By on April 17, 2012

Some examples of badge engineering are ridiculous yet wonderful, others made a lot of sense for both companies… and some just make you clutch your head in dismay. The Honda Passport is the clutch-your-head type.
Honda could do no wrong in North America from the mid-1970s through the early 1990s, but then came the big missteps. There was the Accord wagon (which flopped), and then the CRX became the Del Sol (which drove away the young male buyers who loved the CRX), and then there were all those slow-selling Acuras. Then Detroit started getting rich from minivans and SUVs, and Honda didn’t have either type (the Wagovan and the original Odyssey were too small for Americans to take seriously and thus don’t count). What to do?
What Honda did was make a deal with Isuzu to slap Honda badges on the Isuzu Rodeo. For the first time, Honda buyers would be purchasing a General Motors product.
The Passport wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t likely to run for as many trouble-free miles as an Accord. Fortunately for Honda, the company will always have a good source of revenue in Asia. I had forgotten about the Passport until I saw this one in a Denver self-service yard.

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53 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1996 Honda Passport...”

  • avatar

    SIA Subaru Isuzu America is in Lafayette IN.

    Honda either didn’t want to spend the money on an SUV or didn’t have the time. But this vehicle got Honda into the market quickly without long development time.

    And Honda later returned the favor to GM by selling them V6 engines for Saturn.

  • avatar

    Even more horrible was the Acura SLX.

    • 0 avatar

      For some reason I vividly remember the SLX television spot where the Acu-Trooper is bounding through a forest and its side mirror _automatically_ folds to avoid contact with a tree trunk. I thought that was so cool. But then, I was eleven.

      • 0 avatar

        I remember the comercial with the trooper climbing up an office building. I remember then thinking that Acura was screwed trying to sell Isuzus because they had no SUV

    • 0 avatar

      Possibly the worst vehicle Honda ever put their name on. A friend of mine had one and every week it seemed like something was falling off. The Passport was held together with tape and paper clips. In fact the one pictured probably wasn’t stripped – they just all look like that by now…

  • avatar
    Carlson Fan

    “For the first time, Honda buyers would be purchasing a General Motors product”

    Well not really. There was absoulutely nothing “GM” about an Isuzu at that time. Not that there is anything wrong with an Isuzu, my buddy owned an Isuzu PU. Not the rebadged S10. If you want to sensationalize, then go ahead say it……LOL

    • 0 avatar

      So the “Delco” coil packs and “Weatherpack” connectors on these things are not GM? As someone who had/has to work on them, they have the distinct “flavor” of GM engineering. They are actually fairly reliable, just totally different then the way Honda does things. And even new they had the worst, wandering, floating ride quality.

    • 0 avatar

      Isuzu and GM have long done business with one another (see: ). I had an early 91 Rodeo, made down the road from me here in Lafayette, IN. It had a 2.8 liter GM V6 in it. Massive turd.

      I’ve driven hundreds of Rodeos, Passports, Wizards, Amigo / Rodeo Sport, and MUs, in all forms including turbo diesel RHD models. Absolutely no differences, but the Honda cloth felt nicer.

      Isuzu has since been replaced by Toyota, and the Camry has taken its place on the assembly line alongside the Legacy variants and Tribeca.

  • avatar

    These were the most un-Honda-like vehicle possible for a rebadge. Didn’t seem to manage to fool many Americans either.

  • avatar

    I had one of these in my fleet.
    Had to change the clutch, and it took a week after doing so to get the transmission wiring correct down there. The wires were all similar colors and were bullet connectors that could plug into whatever and get really confused. The thing I remember most though was OIL in that V6. Burns oil, leaks oil, sludge in the oil, need to use diesel oil. Honda says using a qt every 1000 miles is normal. This was on a car that barely cracked 100k miles. I could always hear the guy coming by it’s signature lifter tick. “Ticktickticktick”, which, you will hear from all of these if you encounter one on the street. Should have been re-badged as a Chrysler product during this time period. Would have matched the oil plumes coming from their minivans and made for less head-scratching.

  • avatar

    The Rodeo was a decent SUV for the times. I had several friends and family that had good luck with them. I think the early ones may have had that dreaded GM V6 that ruined the Trooper, but not sure. The back seat in these things was cavernous, one of the few mid-sized SUV’s that could carry 4 adults in comfort on a long road trip.

  • avatar

    Most buyers are clueless so it works. I heard one older dude exclaim “I didn’t know you guys could work on Infinitis like mine…”. I look out at a Q-whatever badged Nissan Pathfinder in the parking lot, when I was at one of the top auto body repair shops in my town.

  • avatar
    Matt Fink

    I don’t believe this deal didn’t have anything to do with the Saturn Vues using Honda V6’s. Honda was buying Troopers and Rodeos and rebadging them in exchange for selling Isuzu the Odyssey to rebadge as the “Oasis”, plus another car sold in Japan.

    We had a Rodeo… I mean Passport as well. I had completely forgot the “tickticktick”, that’s great. Terrible interior quality, but it was a beast off-road.

  • avatar

    The funny thing is, at the time, the Rodeo was cheaper than the Pissport, and had a longer warranty. As a Honda tech, these things were dumped on us to work on, with very little training/info. If an owner was smart, he’d buy a Rodeo and have it worked on by Isuzu techs who were used to working on them.

    • 0 avatar

      I worked for Acura in the early ’00’s, prime time for SLXs to be serviced at a dealer, and seeing one of these getting dumped off in the morning was a sign that the day could turn horrible for you the very next time you went for an RO. Seeing someone else pull it into their bay was such a relief! Even service work on these sucked. The auto transmission didn’t even have a dip stick!

      You’re definitely right about being thrown to the wolves to work on these bastards. The “Honda Service Manual” was fully printed by…whoever it was printed by, so things like wiring schematics and connector diagrams were completely different than Honda’s standard layout/configuration. That just made diagnostics worse.

      • 0 avatar

        We still have a few Pissports that come into the Honda shop where I work. Basically Honda doesn’t support these things anymore, so the only “offical” diagnostic tools are worn out/broken or lost and can’t be replaced. Know what you’re saying about the dread of seeing one of these sitting in the “bull pen”. I’ve probably just jinxed myself and will get one today.

        For whatever reason, Honda took the time to “Honda-ize” the ETM, but the Service Manuals were a TOTALLY different format/style then the standard Honda S/M’s.

  • avatar

    A friend of mine still has his Rodeo as an estate vehicle with 190k miles on the clock. I offer to purchase it from him from time to time. He refuses. Great truck, I’ve no problem with Isuzu and wish they were still around.

  • avatar

    You have to wonder just how gut wrenching it was for a Honda dealer to sell an Isuzu as a Honda. These are nasty embarrassments, right up there with Cadillac Cavaliers.

    • 0 avatar
      Steven Lang

      No, Isuzu had a very good reputation in the 1990’s when it came to trucks and SUV’s.

      The Rodeo in particular outsold all other imported SUV’s for several years and creamed the Toyota 4Runner in that regard.

      Given Honda’s penchant for building defective transmission for their V6’s, an Isuzu SUV in the Honda dealership was likely a good thing.

      • 0 avatar

        Yup. Isuzu practically invented the SUV segment. Ford took the mantle from them with the Explorer. I would say in ’96 Isuzu was in the beginning of its fast decline – but was a respected maker through the early 90’s.

      • 0 avatar

        Yeh in Jan 93 I was torn between a Rodeo and a Maxda MX3GS with the 1.8 V6
        Then I drove them both and bought the Mazda FUN car

      • 0 avatar

        Agreed-Isuzu did and still has a strong name in trucks and commercial vehicles. They just couldn’t get untracked or established when it came to passenger cars.

        The Rodeo/Passport wasn’t a bad car. It’s just that rebadged cars of any sort generally don’t have a very long life in the marketplace once the public catches on. Look at the Geo Prizm/Nova, which was a Corolla in a GM dress. Just didn’t really catch on.

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    I have financed multiple tons of these vehicles over the years.

    The ‘tick ‘tick’ of the small lifters is almost impossible to resolve. It’s not fatal though. Fatalities typically come from three oil derived sources…

    1) Oil pump

    2) Oil leaks (you typically have to replace valve covers and rear main seals before it hits 100k)

    3) Oil changes – Extending oil changes past 5k is pretty much a death sentence if you have the 3.2 Liter V6

    Also, the brake system on these vehicles can be an amazing pain to deal with. They chew through ABS sensors, cough out master cylinders, and spit out rotors.

    These SUV’s are cheap to buy… tough to finance.

  • avatar

    I remember when these first came out, I was working as a lackey at the auto parts store. We hadn’t updated the computer catalogs yet, and he was looking for an oil filter for it. being 20 years old and being somewhat knowledgeable about this badge-enginneered car looked it up as a Rodeo. Customer saw the listing on the screen and screamed at me about giving him the wrong parts. I told him that I didn’t have a listing for the Passport, but I do have one for the Rodeo which is what he has, and if he were to look at the engine and everywhere else it’ll say Isuzu Motors. He then insisted that Honda made them for IM.

    About two hours later he came back and apologized. After that he’d come in and ask for me whenever he needed parts for any of his cars. I had quite a reputation as being accurate and had the ability to find the most obscure parts for just about any car or to point the owner to the right places.

    Never realized how mushy these things were till I drove one while working at the dealership.

  • avatar

    The Honda Accord Wagon was only a sales flop, as a car it was excellent. American buyers and car manufacturers were ramping up for SUV sales at the time and could give a crap less about a well done wagon.

    • 0 avatar

      I still see the occasional Accord wagon on the road. I think I spot more Accord wagons than Camry wagons. I smile every time I see one because they have that nice body style with the addition of useful cargo space. My parents had a ’94 Accord sedan and it was a great car. So it’s too bad they dropped the wagon option so quickly.

    • 0 avatar

      Indeed, I was admiring an Accord wagon yesterday. they really did do a nice job on it, too bad there aren’t more of them around.

    • 0 avatar

      The Taurus wagon was better than both the Accord and Camery wagons, and outsold them both. Ford even exported the wagon to Japan, where Japanese buyers preferred tham as well. Toyota got wind of this; and mandated that Ford install larger fuel tanks in the Japan Taurus. The floorpan could not accomidate the larger tank; and instead Ford shut down their entire export line, and only built them for domestic use.

      The Taurus built for export to Japan had right hand drive, different lights, an dno crossbars on the luggage rack. There is even a paper model of one for free on the web; I modified it into a paper model of my Taurus.

  • avatar

    This vehicle fooled me back in 1996. I was looking for a truck to tow a small boat and I figured if it was good enough for Honda to re-badge it must be half-way decent.

    Boy was I wrong… I owned my brand new Rodeo for all of about 8 months before selling it. Terrible handling, odd/cheap switch gear, sucky gas mileage, did I mentioned the horrible handling? Ugh! It even managed to get stuck in light mud so its off road abilities were over-rated as far as I was concerned. I’ve never hated a vehicle so much, the wife down right refused to drive it too. Its only good feature: the lifted stance and off road tires made for easy driving in the rain.

  • avatar

    In 1996/97 I remember going to the Honda dealer with my parents. They had just gotten the first CR-V shipment ever and my mother wanted one. My dad looked at the Passport and thought maybe we should get that instead. Mom and I talked him out of it. Hadnt thought about the Passport since then.

    That CR-V was good to us, never had any problems with it. They just recently got rid of it actually, wish I had bought it from them. Oh well I have enough cars.

  • avatar

    A lot of people seem to forget Honda’s little 1978 sin of the aluminum engine and tranny Accord, which won Car of the Year and then went on to end up on several “worst of all times list.”

    Between self-destructing engines and transmissions and interiors that fell apart faster than Detroit’s worst, the ’78 Accord was – awful. Unlike Detroit, Honda didn’t bury their head up their butts and adjusted very quickly. The rest is as they say history…

  • avatar

    Front end collision damage and it didn’t blow the airbags. Scary.

  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    I’ve seen several of these parked in various places since the first year of sales but I’ve only ever seen one “on the road”. It was the late 1990s and I was home on a weekend for college when we headed out to my Uncle Denny’s farm to spend a little time with that side of the family. An ice storm hit and when it was time to go home Dad decided this was a good time for me to learn how to drive in adverse conditions. I piloted his B-body Caprice wagon the 12 miles home down deserted state highways. About half way there we came upon one of these new Passports (in fire engine red and with 4×4 badges) crawling along. I was going faster than he was in a RWD wagon… I decided either those Passport/Isuzus had a really horrible 4×4 system or the driver had NO IDEA what they were doing.

  • avatar

    They must have been forgettable. When I hear “Honda Passport”, me default mental image is of something a lot smaller, and with only two wheels.

  • avatar
    Toy Maker

    I was pressuring my parents hard to get a Passport when we first arrived in Canada in 95. It looked good on the copy of consumer guide we had. I don’t believe it got the “recommended” sticker back then neither.

    Mom came *this* close to getting the Passport, but in the end settled for a ’96 Dodge Neon because a relative worked at a Dodge dealership. Colour me disappointed.

  • avatar

    This reminds me of reading a website in the late 90’s that made fun of SUVs. The Passport was described as “Your ticket to nowhere”. It was definitely worth a laugh or two.

  • avatar

    “figured…good enough for Honda to re-badge it must be half-way decent.”

    Reality is Honda is a business first, and were greedy enough to find a quickie SUV. Honda and Toyota got their reps from making the same basic car and improving gradually. But whenever they bring anything different, [Passport, Odyssey, Tundra,] they show true colors. Like GM X cars, if a design is pushed through, guess who pays?

  • avatar
    bill mcgee

    A friend had one I believe a bit later version with the V6/automatic. He also seemed clueless about who made it and said that he was surprised that a Honda could be such a POS. As I recall the transmission failed prematurely and expensively . After that there were other problems and he was glad when his daughter wrecked it . A woman I occasionally work for uses her husband’s Rodeo as a work vehicle . It’s the four with a stick , even older than this one. I’ve driven it sometimes -it’s a bit of a piece of junk but it’s been pretty trouble free. I think the more basic ones are more reliable than a loaded Passport. As crude as these are it always seemed an odd choice for Honda .Also I wondered at the time why they kept selling it alongside the CRVs as they didfor a while but possibly contractual agreements with Isuzu .

  • avatar

    Being that I live where rust forgot even exists, cars like these tend to live long lives, as long as the power train holds up. I think I still see these on occasion, as I do the first Oddys.

    I also still see Accord wagons – all years a fair amount,though not as much as I did even a couple of years ago as they die off from use over time.

    I have heard that the wagon owners remain loyal to them as they are so useful/practical, reliable and comfy as they were just an extension of the Accord sedan and thus don’t get rid of them until they finally give up the ghost with mucho miles accumulated or get totaled etc.

    My best friend had a white with blue interior 91 Accord wagon that he wished he’d kept and I even tried to buy it back in 2004 but could not finagle financing on it at the time and my oldest sister and her current hubby once had one for a brief time, again, white with blue interior and I believe also a ’91.

    The Del Sol may not have sold as well as the CRX, but they DID sell well, at least out on the West coast anyway – to guys and gals. I had a friend who had bought a brand new 95 green one and it’s a fun car.

  • avatar

    Honda also rebadged another 4×4 in the 1990s – the Land Rover Discovery for sale in Japan and some other eastern markets.

  • avatar

    Passport wagon…I’ll pass.

  • avatar

    anyone know where i can get some hubs for one of these?

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