There are many times during normal traffic conditions and life that many people are either in need of or want to take advantage of the luxury of having a four wheel drive vehicle. There are also many times that people wish they had a vehicle that offers a little more cargo space than a standard car. It was the marrying of those two ideas that made the automobile industry begin producing sport utility vehicles. Production of sport utility vehicles, or SUVs, began long ago but exploded on the marketplace in the 1980s. One of the more popular sport utility vehicles since the popularity of these vehicles expanded was the Isuzu Trooper.
The Isuzu Trooper had a twenty-two year production run from 1981 through 2002. Worldwide it was marketed as not only the Isuzu Trooper but also the Isuzu Bighorn, the Honda Horizon, the Opel Monterey, the Chevrolet Trooper, the Holden Jackaroo, among other names. It is most famous though as what it was marketed as in the United States, the Isuzu Trooper. The Trooper started as an underpowered part-time four-wheel-drive cargo vehicle and gradually developed and grew into one of the more luxurious and well respected SUVs of the 1980s and 90s.
The initial generation of Isuzu Troopers were basic cargo and passenger vehicles equipped with an underpowered 4-cylinder engine. They were available with both manual locking hubs as well as automatic locking hubs too. The Isuzu Trooper engine issue wasn’t addressed until 1986 when a new 2.3 liter engine was introduced to the vehicle. Still not solving all of the power issues, this was a vast improvement and many attribute this upgrade to being the impetus of the Isuzu Trooper’s rise in popularity. Near the end of the 1980s, a four speed automatic transmission was introduced to the Trooper, followed shortly there after by an optional V-6 engine that was produced by General Motors. An interesting sidenote to the Isuzu Trooper during the 1980s is that like a few other foreign SUV producers of the era, to avoid a higher tariff on passenger vehicles, for a time Troopers were imported with no rear seats, the rear seats were then installed at Isuzu dealerships. In other areas of the world like Central America, first generation Isuzu Troopers were made to a smaller overall size and with removable roofs.
The second generation of Isuzu Trooper was a complete model redesign and was introduced to the marketplace in 1991. The trend had been for SUVs to get bigger and bigger in size, and the Trooper followed that trend. The engine specifications for these newer Troopers included a 3.2 liter engine that produced far greater horsepower than the first generation models. The 1996 Isuzu Trooper SE Limited model was the first Trooper to come with shift on the fly four-wheel-drive, meaning that the driver no longer had to stop the vehicle to either engage or disengage the four-wheel-drive option. In the late 1990s, Isuzu Troopers had the additional options of a 3.0 liter diesel engine in place, the model was available with both a four speed automatic transmission and a five speed manual transmission depending on the wants and desires of the buyer. A little known fact is that during the late 1990s, Honda distributed what was essentially an Isuzu Trooper under the brand and model name Acura SLX. The Trooper was discontinued for the 2003 model year and replaced by the noticeably smaller Axiom as well as the much larger Isuzu Ascender.
The Isuzu Trooper had what many see as a short lifespan in the automobile market. It started slow, gained acceptance later, and in the early 1990s was one of the most popular SUVs on the market. With what has been described as a “boxy” shape, the Trooper stuck out visually when viewed among many of the other sport utility vehicles of the time. The Trooper remains popular with fans of import SUVs and has been called one of the more durable large SUVs ever made. The Isuzu Trooper indeed played a large part in the rise in popularity of the sport utility vehicle.