Baja 1000 Winner: 1984 Isuzu P’Up Desert Runner

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For whatever reason, I have become increasingly enamored with vintage Isuzus since becoming an owner of a 1986 long wheelbase two-door Trooper. I’ve since acquired another rarity that I haven’t even published on these pages in the form of an exceedingly rare 1989 Trooper RS, but more to come on that later. The company’s history is highly entertaining when you consider its Joe Isuzu marketing gimmicks and significant investment (for a company of its size) in competing in grueling events like the Baja 1000. This 1984 Isuzu P’Up is one of the original desert runners built to beat the Baja, and it’s offered here on OfferUp for $10,500 or best offer.

Isuzu fielded vehicles in the Baja 1000 for many years throughout the 1980s, and often did surprisingly well for a company with a small budget allocated for motorsports events (at least compared to those of its competitors). I had a chance to talk with the owner of Calmini Products, a major builder of off-road suspensions and components for makes like Isuzu, Nissan, and Suzuki, as he actually competed in the event in a truck similar to mine – a LWB two-door Trooper. The stories of roadside repairs, brutal conditions, and the sheer scale of Isuzu competing against and beating the big guns would put a smile on the face of anyone who roots for the underdog.

The trucks that Isuzu built for the Baja 1000 have taken on a mystical lore among the Isuzu faithful, mostly because they were lost soon after their giant-crushing performance. Isuzu could only support such an effort for so long before budget realities set in, and unlike the big dog racing teams, the trucks weren’t made into a shrine that then lived in the official Isuzu museum; they were sold off, likely stripped of any part of value before returning to civilian use. As the owner of Calmini tells it, the two-door Trooper he drove disappeared some years ago after sitting in a back lot for ages. This 1984 Isuzu P’Up is the actual winner of the ’84 Baja 1000 and ’85 Baja 500.

The seller notes that it retains its extensive assortment of custom-built off-road features, from complete Rough Country suspension to its KC Hilites (the same ones I put on my Trooper, in a homage of sorts), but that the full list is too extensive for a solitary classifieds listing. Not going to lie, I am sorely tempted by this truck and the seller’s interest in trading for a “compact car” of similar value. Given he resides in San Diego, I may drop a line to see if a 1999 BMW M3 convertible would be of interest to him! Then again, aside from competing in the Baja 1000, I’m not sure how I’d use other than a hilarious daily driver that would pummel my kidneys on the shortest of drives. I love it.

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  1. BlondeUXBMember

    You’ll wanna replace the shocks and air cleaner…

    Like 1
  2. Todd Zuercher

    This is a neat truck. I think Mike Leon of Mike’s Sky Ranch drove it. It’s been for sale for awhile now. I’m surprised no one has snatched it up yet to make a NORRA racer out of it.

    Jeff – Steve Kramer is the Calmini owner, no?

    Like 2
  3. jerry z

    For the money involved buying a side by side, this Isuzu would run circles around them!

    Like 1
  4. tony t

    Si re: Mike Leon

    Like 0
  5. tony t

    They didn’t beat any “Big Dogs”, as they were running in the “stock” mini-pickup “7S” class. Perhaps. Still done good … the ’84 “1000” ran over “The Summit” … twice. Harsh deal …

    Like 0
  6. Djjerme

    That’d be perfect for driving out to Pacific City and hitting the dunes..

    Just sayin.

    Like 0
  7. Wayne

    Having sold ISUZU Commercial trucks, nothing inconsistent would surprise me about ISUZU. At a national sales meeting the message was “Think Outside The Box Truck”. An admirable concept since ISUZU virtually owns that market. I came up with a different market that they were not involved with and because of their offerings and partnerships they could own that market also. I even went so far as to get the body builder involved and on board. ISUZU then decided that box bodies weren’t all that bad and would not allow chassis to be sold outside the current situation. I also never heard them ever to say to think outside the box ever again.

    Like 2
  8. .chrlsful

    amazing they do as well as they do – considering that island, it’s distance. We got the conditions right here, & most the shops around the area..

    Like 0

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