By on October 30, 2015

1999 Isuzu Vehicross

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.

The VehiCROSS was that special rig. Going against the grain of soft-roaders meant to appeal to families, the two-door VehiCROSS wore matte black plastic cladding over the lower third of the body to protect against the harsh elements. I wonder how the sheetmetal beneath is holding up in salt-laden climates.

This 1999 Isuzu VehiCROSS has 173,000 miles on the odometer, but looks quite clean for the age. The electric window winders have failed, apparently a weak spot on these trucks, though thankfully the windows are in the up position. The windows and the mileage explain the low $4,500 price, where clean trucks typically pull at least double this.

If I were a bit younger and unattached, I’d be all over this. I’d spend my weekends on ORV trails in the Appalachians, camping and getting muddy.

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41 Comments on “Crapwagon Outtake: 1999 Isuzu VehiCROSS...”

  • avatar

    Looks bionic, like the bottom part came from sea-lions.

    Damn Japanese will hunt anything to extinction.

  • avatar
    Big Al From 'Murica

    What no mention of the “handling by Lotus” Impulse?

  • avatar

    Way, way uglier than the Aztek.

    • 0 avatar

      Seriously disagree. Put this against an Aztec and you’ll come away wondering how Pontiac ever sold one. The problem with the VehiCROSS wasn’t it’s style, it was it’s timing and lack of advertising dollars.

      • 0 avatar

        …and price. It was 30 grand in 1999.

        • 0 avatar

          Holy High Hopes! 30 K back then for a jellybean Jeep?

          Sounds like wiser heads prevailed at Isuzu over someone’s pet project. Wiki says they built <6000 units with 1/4 for the JDM where of course it had trouble with displacement fines and road width.

          Too bad a cheaper version couldn't have been sold by Chevy as the Chevy Bounce.

    • 0 avatar

      Way disagree! This Isuzu is a concept that someone dared to build in production form. They’re hard to find, valuable, and very cool!

      Though silver was the most common color. Try finding a black or a yellow one.

  • avatar

    Ahead of it’s time stylistically. In a world where funky sells (aka Kia Soul), this would be a success these days.

    I also see an Isuzu Axiom around town and am struck how in profile the Dodge Journey resembles it so much. What was once super-advanced looking and clean is now pretty mundane.

    • 0 avatar
      Car Ramrod

      I always liked the axiom, but wondered how a small operation like Isuzu could afford to build both the Axiom and Rodeo on the same platform. Wasn’t the Axiom the more expensive one?

      • 0 avatar

        The Axiom was more expensive, and was killed by (ahead of it’s time) styling, and poor ride quality and interior.

        That was one issue with Isuzu. They built the Rodeo (or Vauxhall Frontera, or Opel Frontera, or Honda Passport, or Holden Jackaroo), VehiCROSS, and Axiom on the same platform, and had the gall to stick the same interior in each.

      • 0 avatar

        I think the Axiom was originally intended to replace the Rodeo, but realizing that they could milk a bit more profit out of the Rodeo, they kept it in production as a entry-level model.

  • avatar

    This was a cutting edge vehicle at the time, unique styling and advanced 4 wheel drive system. However the engine was a bit weak given the sporty exterior. And as mentioned it was priced in the “what were they thinking” category.

    I owned a Rodeo from mid 1996 to early 1997 and I couldn’t get rid of that thing fast enough, it was thristy and ill handling. Ironically while know for their off-road awesomeness this is the only vehicle I have ever gotten stuck “off road”. I pulled over to do some fishing near a small pond and the stupid Rodeo with big, knobby tires couldn’t get itself back to the main road without a tow. Granted it was a muddy trail but I saw guys with “lesser” trucks (like Ford Rangers) back there all the time.

  • avatar

    But what about the VehiCross IRONMAN, for the ultimate in douchebaggery – an overpriced small ute with overpriced carbon bicycles on top?

  • avatar

    The market for a weird looking coupe SUV was always going to be small, but IIRC any two door imported truck was subject to the 25% “Chicken Tax” that intentionally and effective made the pricing unrealistic.

    On the other hand the late 90’s Troopers were awesome, still miss my ’96 to this day.

  • avatar

    “Trooper especially was a good, sturdy off-roader that could handle family duties.”

    And by “family duties” you must mean a transmission change/rebuild every 60,000 miles. Other than that, the Trooper was nice*.

    *Though should have had 7 seats in it, like it got in ALL other markets.

    • 0 avatar

      Buy the basic “S” model with steel wheels, black plastic bumpers, and a rock solid manual transmission and problem solved :) That’s actually a dream vehicle of mine, what a weirdo I am.

    • 0 avatar
      Dave M.

      Came in to say THIS. I love my Trooper, and that car has been everywhere. But at 230k miles and it’s third transmission (and now making noises AGAIN), the GM-sourced French-made 4L30E shared with BMW sucks. It kills me they didn’t simplify to either an M30 or 4L60E, which would cost $1500 to repair/place instead of my usual $3-3500.

  • avatar

    It looks like the type of car that would be in a late 80’s sci-fi movie to show what ordinary cars look like in the future.

    But I actually like it.

    • 0 avatar

      You’re either trolling or tres perceptive:
      Not just a Vehicross; a CONVERTIBLE Vehicross. Because they just couldn’t wait for the Murano Cabriolet.

  • avatar

    Interesting looking vehicle design. There’s a clean one on the Minneapolis CL with 79K miles for $6300/OBO.

  • avatar

    Ugly face; looks like a fat river catfish.

  • avatar

    Never seen one of these things before, and I never knew that Isuzu would have the cojones produce such a bold design… I’m guessing they were never sold in Canada. My take: Does the Pontiac Aztek thing a lot better than the Aztek.

  • avatar

    The Vehicross is interesting for its use of soft tooling to reduce costs. Also this was Isuzu’s second production concept. The Impulse/Piazza (depending on market) was based on the Ace of Spades show car.

    • 0 avatar

      Pretty sure the show car was the Ace of Clubs. Originally intended to be a Porsche, I believe, although I can’t back that up.

      • 0 avatar

        Sorry, guess I was having a Motörhead moment, you are right that the car was the Ace of Clubs but Wikipedia says it was commissioned by Isuzu using a modified Chevette floorpan. Porsche had nothing to do with these, although Lotus and Irmscher did suspension tuning. The styling is very similar to the second generation VW Scirocco.

  • avatar

    Hey I owned a 2001 Vehicross and loved it. Okay it was a bit bulky, awkward, had a few minor flaws… But definitely one of the first test model SUVs before it’s time.

  • avatar

    Crapwagon this is not. It may look weird, but that doesnt make it crap.

    I have had two Isuzus, a 1996 Hombre (cloned S10) which was terrible and a 1986 Trooper two door 4wd 5spd which was awesome until the manual trans took a dump.

    Id take a VehiCROSS today hands down. Its a true off road capable SUV (like my Trooper), not a pretend poser vehicle. Im not in love with the way it looks, but I dont dislike it. Id buy it for its capability, and probably for its odd styling which will always spark questions from those who have never seen one.

  • avatar

    Funny, I was just reading about the VehiCROSS yesterday!

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