Sometimes when you hear hoofbeats it really is zebras.
I was in Bowling Green earlier this week, visiting the NCM Motorsports Park and watching Danger Girl grind through a five-day SCCA license school. On the second day of this odyssey, I saw a final-form Saab 9-5 parked up front, all slab-sided purity and mascara-black facial menace. There’s something profoundly depressing for me about those cars; whenever I see them I think of the narrator of Susan Minot’s “Lust” who, in a moment of shellshocked profundity, says, “I could have loved that one.” (Read More…)
Update: Automotive News is reporting General Motors is now focusing “on the higher end of the market while the Japanese firm sticks to selling vehicles for everyday commercial purposes,” strongly hinting that GM is the one that broke off the collaboration. We’ve added detail below.
(Or maybe GM caught Isuzu cheating behind its back. Who knows? The relationship dynamics at play between automakers are difficult to flesh out.)
Regardless, midsize trucks — badged as both Isuzus and Chevrolets — will be no more in the Land of Smiles. The duo, which has a truck plant each in Thailand, will decouple their R&D efforts as they move toward engineering new global midsize pickups.
Mazda is closing the door on its relationship with Ford and opting to partner with Isuzu for its next-generation pickup trucks.
The automaker announced a new agreement today that will see Isuzu build its next pickup model, bound for everywhere but North America. The two companies previously collaborated on a pickup solely for the Japanese market. (Read More…)
The Storm was the Geo-ized American-market version of the 1990-1993 Isuzu Gemini Coupe, and the GSi version was cheaper and more powerful than most of its sport-compact competition of the era. Most of them seemed to come in bright yellow paint, and most of them were crushed before they hit their tenth birthday. Still, some of them survived as long as any Civic Si or Sentra SE-R.
Here’s one that I found in a Denver-area self-service yard last year. (Read More…)
Remember the Isuzu Axiom? Of course you don’t, because this Rodeo-based SUV was sold (in tiny quantities) for just the 2002-2004 model years and was then replaced with the Chevy Trailblazer-clone Isuzu Ascender.
Oddball, 21st-century marketplace flops are interesting to me, for whatever reason, so we’ll follow up the Kia Rondo Junkyard Find with this Denver wrecking-yard inmate. (Read More…)
I suppose that I could be considered a “professional” car shopper. I mean, I am paid to spend my time checking out cars for sale across the web and report back what I find. It’s not my full-time gig (yet), but I guess it keeps me off the streets.
Over the years, my friends and acquaintances have decided to help me in my shopping. I’ll get emails with eBay links, get tagged in various Facebook groups (Mr. Zuckerberg, I’ll register as The Charity Rest Home for Wayward Amateur Auto Mechanics and Sentence Manglers for a bite at that $45 billion) and have my Twitter handle (@tonn_chris for those playing at home) added to tweeted Craigslist shares.
Last week, a good friend tagged me with a hot Kei-car not that far from home. However, were I to investigate that car, I’d need a camera crew and “Yakety Sax” dubbed in for the inevitable hilarity involved in getting my linebacker-sized frame in such a diminutive automobile. I’m still tempted, but it’s way out of my price range.
In Part One of this minitruckin’ history, we covered how the Big 3 provided their dealers with “captive import” minitrucks from Mazda, Isuzu, and Mitsubishi during the Seventies. By 1975 or thereabouts, both GM and Ford were convinced that the small-pickup market was not a fad and began digging their own products out of the parts bin.
The Chevrolet S-10/GMC S-15 was a sort of truck version of the A-body (later G-body) intermediate. While it’s not dimensionally identical to the older sedans, it’s possible to swap much of the running gear between those two vehicles, particularly ahead of the firewall. The Ford Ranger arrived a few months after the S-10, a few inches smaller in most dimensions and looking remarkably ungainly compared to its sleek GM competitor. Those of you who followed the minitrucking hobby in the Nineties will recall that the Ranger was conspicuous by its absence; “domestic” minitruckers were almost exclusively loyal to the S-10/S-15. Part of that was due to the Twin-I-Beam’s reluctance to accept a lowering kit and/or airbags, but much of it was the Ranger’s hokey, hick-ish appearance compared to the S-10.
So what did that mean for the captive import trucks?
I was having a conversation with a female friend a few weeks ago and she admitted to having “fooled around” in no fewer than four different brands of minitrucks during the Nineties and Oughties. I suppose in her case that would be the Noughties — but that’s besides the point. I should also mention that the fourth “minitruck” was really a Colorado, and the incident in question happened fairly recently.
“There’s always some kind of stick shift in the way, in those little trucks, you know?” she said.
“Those are the little crosses that empowered young women have to bear,” was my response.
The conversation could have gone in any number of directions from there, but where it actually went was to A Brief Discussion Of Mini-Trucks In America, 1970-2010. I thought it might be a conversation worth having with all of you, as well, because it showcases a rather unique phenomenon in American automotive history. (Read More…)
Most mainstream consumers don’t recall much about Isuzu. If asked, they’ll either remember their friends’ droptop Amigo back in college, or if they are of a certain age, they’ll know Joe Isuzu and his outlandish claims. Some enthusiasts might know Isuzu as the partner in numerous joint ventures with GM, Honda and Subaru, among others.
That said, Isuzu built some remarkably good SUVs worthy of both halves of that descriptor. The Trooper especially was a good, sturdy off-roader that could handle family duties.
However, for a few short years, Isuzu made a wacky, limited-edition truck that could handle nearly any terrain in style.
Last week, we began our occasional look back at the interesting cars I’ve been posting daily in our Classic and Collector Car forum. Maybe these cars aren’t quite worthy of the full Crapwagon treatment, so we call this the Forum ReCrap.
(To the 2 percent of our readers that are female, please recall that nearly all males — especially those who happen to love cars — are perpetually twelve years old, and thus still find toilet humor titillating.)
This week, the forum featured: an SUV from a tractor company; a modern shooting brake; a legendary FWD sports car that will likely be stolen; a Japanese-built, Italian-styled derivative of a Chevette; and a hatchback that was born from jets.
Way at the bottom of the comments on yesterday’s Hyundai Santa Cruz article was a reference to a vehicle that I think, if it was built today, would probably sell better today than it ever did when it was new.
The Isuzu VehiCROSS, for all its faults, is (almost) exactly what people are craving today in a crossover-fueled market: go-anywhere utility, a tall sitting position, and full wrap-around plastic body cladding. Oh, and you either love it or hate it, just like every other new, successful crossover hitting the market in America at the rate of 2.5 new models per second.