file
(Note that only Suzuki motorcycles appear on this list)

Note: There are quite a few USA Registered Importer companies listed in the document below; these companies are located in various
states. You could contact one to see if they can help you import a less than 25 year old car which is not listed on NHTSA's [exemption] list.

NHTSA Grey Market vehicles rules for import

The Canadian equivalent website is at:

Canada Registrar of Imported Vehicles - RIV FAQ page (importing a car)

Step 5: How to pay the seller

So, after agreeing on price, I needed an initial document which showed the essential terms of the purchase. This was called a Pro-forma Invoice. This document described my Cultus, its model and serial number, the CIF payment amount, as well as the seller's bank account details. I signed and faxed the Pro Forma Invoice back to the seller.

The seller indicated I had about 10 days to make payment by T/T (Telegraphic Transfer - a form of electronic payment between banks
popular in Japan. Some sellers may alternatively accept PayPal or credit cards.) I was responsible to pay some bank fees charged by the Japanese bank to handle the T/T payment as well as fees to my own bank. A seller may prefer to transact using Japanese Yen instead of Canadian or US dollar currency, so you may need to absorb some exchange rate commission charges from your bank. After the seller confirmed receipt of the funds, he prepared my car for shipping. This included a thorough cleaning of the chassis and body, and interior in order to comply with Canada's Agriculture dept. requirement to verify and inspect upon arrival that the car did not have any dirt attached to it which may contain pests.

Once the seller arranged a shipping schedule, and the car was delivered and loaded onto the vessel, a Commercial Invoice was emailed to me. That and other original documents were then sent by courier shortly after the ship departed. These included a Bill of Lading (basically a legal shipping contract and a receipt for the car being shipped), Insurance contract, and an original Export Certificate (basically a Japanese government Transport Ministry document about the car's origins and registration in Japan as well as information about the current owner/seller exporting the car to me). This document was written in Japanese and also translated into English. A copy of the shipping schedule, and a logistics agreement by the terminal company where my car would be unloaded from the ship in Vancouver was also included.

The Commercial Invoice includes a detailed breakdown of the car cost, the freight prepaid to Vancouver aboard a Specific Vessel and on a specific shipping date, cost of Marine Insurance, and the grand total paid to the seller. This invoice was signed by the seller on a document bearing his company letterhead.

Step 6: Stuff you do while your car is crossing the ocean.

OK, now what? I learned that the actual process of clearing a car that was more than 15 years old (for import in Canada) through Canada Customs was pretty straightforward, but it could be daunting for a newbie, since all the paper work had to be available and or filled out quickly and accurately as the ship arrived in port and the various inspectors and authorities, and shipping company, logistics company, etc. were expecting the importer (ie. me) to present all required documents, pay fees and duties, etc.

I realized I needed expert help, so I found a local customs brokerage company that was able to act as my agent (it helped that they were already in the business of importing, servicing, and selling JDM cars) for a fee. The agent role would be to act on my behalf. I was still the importer of record, but the agent could handle the task of getting the shipping company to release my car so that the federal agriculture department inspector could inspect my car for soil, to handle clearing Canadian Customs and pay required duties, taxes and fees (including a $100 Air Conditioner excise tax!), and finally process release documents so that the port terminal logistics company would release the car so that it could be towed back to a licensed shop for modifications prior to inspection by a Provincial Ministry of Transportation inspector, who would certify my car as meeting licensing requirements for a motor vehicle to be operated in the province of BC.

So, I spent the time waiting for the car to arrive looking for, and buying new or used parts needed to modify my car so that it could pass a BC provincial mechanical inspection before licensing it as a motor vehicle.

Step 7: Port Arrival, Customs, and Transport.

It took just over a week for the giant auto carrier ship to sail from Japan to the West coast. It sailed northward up the coast from Oregon, stopping in various US ports, including Tacoma port in Washington State before arriving in Vancouver's port a few days later. My agent handled the customs and port documentation, and the car was released to be towed to the shop a few days after that.

Step 8: Compliance, Inspection and licensing.

Once the car was towed to the shop, I dropped off all the parts and authorized the shop to do the necessary pre-inspection work in order to license my car in this province.

Even though the car qualified for 15 year-old car exemption from Federal emission and safety standards, this allowed the car to be imported into Canada, but the car would not be licensable until it passed a provincial mechanical inspection.

Pre-inspection work consisted of a routine mechanical and safety inspection and maintenance, and some part replacements. Bearing in mind that a JDM Cultus shares many components with its North American variants, here are the major items that needed modification:

(1) Tires - need to have a DOT mark. The JDM tires were replaced.
(2) Light bulbs - need to meet North American illumination /wattage standards. All exterior bulbs were replaced.
(3) Center High mounted stop lamp - This needed to be retrofit.
(4) Daytime Running Lamps - This needed to be retrofit. Instead of using a standard Swift DRL setup, my car used a new relay energized by the ignition [Run] circuit, to supply power to the headlamp circuit.
(5) Headlamps - the JDM headlamps were focused for RHD use. North American composite lamps were retrofit.
(6) Side reflectors - The standard taillight and corner lenses lacked reflectors. North American units were retrofit.

After passing the inspection, a Private Vehicle Inspection Report was written and a Certificate of Approval decal was issued.

Step 9: Insuring my Car

To summarize, I was able to get my Cultus here without too much expense, by doing as many of the steps needed myself, and relying on experts to handle the more complex tasks such as the customs brokerage and pre-inspection work. Other than the cost of the car, the sum of all the importation related charges and fees, during this import experience, was roughly comparable to that of a typical PDI (Freight, Pre Delivery Inspection) charge. (which a Japanese new car dealer charges on a mid-priced new car.)

A JDM car can be worth more than its domestic counterpart due to low mileage, and generally better condition.

However, not everyone wants a RHD car, and RHD specific parts may be harder to source, and that may limit its value in the future. Many North American State and Provincial governments are growing increasingly annoyed at how most (RHD) imported cars are now coming from Japan, rather than as RHD traditional collector sports cars sourced from Great Britain.

From an insurance point of view, there appears to be a modest premium to pay for insurance over a LHD version; RHD cars may be (unfairly) thought to be a higher risk due to perceived visibility challenges from driving while sitting in the right seat. Also, insured value may be low due to market valuation being undifferentiated from a typical 25 year old Geo Metro. So, make sure to explore any option you have to purchase a Declared Value policy, and keep all your parts and labor receipts!

Author:  suzukitom [ Mon Mar 07, 2016 5:55 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: My Project: 1991 RHD Cultus 1.3i

In this week's update, I will start reviewing differences between my Cultus and North American Swift or Geo versions. In most cases, I will show the original Cultus part alongside parts that may be used to maintain or upgrade them, as well as to show the parts used on North American Swifts/Geos.

You will recall that I hired a Vancouver shop to install some of the DOT parts I sourced prior to having a BC Provincial vehicle inspector examine the car. While the car fully passed the safety inspection, all of the work was not done to my standard in all cases; therefore I will highlight any of the tasks I felt I had to redo.

The first difference we will look at is the front disc brakes:

This Cultus 1.3i uses a 231 mm diameter and 10 mm thick solid rotor design. This is larger diameter but the same thickness used by a base Geo Metro rotor, but instead of the hub over rotor design, the Cultus uses the bolt on rotor hat design, knuckle and hub used on the North American Swift 1.3 SOHC.

The Cultus' solid rotor brake specification was used on all JDM and some Euro spec Swift 1.0 and 1.3 SOHC FWD cars. Some AWD versions used these brakes as well; Cultus convertibles and GTis used the same bigger diameter ventilated front discs, as they both were equipped with 14 inch wheels.

Here is a picture of my Cultus front brakes. The rotor is no longer available from Suzuki, so I have included a picture of a current rotor specification for non-OEM replacement rotor from ATE. The ATE rotor is slightly thicker, but still is compatible with the stock caliper; it resembles a North American caliper in design and pad shape, but has a much narrower housing, as the Cultus solid rotor is only 10 mm thick vs. a NA Swift's 17 mm thick ventilated rotor.


I plan to keep using these JDM brakes for now; an upgrade to North American Swift 1.3 SOHC front disc specification is as simple as swapping out the rotor, caliper and pads. The knuckle and hub are identical, but the ventilated rotors and bigger calipers should increase stopping power.

Below are the North American Brake Rotor specs by model. Images were based on Centric branded diagrams. My guess is that the JDM Cultus brakes are closest to the Swift 1.3 SOHC brake design, and that Suzuki chose a solid rotor instead of ventilated rotor design for weight savings, while allowing for direct swaps to either style without the need to engineer a different steering knuckle and hub.


Here is a picture of the Cultus rear drum brake which are the same as used on a NA Swift. In the picture, you will see how there is little factory undercoating applied to the wheel well, The dark spots are spray lanolin I applied to protect against corrosion in visible seams and bolt heads. I have loosened the mudguard to inspect the gas filler neck (appears to be in sound condition, in a factory cad type plating finish compared to the black painted filler necks found on NA Geos and Swifts.). The rear bumper has been loosened in this picture, so that I can inspect and clean up the body panels behind the bumper before refitting.


Here is a picture of the Cultus original tire which uses a strange size - a 155-70/13. The original JDM Bridgestone tire was a slightly larger diameter than the 145 80/12 tire used on Geo Metros, but it is about 5% smaller diameter than the 175-70R13 Nexen tires now installed on the car needed to pass inspection.


Here is a picture of the Cultus with its new DOT spec tires.

Next, to be inspected and cleaned up are:
(1) the rear body sheet metal behind the bumper cover,
(2) rear bumper mounting brackets,
(3) and some modifications to the cabin air pressure relief vents in the lower rear corners of the body.

After removing the tail lights, the bumper upper and lower cover is removed. When removing the upper bumper cover and lower bumper cover as a unit, do not forget that the upper cover is attached with 2 small guide brackets to the quarter panels on either side of the tail light assemblies.The lightweight JDM bumper brackets attach to the bumper cover. Unlike North American spec Metros and Swifts, the Cultus bumper does not have a reinforced steel bumper bar, or a white foam energy absorber between the body and the bumper cover. The factory black paint on the Cultus brackets has worn off and needs refinishing.


Here is a picture of the left vent before and after clean up.

Here is a picture of the right vent before and after clean up. Notice the waxy factory anti rust coating applied inside the vent cavity.

The function of the left and right side body vents are to relieve cabin air pressure whenever you close your car door or the hatch lid with the windows up. This is to make it easier to close the doors with less force. The vent locations however, can be entry points for pests to enter the interior of your car. With the addition of the 1/4 inch stainless mesh over the vent opening, pests cannot enter.

Below, the lower white bumper cover has been attached temporarily, while the 10 mm. bumper bolts are being refinished. Notice that the newly refinished bumper brackets look a lot better with a coat of POR15 black anti-rust paint, and a black acrylic enamel topcoat for UV fade resistance. Anti-seize lubricant has been applied to bumper to body bolts before re attachment.

Author:  suzukitom [ Mon Mar 14, 2016 4:40 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: My Project: 1991 RHD Cultus 1.3i

Gee, I see that people have been reading my posts, but very few replies so far.. Oh well, pressing on...

This week, I want to cover a safety check for all Swift / Metro / Cultus owners, discovered while examining my Cultus lighting.

When responding to a member with a rear lighting issue in the Problems/Fixes section this week, I discovered that I had the same problem with my Cultus! So, after sorting out the cause of the problem and the fix, I decided to document the fix in greater detail [yes, with pictures :)] and include it as this week's update.

In prior posts, I mentioned that my 1991 Cultus rear taillight assemblies had to be replaced with 1992-1994 Swift North American units with reflectors and side markers in order to pass provincial inspection. In a Swift, each side's lamp assembly uses two dual-filament (1157) bulbs for the stop/tail light function.

What I did not realise was that the condition of the replacement lamp assembly parts appeared to have deteriorated so much that I had taillight bulbs with different brightnesses and only 1 stop light filament out of 4 bulbs still working. Thankfully, the problem was fairly easy to fix. Since one of the four stop lights was still working with full brightness, it spared me from having to check the stop light switch or the ground junction connections at the front of the car.

The culprit was corrosion at each of the four stop/taillight bulb socket grounds.

In the picture below you will see why the Suzuki light socket ground design would eventually cause a lighting problem for our cars (except perhaps for those that live in a desert climate).

I had to remove the 2 tail light electrical harnesses from the car. This is done by releasing the electrical connectors clipped to the inside of the rear body panel (which you see after removing the grey or black plastic interior rear body trim panel). You can then pop the whole wiring assembly out of the car by pushing out the big black rubber grommet you see in the picture at left.

As a [to-do] item at a later date, I found some less than quality work by the shop that retrofitted my centre mounted stop light. A proper soldered wiring connection will need to be done, and instead of electrical tape, I will be using shrink tubing.

Below is a trick I used to remove the metal part of the bulb socket from the lamp holder body, without crushing or deforming the thin metal. By inserting a tight- fitting socket into the bulb socket, a pair of locking pliers can be used to wiggle the whole thing out of the lamp holder, (the bulb sockets remain nice and round)

Below you can see the corrosion appearing on the surface of the socket where the ground wire was pressing against it.

It doesn't take much to clean up the corrosion. Just some fine sandpaper or emery cloth.

When reinstalling the socket into the lamp holder, you should use the square protrusions and corresponding indentations as a guide to line everything back to where it was originally. You can press the lamp holder/socket assembly downward against a hard flat surface such as the floor, until the bulb socket is fully seated, making sure that the ground wire is making full contact with the side of the bulb socket. Before reinstallation, make sure you have cleaned the copper ground wire as well if there is corrosion on it.

Author:  suzukitom [ Sun Mar 20, 2016 6:49 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: My Project: 1991 RHD Cultus 1.3i


Before this week's update, please play "What's in the box" game at

Author:  suzukitom [ Mon Mar 21, 2016 5:24 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: My Project: 1991 RHD Cultus 1.3i

In this week's update, you may recall that I hired a local repair shop to install the North American spec. parts needed to pass provincial vehicle inspection. When installing a center mounted stop light, the shop thought it would be okay to just cut hole(s) in an existing JDM trim panel part instead of requesting that I provide them with a North American part.

So unhappy about this bodge, I photo-shopped a repair to the damaged trim panel part I was looking for (shown below) to member bbowens and crossed my fingers that a new JDM part could still be had. (A North American grey color part from a Metro shown at top, and a [digitally simulated repair] JDM part is shown at bottom)

A new part arrived about 10 days later..

Here is what the new cover looks compared to the old cover with the cut out for the center stop light. I am going to fit a LED center stop light later this summer, up higher, probably in the leading edge of the roof spoiler, so I wanted to replace the hatch trim panel with the JDM part.

I am not fond of the North American style center stop light and am looking for something more modern with LEDs.

The JDM defogger lines go straight across where the third light would be mounted on a North American Swift.

I had plans to add under hood lighting, and as it has been raining for weeks now in Vancouver, a mostly indoor project was perfect. I bought several led sensor lights (2 types shown) from Home Depot.

I wanted to avoid using batteries to power these LED lights. Normally they use 3 AAA batteries.

Measuring the power at the circuit board, it confirmed that the 4.5V input voltage was close to the 5 volts normally supplied by a USB charge port. At the LED light input, the measured voltage was 3.3 volts, which confirmed that this circuit uses a voltage regulator to step down voltage. This was good, as I was concerned about overdriving the LEDs with 5V , which would reduce the LED life span. I soldered 2 leads (the red and black leads within a 4 lead USB wire correspond to +5V and Ground) to the battery terminals of the LED circuit board, and then drilled a hole through the lamp body. The wire was about 3 feet long and has a USB male connector terminal. I will either connect it to a 12V to 5V USB port adapter located in my engine compartment, or feed the connector through a grommet in the firewall to a power source inside the car.

Here is the LED magnetically attached to a perfect spot on the hood.
As an added bonus the LED has a motion detector which will be useful in spooking critters that may seek refuge under the hood from all that rain =)


Finally, I hooked up an electrostatic corrosion control technology device. I'm not sure how effective it will be on this car, but on other vehicles I have owned with it, it has helped prevent corrosion on parts like brake disc rotors for cars that are not often used. Apparently it charges the body electrostatically to prevent salt laden moist air from corroding metal. It is different from cathodic protection which is used on ships and vehicles that are immersed in water.

Author:  suzukitom [ Wed Apr 06, 2016 11:17 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: My Project: 1991 RHD Cultus 1.3i

Its been 2 weeks since my last post. It's been a bit rainy, but the sun finally came out this week. :sunny:

Time to clean up parts you don't normally see. The inside of the front fender wells and cowl areas get a lot of moisture whenever it rains. Mud also gets kicked up by the tires and trapped in the lower part of the front fenders. Suzuki paint applications are thinly applied, so it's good to touch up paint edges with some anti rust paint, as well as to add paint to parts and body sealer/seams where water flows. The windshield washer tube was kinked, so I reinforced it as well as the electrical harness by encasing them in flexible wiring conduit.

Also added some rustproofing paint to the inside surfaces where the front fenders are bolted to the car. These sheet metal areas can hold moisture and corrode even where they are bolted together.

The delicate front bumper mounts holding up the JDM bumper cover needs clean up and paint. There is some road rash on the lower edge of the white bumper cover, so it needs to be refinished before putting it back on.

The front end gets some general cleanup.

Here are some side by side shots of the JDM vs. NA metal bumper supports. The JDM support weighs about one pound vs. about eight pounds for the North American support.

A styrofoam Energy Absorber goes between the North American bumper support and the bumper cover.

I had a spare aftermarket, lightweight ABS material MK2 sedan bumper cover available. I put in on temporarily until I get the original bumper cover refinished. It doesn't look too bad. I kinda like the smaller intake opening and the molded in bumper strips.

Here's a look at the temporary, generic front face of my Cultus while I refinish the original bumper cover.


Author:  METRO-MIKE [ Thu Apr 07, 2016 7:58 am ]
Post subject:  Re: My Project: 1991 RHD Cultus 1.3i

Looks good..........

Author:  jaguar,vettes&sprints [ Thu Apr 07, 2016 8:19 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: My Project: 1991 RHD Cultus 1.3i

johnny come lately this thread .....your car Very cool thanks for sharing

Author:  suzukitom [ Thu Apr 07, 2016 8:53 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: My Project: 1991 RHD Cultus 1.3i

Thanks JV&S and Metro-Mike. :D

Author:  t3 ragtop [ Sat Apr 09, 2016 7:31 am ]
Post subject:  Re: My Project: 1991 RHD Cultus 1.3i

i would have never thought that there would be that big of a difference between the north american market and jdm front bumper supports.

i guess that the mandate for 5 mph crash resistance for the nadm cars makes the bumper support beefier - and heavier.

when i was building my blue turbo3 monster vert i peeled off the rear section of the bumper support and it lightened things by about 6 pounds. your jdm bumper support appears to be even lighter. :wink:

Author:  suzukitom [ Sat Apr 09, 2016 6:18 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: My Project: 1991 RHD Cultus 1.3i

Yep. It's fascinating to me the amount of engineering that suzuki put into hidden changes that saved cost and weight. The JDM bumper cover support is made of much thinner guage sheet metal than the heavier boxed structure of the NA bumper support. Probably most of the work of low speed crash energy absorption is by the light styrofoam absorber anyway.

I wonder if anyone could make a 4 passenger car today that meets current crash standards and weighs less than 1850 pounds.

Author:  CMA [ Sat May 14, 2016 1:44 am ]
Post subject:  Re: My Project: 1991 RHD Cultus 1.3i

Impressive thread... with all goodies information.

Thank you for doing this kind of research and tell us some information that we don't know. Really like to see the comparison... but a real question... have you driven your JDM yet?

BTW you said JDM bumper supporter is safer than us/cdn bumper?

Author:  suzukitom [ Sun May 15, 2016 4:58 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: My Project: 1991 RHD Cultus 1.3i

Driven about 50 km.

The jdm bumper with Styrofoam would protect occupants the same but the cover itself would be damaged in a low speed crash

Author:  suzukitom [ Thu May 19, 2016 11:41 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: My Project: 1991 RHD Cultus 1.3i

Here is the latest update for April/May:

1) installed a new battery from Suzuki (made by Exide) - group 51.


2) disassembled, cleaned the fan blower housing parts in cleaning solution. I also cleaned and rebuilt a spare metal heater blower
assembly from a LHD car in order to compare with the RHD Cultus assembly removed for cleaning. In the picture below, I replaced
the Cultus recirculating door damper foam with industrial visco-elastic foam, which will resist disintegration over time - all factory
foam seems to fall apart and eventually blow into your face when the car is around 20 years old or more. (In a future post, I will get
into more details about these assemblies)


(3) After soaking the bumper bolts in Evapo-rust solution, they were refinished in olive green paint. Some of these bolts were not
reused as the rust was eroded the bolt head. I reinstalled the bolts using an anti-seize compound for the threads and lanolin
lubricant for the bolt heads.



(4) Still hand sanding the original JDM front bumper cover paint prior to priming and refinishing (The super hard paint has
resisted 20 sheets of 180 grit wet and dry sandpaper so far. The MK3 bumper has a way too many narrow ridges that are hard to
sand but I am too stubborn to use a DA sander.


(5) Designed and built several prototype housings to add a new factory style HEPA cabin filter to the top of the heater blower intake
opening located in the cowl. Below are details for the first prototype:

First - had to see what the duct looked like inside the windshield cowl. After removing the plastic covers below the wiper blades, I
used my inspection snake camera to take a picture. This view is looking at the blower air intake duct toward the passenger side
fender on my RHD car. (which is the left side of the car). Note the shape of the duct, and how it is welded and seam sealed to the
inner cowl.


Next - made a cardboard template by tracing the outline of the air duct located inside the windshield cowl. This was very awkward to
do, since the shape of the duct is irregular. I had to reach up into the duct from inside the car after removing the blower/fan housing.


A curved base bracket was made out of a Simpsons Strong tie galvanized brace. (used for construction) secured to the air duct.
Nutserts were installed into brackets to allow fasteners to attach the cabin filter housing.


The base was inserted up into the duct from inside the passenger foot well. The cabin filter housing was attached to these brackets
using stainless bolts and nuts.


The rear view of the filter housing shows how epoxy was used to secure an end cap to a C-channel PVC case that was modified from a spare home air
conditioner duct.


The front of the cabin filter housing is open to allow the filter element to be inserted.


A 1/4 inch stainless mesh screen is shown, before it is secured to the bottom of the filter housing. I haven't decided if this screen
should be below or above the filter element yet. I think it may be better on top of the filter element.


Here is the cabin filter element in the housing. It's a Suzuki part! (from a Vitara/Tracker)


A forward slide cover will retain the filter element, which is held down by a flange tab at the rear.


This view shows a test fitting of the filter housing (before it was painted) at the top of the air intake duct in the cowl. The final
attachment to the duct makes use of a thin gasket between the cabin filter housing base and the top of the duct for a better seal.


..Still need to fully evaluate whether the blower air flow is being restricted by either the filter element or a restriction due to the size
and placement of the new cabin filter housing sitting atop the formerly unimpeded air duct in the inner windshield cowl.

A second and third prototype is also underway. One uses an intermediate duct to allow a different (slightly more convenient location
for the cabin filter housing.)

Author:  CMA [ Fri May 20, 2016 1:12 am ]
Post subject:  Re: My Project: 1991 RHD Cultus 1.3i

very nice project.

Author:  suzukitom [ Tue Jun 14, 2016 12:46 am ]
Post subject:  Re: My Project: 1991 RHD Cultus 1.3i

Here's the latest update for June. I've been busy on many other projects so this update focuses mainly on providing additional details about blower fan refurbishing.

In anticipation of a need to refurbish my other cars' blower fan assemblies, I decided to make a cardboard template to help in cutting the biggest damper foam piece, (which is the piece most likely to be worn out from years of opening and closing the Air Recirculation door). This piece also serves to keep leaves and other debris from entering your car interior. The other foam piece in the damper door is a small, narrow rectangular piece installed in the hinged centre portion of the damper door assembly. I did not bother creating a template for this piece as it is easy to directly cut with a utility knife)

To get access to this air damper, you must disassemble the 2 pieces of the blower fan housing. There are a number of spring metal clips which you pop off with a flat screwdriver. Don't lose them! The picture shows the 2 separated blower housing halves. (This JDM housing has a factory worker's original felt pen markings still visible on the inner air channel)


This Cultus's blower fan blades were cleaned up with a bottle brush and dish washing liquid. I applied a good auto paste wax afterwards to minimize static build up on the blades in the future. The wax worked well to remove the light dirt film that was embedded in some places. The blower motor remained in remarkably clean condition. The factory talc is still on the rubber motor cooling hose, which must have been used as a rubber preservative. (Never noticed this use of talc before on my North American built Metro) Fun fact: Did you know that the RHD blower fan blades are curved in the opposite direction compared to a LHD car's fan blades? This is because the mirror image dash shape and duct layout requires air to be blown in a different direction that on LHD cars.


Here is the motor/fan re-assembled. MK2/MK3 cars used a lock nut instead of the spring clip used on MK4/5 North American cars.


This is the 2 piece cardboard template and measurements used to make new foam for the air recirculation damper door. The felt pen markings on the cut foam show the thickness of the foam measured from each side, after the centre piece was cut out. [Edit #2: The dimension of the larger template was correctly stated at 6 - 1/2" X 3 - 1/2".
The smaller template dimensions should have been labelled 5" X 2 - 3/16" . I have fixed the photos..]


Here are a few samples of the initial foam pieces cut out. There is a self stick backing paper on the foam. One of them in the picture shows the inner foam section removed. I am making more of these foam pieces, as I have some other Suzukis that also need this work done. After all, these cars are almost 25 years old!


Author:  944door [ Tue Jun 14, 2016 9:39 am ]
Post subject:  Re: My Project: 1991 RHD Cultus 1.3i

This thread is so cool! Would it be rude to ask what all this cost? Its funny to see what they considered a "mid" level in Japan it looks to be about 75% of a GTi which is super cool. Please keep it up .


Author:  suzukitom [ Tue Jun 14, 2016 2:48 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: My Project: 1991 RHD Cultus 1.3i

My all-in-cost for this RHD Cultus, including purchase, government import taxes, duties, and shipping and inspection, is about the same as someone would have paid for a 1992 Suzuki Swift GT in excellent condition, with 36,000 miles located in Beverly Hills California. (I checked below, using's pricing tool!, and yes, I know my car is not a GT, but when's the last time you saw a low mileage GT for sale? =)

Author:  CMA [ Tue Jun 14, 2016 10:38 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: My Project: 1991 RHD Cultus 1.3i

It looks good as far...

that blower is at left side right? Therefore different LDH?

Author:  suzukitom [ Tue Jun 14, 2016 11:30 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: My Project: 1991 RHD Cultus 1.3i

that blower is at left side right? Therefore different LDH?

Yes, the blower is located on the left side on a RHD car. Because of this location, the fan motor must rotate in the opposite direction, so that its fan blades, which are also curved in the opposite direction, will blow enough air into the heater duct.

If you want to play a trick on someone with a LHD Swift, give them a blower fan assembly from a RHD car. It will still work, but the air flow will be much weaker. :-P

Author:  944door [ Thu Jun 16, 2016 9:47 am ]
Post subject:  Re: My Project: 1991 RHD Cultus 1.3i

I am astonished that it was that little amount of money!!!!! I wonder if I can find an Autozam AZ-1 or Suzuki Cara :huh: thank you for all the info and please more pics , this car is so cool

Page 1 of 2 All times are UTC - 5 hours
Powered by phpBB® Forum Software © phpBB Group