Junkyard Gem: 1996 Isuzu Trooper

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Though Americans had been buying the Isuzu-built Chevrolet LUV pickup since the 1972 model year (plus plenty of Isuzu-derived Chevettes and Chevette components later on), the first widely available Isuzu-badged vehicle available here was the LUV-sibling P'Up. That was the 1981 model year, and the I-Mark (Gemini) and Impulse (Piazza) soon followed. Later in the 1980s, GM (which owned a hefty chunk of Isuzu by that time) began selling Isuzu-built Spectrums and Storms with Chevrolet and/or Geo badges… but Isuzu started its United States business by selling trucks, and that's the only type of Isuzu you could buy new here when the company departed our shores in 2009. The Trooper SUV first went on sale here for the 1984 model year, and eventually the Trooper became the biggest-selling Isuzu in North America. Here's an example from the sales heyday of the middle 1990s, found in a Colorado self-service yard.

In its homeland, this truck was known as the Bighorn. Elsewhere around the globe, however, it went by far too many names to list here (though Trooper was the most common). Highlights include the Holden Jackaroo and Caribe 442.

Honda's desperation to cash in on the 1990s North American SUV craze led to the creation of an Acura-badged Trooper, known as the SLX and sold here from the 1996 through 1999 model years. As part of this arrangement between Isuzu, GM, and Honda, the Isuzu Rodeo became the Honda Passport here (confusing every North American who had ever bought a Passport-badged Honda Super Cub, which got that name so as not to run afoul of the builders of the Piper Super Cub aircraft) and Isuzu dealers sold Honda Odysseys with Oasis badges.

Once we'd gotten a few years into our current century, the only Isuzu-badged vehicles you could buy new here (not counting commercial trucks) weren't even built by Isuzu at that point. One was the Ascender (a badge-engineered Chevy Trailblazer) and the other was the i-Series pickup (a badge-engineered Chevy Colorado). Oh, sure, a handful of Axioms and Rodeos slunk out of American Isuzu showrooms in the early years of the 2000s, but the clock really started ticking for Isuzu USA when the final Troopers showed up for 2002.

When this truck was built, Isuzu was engaged in an eye-gouging, kidney-spearing price- and financing-deal war with Mitsubishi Motors and its Montero. The very cheapest Montero you could buy new here in 1996 had an MSRP of $28,740, while the least expensive '96 Trooper listed at just $25,360 (that's about $55,150 and $48,660, respectively, in 2022 dollars). Of course, prices went up steeply for higher trim levels on both trucks, and Detroit offered plenty of good deals on Trooper competitors that year, but the Trooper was a lot of truck for the money.

Power came from this DOHC V6 engine, displacing 3.2 liters and featuring an oddball 75° bank angle. Power was 195 horsepower and 195 pound-feet.

You could get the DOHC engine in earlier US-market Troopers, but only those featuring spendy trim levels.

Not many American SUV shoppers were willing to operate a manual transmission by 1996, but the original buyer of this truck either preferred three-pedal driving or didn't want to pay extra for an automatic.

If you insisted on no-driver-decisions-needed all-wheel-drive, you had to wait until the 1998 Trooper. This truck has old-fashioned four-wheel-drive, which required the driver to operate this lever to engage and disengage.

The interior seems very similar to that of the contemporary Montero, with standard-issue-for-the-1990s Japanese-style cloth and plastic.

When it's time to go far from the lights of the blazing electric metropolis, you know what to buy.

In Japan, Isuzu was The SUV Specialist.

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