By on June 10, 2019

1996 Isuzu Hombre in Colorado wrecking yard, LH front view - ©2019 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsSome of the most interesting examples of GM badge engineering during the last few decades involved the Isuzu brand; first, the Chevrolet LUV pickup (Isuzu Faster) arrived during the late 1970s, followed by the Chevrolet/Geo Spectrum (Isuzu Gemini) and Geo Storm (Isuzu Impulse), and finally the Trailblazer-based Isuzu Ascender. Mixed in there was the Isuzu-ized second-gen Chevy S-10, also known as the Hombre.

You won’t find many Hombres in your local wrecking yard, but I kept my eyes open for one until this ’96 showed up in Denver.

1996 Isuzu Hombre in Colorado wrecking yard, Shreveport Assembly UAW sticker - ©2019 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThis one came out of Shreveport Assembly, as shown by this alligator-themed UAW sticker in the door jamb.

1996 Isuzu Hombre in Colorado wrecking yard, Fox Motors dealer emblem - ©2019 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThe dealership badge originated with the Fox Auto Group in New York. Denver has been booming for decades now, with plenty of folks driving in from around the country, so I see as many out-of-state dealer emblems here as I do local ones.

1996 Isuzu Hombre in Colorado wrecking yard, manual gearshift - ©2019 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsRemember when Americans bought new trucks with manual transmissions? Neither do I, but this one has a five-speed.

1996 Isuzu Hombre in Colorado wrecking yard, instrument cluster - ©2019 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars226,741 miles on the clock, which is great for a vehicle that most used-truck shoppers would consider too small and too compromised by that third pedal to be worth anything.

1996 Isuzu Hombre in Colorado wrecking yard, RH front view - ©2019 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsIt got hit hard in the passenger door, probably bending the frame and causing instant depreciation to scrap value. Some junkyard shopper grasped that this truck drove to the crash and yanked the engine, high miles and all.

Can the Isuzu Hombre beat the defensive line of the 1939 University of Montana Bobcats? Who cares?

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30 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1996 Isuzu Hombre...”

  • avatar

    Wow didn’t expect to see a Fox dealer group sticker on this! That’s my old stomping grounds in Central NY. This Hombre must have left NY a long time ago, judging by the lack of rot.

    I test drove an Hombre a few years ago when I was small-truck shopping, it was decent enough, questionable condition and history on the specific one I was driving notwithstanding. OHV 2.2L+5spd feels about the same as a Lima 2.3+5spd Ranger. Powertrain aside, the S10s ride notably softer than TIB Rangers, and feel more car-like, and frankly kind of flimsy. The sheetmetal is vastly more rot-prone than Rangers of the same era as well. Having said that, there are a ton of astronomical-mileage S10s (both 2.2 and 4.3L) so they can’t be all that bad!

    • 0 avatar
      bumpy ii

      My dad still uses his ’98 S10 as his retired-old-man daily driver. The basic drivetrain has held up fine. The rest of the lowest-bidder-supplier garbage parts that GM attached to it, not so much.

  • avatar

    I just saw one of these in the last week in my town, and thought to myself I have not seen one of these in about 15 years. No rot and this is in metro NY so someone took care of it.

  • avatar

    “Remember when Americans bought new trucks with manual transmissions? Neither do I, but this one has a five-speed.”

    Back in the 80’s I worked for a Mazda store. Back then the great majority of B series pickups we sold had manual transmissions. I don’t recall seeing many full size pickups with manuals, only the occasional bare bones model.

    • 0 avatar

      That’s because with an automatic those Mazda trucks did 0-60 in hours not seconds

      • 0 avatar

        Yeah, the simple 3 speed automatics of the day didn’t do the 75 hp 2.0 engines any favors. Even worse was the 2.2 Perkins derived diesel, which only put out 58 hp. Fortunately, these were rare. Mazda insisted we take two, and we used one of them as a demo, they were not easy to sell. I found out about its lack of acceleration trying to pass a slow moving truck on a two lane road.

      • 0 avatar

        The interesting thing is that Ford used Mazda’s M50D out of their B-series not only in Rangers but even in F150s and other much heavier higher torque applications! Must be a fairly sturdy thing (and has that dastardly internal slave cylinder).

    • 0 avatar
      bumpy ii

      Compact and medium-size pickups still had a decent percentage of manuals into the ’90s. Half-tons were almost entirely automatics by then, but the third pedal still had some cachet with HD buyers who didn’t trust automatics behind big-blocks and diesels.

    • 0 avatar

      That’s why I snapped up my 06 F-250 when I found it as it was one of the last good old fashioned manual transmission equipped full size pickups.

  • avatar

    We also have Isuzu’s badge engineering with Honda in the form of the original Passport (Rodeo) and Odyssey (Oasis).

  • avatar

    It’s pretty rare to see an S-10 from that generation, and of course the Isuzu Hombre is even rarer.

    I know the Ranger had a longer run so it’s not unexpected to see more of them, but even those seem to be getting rarer here in the salt belt. Especially the 90s models.

    • 0 avatar

      You must live in a very unique and/or exclusive location.
      Here in the Great Lakes salt belt S-10s/Sonomas are limping along everywhere. Giving credibility to the axiom that old GMs drive on poorly long after other makes don’t drive at all.

      The robust frame underneath is a big reason along with the significant numbers sold over many years making the replacement parts low priced and available everywhere. Also long lived basic pushrod engines.

  • avatar

    “Remember when Americans bought new trucks with manual transmissions? Neither do I.”

    Oh, you’re such a kidder.

    The original owner of this Hombre and people who would buy a manual Ranger, a manual B2200, or a manual straight 6 F150, were a lot alike. Dunno how much cross-shopping there was across these product lines though.

    • 0 avatar
      Roberto Esponja

      I worked at a Chrysler dealership in the mid 1990’s, and people still bought manual transmission Dakotas (and the occasional Ram 1500) back then. It wasn’t uncommon to have stickshift Dakotas in stock. Having a majority would have been crazy, of course, but there were always customers for the row-your-own kind.

      • 0 avatar

        I forgot all about the original Dakota.

        I see that, in fine Mopar tradition, they were available with a wide variety of engine-transmission combinations (according to wiki).

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    It is interesting how both Mazda(Ford) and Isuzu(GM) went to rebadged American trucks from their homegrown ones in the 90’s. Most likely because of the tougher safety standards.

  • avatar

    I saw an Hombre just last week, while on my way to work. It was in decent shape cosmetically, and was being used by a lawn mowing guy.

    The Shreveport assembly plant had a reputation for poor build quality, but then they weren’t given much to work with, especially the first-gen Colorado/Canyon trucks.

  • avatar

    It’s funny to realize how long ago 1996 was. Early in the year, I parked next to a new RAV4 and got my first close look at a CUV. A year earlier, there were more five-speed Land Rover Discoveries on the road than there were CUVs. Car and Driver’s coverage of the new RAV4 characterized it as being like a rally car, driving far more like a Celica Turbo AllTrac than a Camry. Believing Car and Driver is about like continuing to believe the UN on climate change.

    I don’t remember the Hombre, but I think there were lots of people who were happier with this generation pickup than the Canyonado that followed. This 4cylinder/5speed/Air/single-cab strikes me as an excellent value for its owners who went over 220K miles. A friend’s father replaced his short-lived diesel-P’up with a 4.3 liter S15. It seemed immensely powerful after towing a ski boat behind the poor little Isuzu.

    • 0 avatar

      “It’s funny to realize how long ago 1996 was. Early in the year, I parked next to a new RAV4 … Car and Driver’s coverage of the new RAV4 characterized it as being like a rally car, driving far more like a Celica Turbo AllTrac than a Camry.”

      Bwahahaha!! Speaking as the owner of a 1996 RAV4 (bought used as a beater car, alas an automatic transmission, not a manual), C&D’s writing is… poetic and entertaining.

      In all fairness, I should say that I have drifted it- in the rain on a freeway onramp. The car has a mild understeer posture and exhibits no vices while accelerating through about 50mph in this scenario. The line is easy to control with the throttle and I exited the corner about 3mph faster than I would have been able to do in a lesser, 25 year old CUV. I was not wearing driving gloves nor a helmet but I did have my seatbelt on. The prime mover is an update of the faithful four-cylinder DOHC from the wildly successful Camry, although it makes an agricultural-sounding exhaust note as the transmission works its way through second, third, and finally fourth gears with 120 ponies in full gallop. The automatic also comes with eco and sport modes, care of a pushbutton on the center dash next to the buttons for the hazards and standard rear window defrost. You can also row your own on the floor-mounted D-2-1 shifter with an O/D on/off button on the side.

      Brock Yates would have been proud.

  • avatar

    In your listing of GM/Isuzu re-branding, you somehow skipped over the
    “Buick Opel by Isuzu”. Boy, was that a genius piece of badge engineering, or what?

  • avatar

    I owned one for a year. 4 cyl and manual transmission. Decent truck if you didn’t go on the highway. It was cheap, with lots of road noise on the highway and slow. Very slow. Sold it and got a full size truck.

    • 0 avatar

      Funny I thought that my ’97 Ranger with a similarly-powered 110hp 2.3L 4cyl and 5spd manual did just fine, surprisingly decent highway cruiser (as long as things stay reasonably flat). Geared well so that 70mph felt comfortable, although certainly the 24 year old suspension/steering and NVH made it far from the ideal mile eater. Nonetheless, did a 8 hour drive from Indiana to Central PA without cruise control without undue stress. I’d call it notably more comfortable than my dad’s 2007 Honda Fit in that regard.

      • 0 avatar

        “Funny I thought that my ’97 Ranger with a… 24 year old suspension/steering… 70mph felt comfortable”

        24 year old suspension in a ’97? Apparently it was good for more than 70mph, more like 88.

        :D :D :D

        (It would probably be a great truck to take Jennifer up to the lake, throw a couple of sleeping bags in the back, lie out under the stars…)

  • avatar

    Looks like an accident did it in. Weird configuration – has what looks like a GMT800 interior, dash, instruments, controls. Isn’t this based on the S-10???

  • avatar

    Isuzu Hombre? That seems at least one step too far into the realm of cultural fusion.

  • avatar

    Two tangential thoughts:

    1) I really hate dealer badges. No dealer in California does this, so when I lived in Virginia for several years, I was surprised to find that it’s a common practice on the East Coast. I’ve always wondered whether it’s easy to ask the dealer to remove the badge, but I moved back to California before I needed to buy a new car. California dealers just put on plastic license plate frames with the dealer’s name. By comparison to the badges, these seem like they’d be cheaper to manufacture, never mind to install and remove.

    2) The brief mention of the Chevy/Geo Spectrum brought back memories of my grandmother. A widow who lived alone for about 4 decades, for about half that time she drove a silver (pre-facelift, so ’85 or ’86) Spectrum hatchback with a burgundy interior. She called it her “Silver Speck,” and we grandkids loved it. It was replaced in its (and her) dotage by a sky blue ’03-’05 Hyundai Accent sedan, which was never given a name.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    I currently have a 99 S-10 5 speed 2.2 Extended Cab which has served me well over 20 years. I also have an 08 Isuzu I-370 crew cab for 11 years which also has been good but I prefer the S-10. Criticize GM all you want but both trucks have been very reliable.

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