Our Cars--1991 Isuzu Trooper II
Submitted by Nick Dimondi for Our Cars Week
My father was a fan of American steel, so growing up we had a gaggle of some forgettable and infamous vehicles grace our driveway. Coming from a big family, I started driving on my own in the mid 1990s at the age of 14 in a Ford Aerostar. I never really had my own car that I picked out; I always had what my father had picked up for cheap or was working on as a project (Saturn SL1, 1987 Chevy Nova, Ford Taurus etc.). It wasn't until I was 23 that I got to pick my own vehicle and had the money to buy it myself.
I was scouring Craigslist and happened upon a short blurb of an ad talking about a silver Trooper for $1,500. I met up with the seller, who immediately dropped the price to $1,000 as soon as I attempted to haggle. I got a pre-sale inspection that was satisfactory to my standards and paid the man in two installments of $500. It was like me and this truck were meant to be.
I soon found that the Trooper's inline four cylinder engine was easy to work on, reliable and offered pathetic power. It put out a mere 120 horsepower when new; God knows how much it produced at the 198K miles I bought it at. It was torquey, though; emissions regulations are lax where I'm from, so I had a fun time boring out the catalytic converter to add some horses to the mix. On the drive home, the exhaust manifold down-pipe entirely separated from the exhaust system and brought volumes of emissions almost directly into cabin, along with many, many decibels of un-muffled engine noise. It took awhile for me to figure out a piece meal way to fix it, so in the meantime my Trooper earned the nickname of "The Sherman" after the WWII tank.
This truck took me all over the place; it had a smooth ride on the highways and did a great job off-road. It had a salvage title so I barely paid anything to register it, and the interior was so spartan that nothing really went wrong. The A/C hardly worked, but only girly men need A/C when driving around in a 4,000-pound Land Rover knock off. The seats were comfy, and the cargo area was spacious. There was so much glass around the cockpit that it was like driving a fish tank.
When they designed this truck, it's obvious that the "Utility" in SUV was spelled in all capitals. After going on many long trips and deep-woods paintball excursions with the Trooper, I came to look with contempt at modern SUVs that aren't tough enough to get some mud under their perfectly manicured wheel arches.
Alas, I had to sell the Trooper when I moved cross-country for a year--I hoped to buy it back when I returned. Upon my return I was re-united with my tank, only to find it had been lent out to a teenage girl who essentially destroyed it. With heavy heart, I turned my back on this trusty pack mule, knowing one day I would purchase another loyal beast of burden with which I would forge new adventures.