Clean Japanese Jeep: 1986 Isuzu Trooper

Isuzu is one of those brands that pop-up, and then disappear for a few years, before reappearing and repeating the cycle again. They have seemingly dipped in and out of markets with different models, or with models which are rebranded under another company’s name. The Isuzu Trooper is certainly one of these cars, having been built under 9 different brands from the Chevrolet Trooper to the Subaru Bighorn and the Honda Horizon. The model we have here today is the first generation of Trooper, and from the 1986 model year with a relatively rare turbocharged Diesel engine. Bidding is currently at $4550 with 2 days left to go and available here on eBay, with the car being located in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

These were first introduced in 1981 but were not immediately successful. Various styling changes and engines were made depending on the model location and sales. Our 1986 model comes with the relatively rare 2.2l turbodiesel with a Garrett turbocharger – however, these models were known to not be very reliable and because they were low-powered, they did not sell well either. After all these missteps they changed the engine again, but it wasn’t until the 2nd generation of Trooper that sales were more successful. Interestingly, these were still being produced in India up until 2002, so spare parts should be relatively easy to find, but you may have to pay for shipping from India.

Our Trooper here has covered just under 150,000 miles but looks like it has been treated to a very easy life as there is not a single blemish on the exterior bodywork, wearing its original 1980s graphics and white paint very well. This is a rarer 3-door version, and with sliding windows in the back, which you may need as the air conditioning unit is currently broken. The interior shows its age a bit more with the lovely brown cloth seats showing some wear and tear, but given that this is almost 40 years old, it’s a true survivor.

The great thing about these is that they can still be used off-road, and it’s rare to have a Japanese 4×4 in this condition. The recent resurgence in popularity of older Jeeps and SUVs has not hit the Isuzu market like the others just yet – so this could be the perfect chance to get it before the market goes sky-high. So do you think this has future classic potential, or just has the potential to go wrong and result in costly repairs?


  1. alphasud Member

    I didn’t know the Trooper was available with a diesel option in 86. Also surprised the engines were unreliable. The Pup p/u had a diesel option and those were the best. Often times outliving the chassis they were installed in. I know the one complaint on the early Trooper was lack of power which is why they got the 2.8 Chevy V6 as a option in 88 I want to say. Those were fun to drive with a 5-speed.

    Like 7
  2. Rw

    Elliot , It’s not a Japanese Jeep.

  3. Rw

    Trooper is not a Jeep,no matter where built. Poop

    Like 5
  4. Jim in FL

    My boss bought one of these in 89 and I always liked it. Simple, crank windows, manual transmission, just a random low buck 4×4 that worked in the snow. He never had a lot of trouble with it that I remember, but he had a gasoline engine. The big sliders in the back were cool. I’ll be curious where this ends up. Would be nice to have, but the ac repair parts are probably scarce. If it stays low, may consider it for my daughter.

    Like 4
  5. Big C

    Izuzu’s were always known as junk. From the LUV to the Trooper. They were disposable transportation.

    Like 4
    • alphasud Member

      Certainly your entitled opinion but not shared by many who loved their Troopers with many exceeding the 200K mark. I personally liked the Trooper because they were rugged and had a true ladder frame unlike some with just the unibody. They weren’t Toyota reliable but we’re on par with early Nissan.

      Like 14
      • Howard A Member

        I agree,on both the opinion thing ( Lord knows people here have heard mine) AND that Troopers were great trucks. I always wonder why someone has such a bad opinion. So many unknown factors that don’t warrant it being a bad vehicle. Some cars deserve it, but certainly not the Trooper. I think all the Asian car offerings were about the same, but it seemed Isuzu had a better truck platform. Perhaps it was the GM influence,,( uph, uph, uph, use real bolts, not that gold crap,,,) and I too knew many that swore by their Troopers, and would easily buy another. Still, no match for rust, and ironically, most withered away in the very environment they were created for. I always thought the roof was too high, making them tippy, but I thought Isuzu was the best.

        Like 3
  6. Troy

    My daughters father in law had one and he loved it put well over 300k miles on it before health made him stop driving

    Like 8
  7. Gil Davis Tercenio

    I had a ’86 Trooper that was very underpowered. It had the gas engine. I traded it for a ’88 Trooper and that was a fine little truck. Lots of power.

    I bought a new ’95 Isuzu pick-up in 1996 and drove it for 20 years. 232K miles and still had the original clutch.

    Like 7
  8. angliagt angliagt Member

    I looked at the eBay results & it says ‘0 bids”,
    & below that $8000.Not sure what’s going on here.

    Like 1
  9. Carbob

    Don’t knock it if you haven’t tried it. I bought a 1998 Trooper four door manual transmission with the four cylinder gas engine. I bought it new and daily drove it for fourteen years. Never gave me any problems. I used it on the four wheel drive beach in the Outer Banks for years and foot and a half snow. Never got stuck. Didn’t really rust all that bad either. Definitely in the top five of the best vehicles I’ve ever owned. GLWTS!

    Like 1
  10. Karl

    I had an 86 trooper and found it to a very reliable vehicle that could haul a fair amount of stuff. In very cold weather I had some issues with it coming all the way out of 4 wd sometimes had to backup a little more than normal to make sure completely out of 4 wd. I had the petrol engine 4 cylinder and it was under powered but livable. After a few years rust got to be to much of a problem and got rid of it.

    Like 3
  11. douglas hunt

    I had an 86 trooper in the common maroon/champagne 4cyl gas engine.
    got it cheap [500$] and it treated me well in my younger years as a winter/hunting vehicle.
    there was a company that had previously swapped in a 4.3 GM V6, I wanted to attempt this swap badly , but could never find the kit.
    One fall on a week long hunting trip I was unloading gear from the back, and noticed some rust around the open rear door, which led to the discovery of floor rust :-(
    I think I sold that to my brother, and then while without a 4×4 ran across a high school friend with a 93 v6 in the goldish/champagne color, I drove it for many years and then my little brother “borrowed” it for a trip to WVU to visit high a school buddy that was getting married, he never gave it back, and as I had already bought a Toyota Landcruiser, my mom and dad asked me to sell it to him, with them paying for it of course…..

    Like 4
  12. George Hartman

    We had an ’86 gas-powered. It was underpowered, but a great vehicle. Unfortunately, the frame decomposed due to rust. We then got an ’88 with the bigger engine which gave us endless head gasket problems and a cracked head. Still, a great fun vehicle.

    Like 3
    • douglas hunt

      I can’t remember the year, but I had an Amigo that I had traded an old F100 for, it needed the gas tank cleaned out and resealed due to rust clogging the fuel filter constantly. I did pull the tank, and a local rad/small engine shop treated it for me, they also fixed a Ducati 907ie tank with the same issue I had bought in pieces out of a garage [had lots of fun with that bike].
      But the Amigo had a rod knock just off idle, and a lady chased me for a month to buy it for her son, even with me telling her of the knock and demonstrating it for her in a parking lot at my work, I turned her down over and over as I hated selling a bad engined vehicle. Eventually the dad showed up at my work and followed me home, insisting it was fine the way it was, and really turning up the heat to sell it. I made them sign a bill of sale saying they knew the engine had a knock and I was NOT responsible for any later issues. I even had a notary sign it to make it binding.
      It was kinda fun with the back top folded down, I had brand new 32″ mud tires on it, and if I had lived at the beach, I would never have sold it. but as far as a winter/hunting vehicle it left a lot to be desired in the gear hauling capacity.

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