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Junkyard Gem: 1994 Isuzu Rodeo 4WD

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After a decade in which Isuzu-built Chevrolet LUV pickups, Isuzu-engined Chevrolet Chevettes and Isuzu Geminis with confusing "Opel by Isuzu" or "Buick/Opel Isuzu" badges, Isuzu finally began selling Americans its vehicles with Isuzu badging in the early 1980s. There were Isuzu cars, sure, but the P'up pickup and (starting in 1984) the Trooper SUV showed that Isuzu was likely to rake in the most yen by selling trucks on this side of the Pacific. The three-door convertible Amigo appeared here in 1989, but it was a little too small and silly to sell much among the suburban-commuter set. For the 1991 model year, a five-door Amigo sibling showed up: the Rodeo. The early Rodeo is getting quite rare today, but I was able to find this fairly clean '94 in a Denver-area self-service yard a few months back.

These trucks, which were based on the same chassis as the P'up (known as the Isuzu Pickup after 1987) sold well in Colorado.

You could get the first-generation Rodeo with rear-wheel-drive, but the four-wheel-drive version made more sense if you wanted to slog through snow and mud in the Rockies (or just feel safe when crossing a parking lot dusted with the white stuff).

This truck has true four-wheel-drive, not what eventually became known as all-wheel-drive, but at least the higher trim levels had automatic locking hubs instead of the manual sort that forced you to stop and kneel in the mud to switch.

Americans loved automatic transmissions nearly as much in 1994 as we do today, but they cost a lot more relative to manuals back then. This truck has a five-speed manual.

The MSRP on this truck was $19,249, or about $39,075 in 2022 dollars. If you wanted it with an automatic transmission, the price went up to $20,349 ($41,310 today). The air conditioning in this one cost an additional 850 bucks (1,725 bucks now).

The engine is an Isuzu 3.2-liter V6, rated at 175 horsepower.

This truck was built at Subaru-Isuzu Automotive in Indiana; Subaru eventually bought out Isuzu's share of the joint venture and now only Subaru models are built there. Just to add another manufacturer to the mix, Honda sold rebadged Rodeos with Passport badges (and rebadged Troopers as Acura SLXs).

This one was well-cared-for, looking clean for a machine with close to 200,000 miles on the clock.

We can assume that some costly mechanical ailment finally sent it to this, its final parking place.

It's getting difficult to find discarded vehicles in the Denver area that don't have at least one cannabis-business-related sticker somewhere. I've been peeling some of these off and applying them to my junkyard toolbox.

You'll find one in every car. You'll see.

Sadly, Joe Isuzu was gone by the time this truck was built.

Marketed as something of a toy, but the extra pair of doors made it less toy-like than the Amigo.

In Japan, this truck was sold as the MU Wizard.

In fact, many far-flung corners of the GM Empire got a version of this truck. Opel, Holden, Vauxhall and Chevrolet sold it as the Frontera in various markets.

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