By on December 18, 2017

1993 Isuzu Amigo in California wrecking yard, RH front view - ©2017 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars
The family tree of the Isuzu Faster pickup, best known in North America as the Chevrolet LUV, developed a thick branch of models that included some decent-selling SUVs. The two-door Amigo was the first of these to hit our shores.

Here’s a high-mile example spotted in a San Francisco Bay Area self-service wrecking yard.

1993 Isuzu Amigo in California wrecking yard, odometer - ©2017 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars
This Amigo is a rear-wheel-drive model with five-speed manual and air conditioning. Its California smog-check records show passed biennial emissions tests going back to the middle 1990s, so it appears to have been a reliable commuter machine, racking up more than 10,000 Golden State highway miles each year.

1993 Isuzu Amigo in California wrecking yard, engine - ©2017 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars
The Amigo’s four-door big brother, the Rodeo, could be had with a GM 3.1-liter V6 in 1993, but Amigo drivers had to accept the 119-horse, 2.6-liter straight-four.

1993 Isuzu Amigo in California wrecking yard, pillar emblem - ©2017 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars
It’s vaguely outdoorsy-looking, but it’s likely nearly all of its miles were spent in stop-and-go traffic on the deteriorating tarmac of California’s roads. Part of the reason for the death of the manual transmission in the American market is the preference for as little left-leg activity as possible during an 11-mile/90-minute commute, but the driver(s) of this car lived with the five-speed. In any case, the Amigo had a sportier image than, say, a 1993 Honda Del Sol, and perhaps that eased the pain of those hundreds of thousands of 0.75 mph clutch applications.

1993 Isuzu Amigo in California wrecking yard, canvas top - ©2017 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars
The interior and cloth top are in pretty good condition, indicating that this Amigo’s owner or owners garaged it for most of its life. I didn’t see any major crash damage, so an expensive mechanical failure is the likely culprit that doomed this truck.


The first-generation Amigo was sold in the United States for the 1989 through 1995 model years (it returned in 1998), and this retro commercial riffs on the brain-scrambling Slinky ads of two decades earlier.

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40 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1993 Isuzu Amigo...”


  • avatar
    CaptainObvious

    I never drove one or rode in one – but I always thought these looked pretty cool. Plus, I liked the removable top.

  • avatar
    RangerM

    I don’t know if these were in any way related to the Isuzu P’up, but those (P’up) trucks were surprisingly reliable over years of abuse.

    I worked summers in the ’80s for a company that owned several (stripper models) and never saw them as any less (mechanically) reliable than the comparable Toyota/Nissans of the day; although I remember them being slower.

  • avatar
    arach

    I owned one!

    This is not a good junkyard find because its RWD… they are readily available in good shape with 4WD, and that is where they are awesome.

    I sold mine to buy a Jeep CJ7, and then a Wrangler TJ… GIVE ME BACK THE AMIGO seriously. I know there’s tons of jeep faithful, but the amigo was cheaper to work on, more reliable, and frankly a bit nicer ;)

    too bad there weren’t more sold so there’s some good support. I could never find more than a 2″ lift kit, and it handled itself offroad. given the support for the geo, I thought there’d be support for the Amigo, but it was virtually impossible to find ANYTHING. Fortunately it never broke. Like I couldn’t break it. The failure rate of my Wranglers to my Amigo are like 100:1. I mudded it, I highway drove it, I sloshed through snow and sleet.

    Besides the inability to modify it extensively, I was quite impressed. Despite the motor being too small, the transmission handled it pretty well and I never found it any worse to drive than an I6 wrangler. I don’t know why those I6 wranglers cry on the highway when the smaller-engined Amigo didn’t, but thats a fact.

    I bought mine for $1400- 8 years ago. Eventually I started having electrical issues, but I sold it for a 1996 arctic cat snowmobile and a 10 year old lawn mower, which is the last reason they are awesome.

    I’ve seen them priced from 800-1500. Some really good condition ones get into the 2s and low 3s, but You can’t get a rusted out wrangler for 4k…

    So I think I might get another one if I find a good option come across my desk. It was a fine car and a fine value and it offroads just fine. The only drawback is the lack of aftermarket support.

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus

      Yeah I don’t get why someone would choose a 2wd SUV. You get all of the negatives without the one benefit its supposed to have.

      I have considered a 2wd first gen Kia Sorento for an Uber whore, just because its roomy and cheap, but I’d really rather find a 4wd manual (rare combo) so I can keep it as an off-roader after its retired from ridesharing. The couple of MPG difference is worth it, to me, for the capability and usefulness off the highway.

      • 0 avatar
        AmcEthan

        the 2wd amigo goes through snow amazing for what it is. just as good as my 4wd ram does. I loved my 2wd 5 speed 94 amigo. don’t underestimate them, they are better than they look. and also, the 4×4 ones are incredibly rare in most of the country. I can hardly find any amigos near iowa, let alone a manual. the costal states might have more though.

      • 0 avatar
        Arthur Dailey

        True that a 2wd SUV has most of the negatives of a 4Wd. However so few original buyers take their’s off road that the 4wd function would be about as useful 90+% of the time as Krusty’s superfluous 3rd nipple, or most rear mounted car wings.

        Most original SUV purchasers would from a practical viewpoint be better off with a minivan. But that doesn’t fit their ’emotional needs’. So an SUV with higher seating and a more ‘rugged’ image becomes the de facto choice.

        And a significant number of the B&B would state that most 4wd SUV’s that are unibody rather than BOF are just a ‘poseurs’.

    • 0 avatar
      ErichLOL

      Crazy talk, either your memory fails you, or something was wrong with your Jeep, no way these things were quicker than the MPI 4.0L Wrangler. I had an 88 Trooper with the TBI 4-cyl and it was gutless, I got a year and a half out of it before it developed a crack in the head. My girlfriend in high school had an 89 Amigo with the same engine after I upgraded to a 98 TJ with the 4.0 and I could walk that thing without even downshifting on the highway.

  • avatar
    JohnTaurus

    Up into the 1990s, two wheel drive Amigos could be had with the carbureted 2.3L I-4 like I had in my first gen Trooper. They’re somewhat failure prone, and nobody could dare call it quick, but I still miss my little rig.

    I sourced a fuel tank and a couple of other miscellaneous items from a junkyard 2wd/2.3L Amigo for my Trooper.

    Took the fuel tank to a machine shop and they repaired the gashes the junkyard put in it for $50. Good thing too, because I could not find a new replacement after hours of internet scouring. It was out of production and had been for some time. (My Trooper’s original tank was heavily rusted, although the rest of the truck had 0 rust. Must’ve been some watered down fuel the previous owner had put in it.)

    • 0 avatar
      AmcEthan

      They were the last vehicle sold in America with a carb I believe, it was an option until 95/96. my 94 was carbed and 5 speed/2wd. parts are actually pretty easy to find for the amigo, and they weren’t horribly slow. the soft top is worth big bucks, usually more than what they got for scrapping the car.

      • 0 avatar
        JohnTaurus

        My 2.3L Trooper was very slow, and no, it wasn’t easy to find certain parts for, including the fuel tank, which is why I had to go used and have it refurbished.

        That’s the vehicle I was talking about, it relates to the subject because it shared an engine (and fuel system) with the Amgio, and I sourced parts from one for it.

        • 0 avatar
          AmcEthan

          I replaced my fuel tank and most lines with parts at orileys, they we’re able to order it within 2 days.. the carburetor and trim pieces were the hardest part to find for me

  • avatar
    saturnotaku

    No mention of the Rodeo lending its design to the short-lived Honda Passport? I has a sad.

    • 0 avatar

      I remember Passport, I remember it well. They were better equipped than the Rodeo usually. I also preferred the smoother front and rear clip, and use of two-tone.

      After that, we can talk about the SLX.

      • 0 avatar
        dukeisduke

        I saw a Passport just this morning, on the way to work. Silver, very clean, and sporting a Green Bay Packers license plate frame on the back.

        I still see a surprising number of Rodeos, and the occasional Passport, on the roads here in the DFW area. Some are in decent shape, and some are beaters. It’s a testament to how well designed and built they were. Practically all the ones I see now are four-cylinder models; I rarely see one with a 3.1 (with the fancy red-and-black emblem on the back), or a 2.8. They seem to be unkillable, and loved by their owners (the clean ones, anyway).

  • avatar
    AmcEthan

    They were the last vehicle sold in America with a carb I believe, it was an option until 95/96. my 94 was carbed and 5 speed/2wd. parts are actually pretty easy to find for the amigo, and they weren’t horribly slow. the soft top is worth big bucks, usually more than what they got for scrapping the car. amazing that its still on this one. in iowa amigos are very hard to find in any condition.

    • 0 avatar
      APaGttH

      Nope. You could get an F-150 with a carb right up until 1995, and a couple of other vehicles.

      Carbs died in the 1996 model year with the mandate of OBDII.

      • 0 avatar
        danio3834

        Which F-150 engine had a carburetor in ’95? Whether the 4.9L I6, 5.0L or 5.8L V8s every one I’ve ever encountered (perhaps thousands) has been multiport EFI.

        • 0 avatar
          APaGttH

          Apologies, I did some digging and it was the Ranger/Mazda B2300 twin in bare-bones configurations.

          The Isuzu P’up (or just pickup actually), Subaru Justy, Ford Crown Vic with the 5.8L police interceptor, Buick Estate Wagon, Olds Custom Cruiser and to my surprise the Honda Prelude with the base 2.0L 4 soldiered on with a carb in one form or another into the 90s.

          OBDII killed the carb forever in the USA, there is a ton of discussion on Malaise Motors about the topic.

    • 0 avatar
      MRF 95 T-Bird

      Yup the last vehicle sold in America with a carb was the 93 Rodeo/Amigo. The 94-5 had fuel injection however the 96 pickup had a carb on the 2.3-4.

      Even the Subaru Justy got TBI after 1990 plus there were still full sized GM wagons built with the 307 carbed V8. Kind of odd since even their pedestrian models from the Geo Metro to the Cavalier had some type of FI unit.

      https://www.autotrader.com/car-news/what-was-the-last-car-in-america-sold-with-a-carburetor-260855

  • avatar

    The Amigo font is rad and fantastic, and I’ve always liked it.

  • avatar
    V16

    One wonders how Isuzu would have fared in the current truck/SUV craze.
    I believe the brand could have been a contender.

  • avatar

    I really love these things. I like the look of the first gen better but the 2nd gen v6 with a manual was a great powertrain. I find them up here in NE from time to time I think when time and money allows I would like one as a jeep like toy.

    As mentioned the only downside to having them for offroad fun is lack of aftermarket but I’m less into giant tires then I used to me.

  • avatar
    gtem

    Most of these seem to have gotten thrashed to death before they could make a comeback en-masse once people get priced out of older used Wranglers, like what happened with Samurais and then Sidekicks. The Amigo is usefully more comfortable and more daily-driveable than the really small trucklets, and likewise better on road than a YJ/TJ Wrangler. I really think there is a niche in the subcompact crossover space for a Jeep/SUV vehicle with a convertible top and hopefully (from a selfish perspective) some legit offroad chops. Undercut the Wrangler on price, make it more fuel efficient to further differentiate it from the obvious rival.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    The Isuzu 1.9, 2.0 diesel, and 2.6 V6 are all under-rated engines. The Isuzu 2.0 diesel, in particular, is utterly indestructible.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    A fair amount of personal belongings, paperwork, and the front plate is sitting in the front seat. Wonder if it got too many parking tickets and then the end.

  • avatar
    rpol35

    242,000 miles, wow! I thought these were more of an “Out the showroom door and straight to the junk yard” kind of vehicle.

  • avatar
    NoGoYo

    A 2.6 liter 4 with 119 horsepower in a vehicle from 1993 sounds like a complete dog, to be honest…

  • avatar

    Out of curiosity: Is it normal for an owner to not remove the plates on a vehicle destined for a wrecking yard? I was surprised to see the front plate on the passenger seat and the rear plate looking as though it was “ripped” off the rear (instead of just removing the mounting screws holding it on). We get a credit if we turn in plates from a vehicle that is being disposed of in this manner (or at least we used to).

    • 0 avatar

      In some states (Ohio for example) they don’t want any plates back. It costs more to keep your old plate on a new car than it does to get a new one. There’s no credit if you sell a car before the registration runs out. With no penalty and no incentive to give plates back you end up with…

      A stack of plates in the garage.

      If one day I need to drive 9 different vehicles around, I’m covered.

    • 0 avatar
      bullnuke

      California plates stay with the car from first owner to the crusher, or at least that was the rule when I lived out there.

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