By on February 13, 2019

Unlike other Questions of the Day, in which we tap your collective brain for the purposes of solving the world’s most pressing problems, today we focus all of that energy to benefit one man: your author — and by extension, the father of his godsons.

It’s advice time, and your subject is a quirky, low-volume SUV.

As you’ve already guessed, this friend is the same one who managed to get his hands on a 1999 Isuzu VehiCROSS Vehicross. The Trooper-derived Vehicross, which sold around 5,900 copies in the U.S. and Japan for three model years apiece, lately finds itself the subject of renewed collector interest.

It’s rugged, decently powerful, and unmistakably distinctive. No one misses your entrance. However, its on-road mannerisms bear no resemblance to that of the comfortable, car-based CUVs littering today’s highways. The Vehicross’ short wheelbase, solid rear axle, and ultra-stiff, rally-minded suspension means you’ll feel every imperfection, large and small. It came from the factory with monotube shocks outfitted with external reservoirs — great for blasting across the desert in Dakar, but less than ideal for sedate daily driving.

1999 Isuzu Vehicross, Image: Steph Willems

Having nearly cracked my teeth while riding over speed bumps at a walking pace in this thing, its reputation is well earned. However, that was two years ago, and my friend’s Vehicross has seen plenty of washboard country roads and crumbling city streets in the ensuing months. Its legs are tired; the fancy shocks are now toast, especially in the rear. With crashy-crashy now replaced by bouncy-bouncy, said friend wants to put an end to his trampoline-like existence.

He faces a choice: Outfit the Vehicross in as similar a manner as before, or find a middle ground that offers a balance, however lopsided, of off-road ability and on-road tranquility. Day to day liveability will surely win out.

As yours truly pilots a non-trail rated Cruze, I’ll leave it up to you to lend my friend advice. We’re talking specific shock (and perhaps spring) suggestions here; weigh in with your choices in the comments.

[Images: Steph Willems/TTAC]

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19 Comments on “QOTD: A Shock Cure?...”

  • avatar

    One word and one number come to mind but I fear it won’t be quirky enough for him.


  • avatar

    I might suggest reading MotoIQ’s project VehiCross where they dealt with several of the issues on this vehicle, including the suspension

    • 0 avatar

      Love Motoiq’s project car stuff. Guess I’m just lucky as they’ve worked on my last car (Nissan 350Z) and my current car (Corvette C7 Z51). Thus they have become a go-to source on upgrades that actually work along with great pictures and information.

  • avatar

    “solid axles”

    It has an independent front suspension fwiw. Automotive journalists really need to educate themselves on the mechanical side of things, this seems to pop up particularly often in regards to 4wd/offroad related vehicles

    This is not going to be cheap or easy, sadly aftermarket support for Isuzus is pretty thin in the US. OEM replacements seem to run $600 a pop, which is frankly not horrible, the question is how many of these online OEM parts vendors actually will have it in stock. But if he likes the truck then I’d say its worth it. The other option is going to Old Man Emu shocks, or maybe Rancho 9000s.

    • 0 avatar

      In cab adjustable Ranchos seem like the right answer to me.

      Choose your level of stiffness.

    • 0 avatar

      Not sure the weight of the vehicross or the size shock. But in general Four wheeling here in the NorthEast I have found a softer lighter valve shock to be better riding off trail and on. But up here we drive slow offroad most of the time. If you drive hard on the street or over washboards etc you need something a little stiffer with faster recovery. I have run Bilstien Rancho and Trailmaster SSV. I have heard good things about the old man emu ARB stuff so I would take a look at that.

  • avatar

    Why would you get rid of the Isuzu? You’re just going to find disappointment down that road.

  • avatar

    Isuzu Amigo.

    A lot like the vehicross, but the top comes off!

    This is going to sound odd, but the 2007 Jeep Patriot FDII. I know the patriot is common, but only in 2007 did it REALLY have the offroad cred in the FDII trim- More ground clearance than a base wrangler with a unique transmission and drivetrain design, 19:1 gear reduction, brake lock differentials… it earned its trail rated badge. It may have lasted through 2008, but certainly by 2009 it had been castrated. You need the one before the selectshift.

    I bring it up though because it balances all this with a decent on-road ride. the only real complaints people give them are: 1. its made by FCA and 2. The interior has hard plastic bits.

    Some other options:

    Land rover Freelander SE3
    Suzuki X-90

    Speaking of the Suzuki, there is a 6 spd for sale on autotrader right next to Corey…

    • 0 avatar

      I would sooner hang myself than go from a Vehicross to a Jeep Patriot. And yes I appreciate how under-the-radar capable those FDII Patriots are, and generally appreciate the Patriot for being a cheap and cheerful little rig. Worth noting too, FDII sticks you with a CVT with shorter gearing: 23mpg highway. A very unpleasant sounding/feeling drivetrain (had one as a USDA vehicle that replaced a well liked ’98 Explorer that lost its transmission).

  • avatar

    The VehiCross is certainly a distinctive vehicle and certainly needs to stick around. I wouldn’t get rid of it as long as it remains trustworthy. New, and different, shocks and maybe some smaller wheels with higher-profile tires would help…add some more sidewall to let the tires themselves absorb some of those bumps. I can’t offer anything on shocks more than what’s already been said above.

  • avatar

    Pavement ride on a vehicle of this age will be influenced by the springs and rubber suspension bushings. If all of those are replaced with OEM parts then it’s time to look for shocks. Also as mentioned in a linked article about the Emu kit, the bump stops could be replaced with shorter ones, perhaps from the Trooper, or cut off a bit.
    I was able to convince a few customers to do this, it’s not cheap. For those that has owned a car 15 or more years since new they were very happy.
    If Bilstein makes shocks to fit they will probably have the best ride. If not shocks could be sourced through someone that sells King or Fox shocks. They should be able to make the correct length and end configuration. Again not cheap.

    • 0 avatar

      “influenced by the springs and rubber suspension bushings. If all of those are replaced with OEM parts then it’s time to look for shocks.”

      Seems like a rather radical and backwards approach. If control arm bushings check out tight, leave them the heck alone, they’re fine. If they’re not sagging or broken, leave the springs alone. Shocks are definitely the #1 culprit, and only after that has been eliminated as a culprit would I go down the road of fighting (torching off) rusted-in control arm bolts and such.

  • avatar

    I’m a simple man. I see a Vehicross, I click.

    I know the pics here show some off-roading, but does this owner actually do that sort of thing? If he doesn’t want to spend the money fixing this thing, I’d say older FJ Cruiser if he likes being quirky. Really wish that thing would get another generation.

  • avatar

    Considering its rarity I’d think about trying to track down a set of replacement OE shocks. If they aren’t available then what ever is actually available in the aftermarket, w/o being overly expensive would be my next choice.

  • avatar

    If you want my suggestion, I say, place is downrange. It will make a fine target

  • avatar

    I have been driving a 95 Trooper since 98. With daily driving I would go through a set of shocks in less than 2 years. This includes Monroe, Rancho 5000 and a few store brands. The Bilsteins are the only ones I have found that have lasted any longer. I have stopped daily drive it but they did last more than two years when it became my families offroad and camping tank.

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