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Our Cars--1991 Isuzu Trooper II

Submitted by Nick Dimondi for Our Cars Week

Trooper on the Hill

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.

Trooper as Transport

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.

--Nick Dimondi


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Nice story, Nick! I hope you found another "beast of burden" soon.

What is it with young girls and destroying cars? My sister thoroughly trashed my '66 Plymouth to the point it had to be scrapped while I was away at school. Good story, Nick!

I wrote off many a nice car in my youth utilizing the efficient and dramatic single car crash technique, but girls are often the masters of the death of a thousand cuts. My sister once told me that, "all that matters about a car is that it has gas," in response to my appeal that she check the oil on her oil burning and leaking cars. She couldn't be convinced, and it wasn't unusual for me to add 5 quarts of oil to her car whenever I saw it. She also had a habit of parking by ear, to judge by her cars' extremities and flanks. Eventually she was given a turbocharged car. "Run the engine for at least 30 seconds at idle before you shut it off," said my father who had owned the car before her. "Run the car at least 30 seconds before shutting it off," I repeated for effect, with my sister fully aware that I'd been dedicated to learning everything I could about cars for about 12 years at that point. "That stuff about idling turbos is a myth," said her impatient, selfish college buddy. Any guess who she listened to?

'Zus are awesome. I once went into a dealership to buy a Jeep Wrangler and walked out with an Eagle Talon instead. Nine years later, still wanting a Jeep, I met my now wife, who drove a 99 Isuzu Amigo. I'm not a fan of the automatic gearbox, but man, that thing goes anywhere.

Thanks to Joe Isuzu, my thirst for Jeep is gone. Isuzu all the way.

The Trooper was an innovative tank. Multipoint fuel injection, introduced in 1987 in the 4ZE1 2.6 liter engine, prevents carburetor float bowl problems when driving at extreme angles. Its 4-wheel disc brakes are still unavailable on many "modern" SUV's.

It also got the coolest name for a 4WD, given to it by Holden Australia: The Jackaroo.

Agree with the Isuzu assesments. I had a 97 Trooper that was one of the best vehicles I've ever had. Had 150k miles on it when I got rid of it and still ran as good as on day one.

The Isuzu Trooper was the best vehicle ever made. It could go 455 miles on a pint of gas, they paid you to drive one, and it would never wear out.

You have my word on that. :}

CJinSD: "I wrote off many a nice car in my youth utilizing the efficient and dramatic single car crash technique, but girls are often the masters of the death of a thousand cuts."

Aaaaamen to that. I wrecked a few cars (or, rather, one car several times) as a teenager, but once I got that out of my system I've been fine. My wife, on the other hand - scrapes, bangs, weird spills, just general inattentiveness. I like beaters, but that treatment has turned our nice car into a beater prematurely.

Another shiny paint to dents and dings story here. My wife only cares about clutter in her brand-new 2009 Toyota Corolla when it's in the way of someone who needs to sit where the clutter is. Apart from that, it's not unusual for me to have to go out with a big plastic garbage bag and collect all kinds of crap before I can get to the business of cleaning it up. I'm guessing women treat their cars as a safety valve, tolerating a level of slovenliness they'd never tolerate in their homes.

And don't get me started on how hard she is on machines. Not just cars, but machines in general, particularly home appliances.

I bought a new '87 white Trooper with a "SE" package at model year closeout time. Traded a '77 Corvette in for it. The price for the thing was $13,999 if I remember. Great truck. Loved the stereo. Slept in the back on top of the fold down back seat so many times I still have aches. Took it to the back o' beyond and there again. Tinny, underpowered. Remeber one time in the Mazatal Mountains in AZ when I didn't think it would get me up a hill and out of there. Sold it in '93 for $7800 to the first person that looked at it. Probably had 32,000 miles on it. Bought a '93 F-250 4x4 460 ci single cab truck and put a Mountaineer (Tempe, AZ) bed shell on it. Called it my "cabin on wheels". I miss both of them.

I cringed when I read what happened to your Trooper and to others in the comments. If I ever end up with a wife and/or daughter that could care less about cars (such is life), I'm buying them something I don't really care about, but that I wouldn't totally mind being seen inside of.

My ex-wifes' teenage shit-for-brains daughter destroyed my Trooper II. As I handed her the keys, I said, "Remember - this won't handle like a Honda Accord." She got about two miles down a straight line country road. When the road curved - she drove it into a couple trees. She survived with no injury. My Trooper II was a write off.

I've been driving a 1998 Honda Passport (IOW 1998 Isuzu Rodeo) since 2000 - and I frequently find myself referring to it as my Isuzu Trooper. I still miss the big box.

Back in 1987 a friend bought a new one as his post-divorce car. I didn't ask whether if was because of the price or its utility. He wasn't a off-road SUV (Long before the term was invented) type, so it may have been an alternative to the Chrysler station wagon his ex-wife got.
He let me drive it a couple of times and I was amazed at its ride quality and ease of steering.
What I mainly recall is the gear shift..."knife through butter" as tyhe car magazines used to say.
I've never driven a stick...before or since...that was as smooth.
Oh yeah, one more thing. While waiting at a traffic light a hot soccer mom (again, long before the term was used) told me how much she liked it.
Maybe that was the reason my friend bought it?

Seems the Isuzu engineers thought of just about everything to make the Trooper as bulletproof as possible... except to survive the hands of teenage American girls, its only weakness, its cryptonite. >_<

Great story. I miss my '91 Trooper XS. I moved back to the NYC and felt I didn't need a truck but now I do have a car and it just can't take the rough roads here like that truck could and I miss being able to take it up in the north country with confidence.

Would like to buy vintage 88-91 Isuzu Trooper. 734-941-0300 x-153

My 89 trooper II is a daily driver and running fine. She has her share of dinks and doinks, but drives straight down the road, not a lick of rust, tough as nails, getting meaner and uglier by the day. I tell my kids "NEVER over 65 mph" if they happen to drive it; they prefer the softer side of automobiles with big sound. Someday I'll fix the radio...but it keeps those kids away!
My sister once wrecked my '62 Dodge Dart 4 times in one week. The 62 was the year before the downsize, it was a 6 passenger beast with a 440 stock under the hood, 1/4 steel all around, pushbutton auto, one sweet ride until she slipped in behind the wheel...probably saved her.

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