By on September 6, 2016

1996 Isuzu Oasis in Colorado junkyard, LH front view - ©2016 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

One of the best things about haunting high-inventory-turnover self-service junkyards is finding really rare vehicles. Sometimes those ultra-rare machines are ancient European cars nobody remembers, sometimes they are commonplace cars with options nobody ordered, and sometimes they are obscure imported minivans that disappeared without a trace.

Today’s Junkyard Find is the third type, with a bewildering badge-engineering subplot that made sense to about a half-dozen suits in Japan.

1996 Isuzu Oasis in Colorado junkyard, emblem - ©2016 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

I still haven’t managed to find a Suzuki Equator in the junkyard, but I have been hunting for a junked Isuzu Oasis for many years. Finally, here’s a first-year example that showed up last week in a Denver yard.

1996 Isuzu Oasis in Colorado junkyard, engine - ©2016 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

The Oasis was really a first-generation Honda Odyssey minivan, and it was the result of the deal that allowed Honda to sell Isuzu Rodeos as Honda Passports (confusingly, the Honda Super Cub — most-produced motor vehicle of all time — was sold in the United States with Passport badging). While Honda vehicles in the mid-to-late-1990s had an enviable reputation for quality and value, Isuzu was an edge-case marque that few considered when minivan shopping.

1996 Isuzu Oasis in Colorado junkyard, interior - ©2016 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

The first-generation Odyssey was amazingly space-efficient and drove well, but (much like the Mazda5 today) it was a bit too Japanese (i.e., small and underpowered) for American minivan shoppers. The poor Oasis never had a chance in the showrooms.

1996 Isuzu Oasis in Colorado junkyard, grille emblem - ©2016 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

Sales were miserable, and it appears that most Oases ended up as New York City taxicabs. This one may have been the only example remaining in Colorado.

[Images: © 2016 Murilee Martin/The Truth About Cars]

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55 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1996 Isuzu Oasis...”


  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    Someone needs to bag those front wheel knuckles for their 90-97 Accord 5 lug swap……

  • avatar
    Joss

    I find Oasis subdued 90’s styling a heck of a lot more attractive than todays angular vacuums.

    • 0 avatar
      Kenmore

      Agreed. Very Honda Clean with airy greenhouse.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      Just think how inadequate the owner of an Oasis felt when a dustbuster Olds Silhouette pulled up next to it at the lights.

      • 0 avatar
        Kenmore

        I want an NOS dustbuster SO badly!

        That would be like shrinking to Japanese size and driving an older Fit.

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        The Cadillac of minivans. Chili Palmer says so.

        • 0 avatar
          CoreyDL

          Sitting there in your four cylinder Oasis, when a black over tan Silhouette comes up, lace alloys gleaming!

          • 0 avatar
            APaGttH

            With plastic panels (with horrific gaps) and the GM 3.8L V6, basically as long as you did the required maintenance by the book the Olds was unkillable.

            Bizzaro styling, and for the love of God don’t get the power sliding doors or the air suspension. They don’t rust per se, the 3.8L just goes and goes and goes (again, as long as you do what you’re supposed to do in caring for it) and although the seat fabric and carpet stains just looking at it, they are made out space shuttle tiles and just — last (reference junk yard find pics of American interiors of the era)

          • 0 avatar
            tresmonos

            APaGttH, you wash your dirty mouth and take back what you said about the Doraville build quality.

            I spent my childhood in a series of these U body vans from 1992 all the way through a Montana in 1998.

            The all plastic body panel panel variant was between ’94 and ’96. The seats were perfect for a bunch of little grade school to middle school aged kids.

            Our plastic paneled U body missed the 3800 as it was a 1996 with the 3400.
            The rear air compressor was by far the most intelligent feature I’ve seen for a family hauler. It blew up many air mattresses and fixed many blown bike tires during camping trips.

            Thank god we never got smoked in a head on collision, though.

  • avatar
    2drsedanman

    I had a 1997 Honda Odyssey. Underpowered for sure, but it got decent mileage, ran good, and had great site lines. I gave it to my Mom many years ago and the engine finally let go this past spring with 189,000 miles on it.

    I like open greenhouses and good site lines, which I guess explains why I got another Sienna. I would like to see this metric included in car surveys to see how important it is to buyers. I wonder if that is some of the draw for people who buy Subarus.

  • avatar
    dividebytube

    The Honda Passport, aka Isuzu Rodeo, were quite popular for a time. The *joke was that buyers thought they were getting Honda quality in their SUV.

    *I have no idea how reliable these were but I’m way more likely to see an Accord from this era than a Passport.

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      Early in Passport production I had the misfortune of getting stuck behind one after an ice storm had coated our little corner of Ohio. I was driving Dad’s mid 80s B-body wagon and making better progress than this Passport with 4×4 badges. If Dad hadn’t been in the car with me I would have passed the Passport on a flat Ohio state highway.

    • 0 avatar
      dukeisduke

      I still see Rodeos every once in awhile, but not as many as I used to. I see an Odyssey or Oasis occasionally, too.

    • 0 avatar
      JMII

      As an ex-Honda fan I got sucked into the Isuzu Rodeo thinking if it was good enough for Honda to put their name on it must be decent. WRONG! That Rodeo holds the record for the least amount of time in my driveway. I bought it new and sold it 8 months later. Terrible, terrible vehicle. It got stuck in some slightly moist ground near a lake where I was fishing and had to be towed out. So it had terrible on road AND off road manners. And to think I traded a near perfect ’89 Prelude Si for that lumbering thing.

      Now where is the Isuzu version of my Dodge Dakota? Those are only slightly more common than this Oasis.

      • 0 avatar
        gtemnykh

        @PrincipalDan and JMII

        I don’t see how a Rodeo/Passport with a functioning part time 4wd system would be any more prone to poor traction than anything else, unless they both had bald tires or something? Nothing about their 4wd system makes them any less capable than any other 1990s vintage SUV.

        • 0 avatar
          PrincipalDan

          It was my first experience with SUV lifestyle vehicle posers who had no idea what their vehicle was capable of and therefore were likely more dangerous than if they had just gotten an Accord

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        No such thing as the Isuzu version of the Dakota. When the majority of the Japanese mfgs bailed out of the pickup market and went the re-badge route they continued to dance with the partner that brought them to America. So we had the Mazda Ranger, Isuzu S-10/Colorado and the Mitsubishi Dakota if you wanted a mini truck with a Japanese brand name but not a Toyota or Nissan.

        • 0 avatar

          The Mitsubishi badged version of the Dakota was the Mitsubishi Raider

          • 0 avatar
            JMII

            gtemnykh – not sure why but it is literally the only vehicle I have even gotten stuck. I pulled my boat with a Ford Ranger for a few years and managed to climb out of boat ramps that were nothing more then a notch cut into a river bank.

            madanthony – that’s what I was thinking of… Mitsubishi. So rare I forget who rebadged them.

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            Well JMII I’m willing to bet that most other midsize SUVs would have gotten just as stuck in that moist ground. Sometimes spots of level ground can be deceivingly slick. I was almost stuck a few weekends ago on what turned out to be a very slick little piece of two-track that cut through some brush to avoid a big mudhole. There was my big beefy 4Runner with its foot of ground clearance, locking rear diff, etc. almost immobilized by what looked to be a perfectly innocuous situation. My all season tires didn’t help, but even all terrains would have struggled in that kind of snotty/silty mud. I realized my predicament and very smoothly and slowly backed out. Had a spun my wheels a bunch, I would have simply dug myself in, as my tires have very poor self-cleaning action, as opposed to proper mud-terrains.

          • 0 avatar
            Drzhivago138

            And the Mitsu Raider was more than a rebadge in my book, since it had a unique front clip and bed sides. Same cab, though.

      • 0 avatar
        Dilrod

        I had one of their pickups of this vintage, I think it had the same motor. Busted a valve at like 80k.

        It was death on ice. 30 mph or you were heading to the ditch.

        • 0 avatar
          JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

          The Isuzu trucks (“P’up”) used the 2.3L I had in my Trooper (one year only for Trooper, continued in the truck and 2wd Amigo). They had a pretty high failure rate. The engine in my Trooper had been replaced previously, truck had like 150k at the time.

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

      Their GM-sourced automatic seemed to be the most common failure point. My buddy was trying to get one going last week for a single-mother coworker.

      I found lots of Rodeo/Passport parts junkers, almost all said “bad transmission” or that it was sold.

      • 0 avatar
        Dave M.

        The GM-sourced French-made BMW-shared auto tranny in the Trooper was it’s glass jaw; I’ve replaced mine twice now and continue to keep my fingers crossed at 250k miles.

        The Trooper’s Honda doppelganger was the Acura SLX…after my deer strike 2 years ago I put the classy SLX grill on and like the look. I can imagine the Passport and SLX owner’s ire when their cars weren’t nearly as reliable as Hondas. OTOH the Oasis owners must have thought they struck the lottery.

        Soon enough though the CR-V, MDX and Pilot made things right in the Honda world; the could pull their pants up after Honda was caught at the beginning of the SUV craze with no product or plans.

        A crazy marriage to say the least.

  • avatar
    johnhowington

    underpowered and couldnt drive comfortably past 62mph. it was louder then a 6hp snapper lawnmower.

  • avatar
    Roberto Esponja

    Wonder why someone took a hammer to its odometer, climate control and radio.

  • avatar
    DevilsRotary86

    “The Oasis was really a first-generation Honda Odyssey minivan, and it was the result of the deal that allowed Honda to sell Isuzu Rodeos as Honda Passports”

    And don’t forget, Isuzu Troopers as Acura SLX’s!

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    A first generation Odyssey is almost exactly what I am looking for, if I could get one brand new. Great sightlines. Good mileage. Expansive seating for 4 plus luggage and/or the dog. Decent seating for 6 when required.

    There are still a remarkable number on the road in southern Ontario, demonstrating reliability/durability.

    A much more logical choice than a CUV and a more useful size than today’s supersized mini-vans.

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      In Siberia I’d see the AWD JDM variants of these, very versatile vehicles. The rear control arms on the AWD variants are surprisingly beefy looking, almost like what the Ridgeline rear suspension looks like.

      My relatives in Moscow had a German-market Honda ‘Shuttle’ (gen 1 Odyssey) for quite a while when they still had their rottweiler and made frequent trips to their dacha summer home and hauled tools and seedlings. That thing did pretty well in Moscow traffic, my uncle is a pretty aggressive driver and really kept that 2.2L on the boil, the car would hold 90mph on the highway pretty easily and didn’t feel too overworked, even with a full load of passengers. The key there being keeping the engine at full song.

  • avatar
    Scoutdude

    A friend of mine had one of these when they decided it was time for a minivan. The Isuzu dealer was much more willing to deal than the Honda dealer and their ADP sticker which meant that he saved something like $3K vs a similarly equipped version carrying a Honda badge.

  • avatar
    scrubnick

    Wasn’t there a good story about someone who had one and swapped Honda badges on to get out of parking tickets? The cop would write down that it’s a Honda and he’d show up (with the Isuzu badges back on) with his registration showing it’s an Isuzu.

  • avatar
    Sigivald

    I keep reading the valve cover as “15 valve”, which I’m just going to assume is the true design of this engine, because that’s an awesome idea.

    Symmetry is overrated.

  • avatar
    kclindley

    I’m driving a 1996 Oasis now. We bought it new and it’s been very reliable as we expected since it’s essentially an Accord. We bought the Oasis as it was a few thousand less than the Odyssey. In 20 years I’ve only paid for one service – timing belt, water pump at 100,000. I’ve taken good care of it and have changed the oil, trans, plugs, brake pads, air cleaner, etc. myself. Up until a few months ago that’s all I had ever done to it. Recently I replaced the radiator and starter which didn’t take too much effort. It’s amazing to me that it still drives very well and is very tight. The AC still works perfectly and has never needed refrigerant. It is under-powered and looking well worn as the clear coat and paint are fading, but it still gets me to work.

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    As a very occasional NYC taxi customer I was always OK with the Oasis/Odyssey. It had good ingress/egress and was more than roomy for my 6’2′ self and a piece of luggage in the rear. The Crown Vics were not as roomy especially with the large divider until they introduced the L version.

  • avatar
    jamescyberjoe

    Who remembers Joe Isuzu?

  • avatar
    CombiCoupe99

    Possibly rare in Denver, but almost two years after this article was written, I still see one a month in the DC area.

    My neighbor has the Honda version – awesome 355′ visibility.

    Not rare – at least not here, not yet.


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