Boxy off-roaders are some of our favorite vehicles. The Jeep Wrangler, Land Rover Defender, Toyota Land Cruiser, Mercedes-Benz G-Class and Ford Bronco are both automotive icons and successful nameplates, racking up big bucks in both the new and used car markets. But there’s one boxy off-roader that is conspicuously left out of that craze: the Isuzu Trooper.
Isuzu built the Trooper from 1981 to 2002. If anything, it was boxier than those aforementioned overlanders; plus, it was just as capable and durable. Yet for whatever reason, it hasn’t had anything approaching the same renaissance as those other SUVs. Even the mintiest, rarest-spec Isuzu Trooper couldn't crack $25,000 on Bring a Trailer.
In other words: if you're looking for a vintage off-roader on a limited budget, an Isuzu Trooper could be a cool, unexpected option. Here's why it was so neat.
The Isuzu Trooper was a damn good SUV
The Trooper was about the boxiest SUV imaginable, with all of the good things that come with that. It was excessively upright, with massive windows and a tapered hood for excellent visibility. It offered as much as a voluminous 118 cubic feet of cargo space. The spare tire was where it belongs on an off-roader: affixed to the trademark split rear hatch and easily accessible.
The Trooper plenty of choices for buyers, too. It came, in different markets, boasting either a gasoline or diesel engine. You could buy a super-short 91-inch wheelbase version; you could fit it with a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic; in some markets, you could level up to seven seats as well.
Plus, various versions offered some fairly advanced off-roading tech for the time, including shift-on-the-fly four-wheel-drive, a Grade Logic system that automatically down-shifted on steep grades and a limited-slip differential.
The Trooper also used an independent front suspension, which every off-roader except the Jeep Wrangler has done, allowing for better ride quality. You couldn’t get a V8, but few off-roaders had one back in the Trooper's heyday.
Other car companies loved the Trooper, too
One unique thing with the Trooper was how well-traveled its design was. If you needed on SUV on the quick in the 1990s, Isuzu was there to offer the Trooper. Several automakers took them up on it. That rad-1990s SLX Acura resto-modded last year? That was a slightly modified Isuzu Trooper.
Besides the Acura SLX, the second-gen Isuzu Trooper was a Chevrolet, Holden, Honda, HSV, Opel, Subaru or Vauxhall, depending on the market. It also went by the monikers Jackaroo, Monterey, Horizon and Bighorn in other parts of the world. Thanks to the 25-year import rule, there's a good chance you could even have a version with your particular nameplate of choice.
Ironically, Isuzu replaced the Trooper with the Isuzu Ascender — a rebadged GM midsize SUV that was also at various points the Chevrolet TrailBlazer, GMC Envoy, Buick Rainier, Oldsmobile Bravada and Saab 9-7X.
The Isuzu Trooper is basically a Toyota 4Runner on a budget
The 4Runner may be the most bulletproof off-roader on the market. The problem with the 4Runner, though, is that it depreciates very slowly; a 25-year-old 4Runner in good shape will still cost you a pretty penny. The Isuzu Trooper has a lot of the same strengths regarding build quality, capability, and overall coolness. There are a fair number still kicking around with high mileage counts.
And it’s much cheaper. A well-cared-for later model with fewer than 100,000 miles can still be found for much less than $10,000. That said, the Trooper may bite your wallet a bit on the back end. It's probably going to be harder to find parts for a vintage Isuzu than a Toyota, considering, y'know, Izuzu doesn't sell cars in America anymore.