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Junkyard Trooper Update: Seized Engine Shocker!

Well, while I had hoped my next update on the junkyard-find 1986 Isuzu Trooper I acquired would have pictures of it fording streams and bouncing over rocks, that is sadly not the case. When we last left you, I had just moved the Trooper to a local shop in the Georgia community where I found it, in hopes that working on it down there would provide me with a trail rig to jump in whenever I visited my in-laws. Unfortunately, the only movement that’s happened is to a new shop – and this second stop fully verified my engine is seized and needs to come out.

Now, let’s be fair: the odds were against me that a truck that had been sitting for at least ten years with a propensity for headgasket failure and other internal issues would run again. In a perfect world, I’d have taken the engine down to the block, gotten new pistons made, and rebuilt the original unit. But this is not that kind of vehicle; it doesn’t need to be numbers-matching, and it’d be a bear to do from afar. So, with the power of social media again in my favor, I mentioned on my Instagram page that the motor might be done – and a total stranger from Georgia pointed me in the direction of a wrecked 1986 Trooper, like mine, with a running 2.3L four-cylinder. Thanks to a tragic misspelling on the craigslist ad, no one had yet pulled any parts off this tree-damaged 4×4.

Now, a quick bit of background: the first shop I took the Trooper to belonged to a single individual who has been battling health issues. He admitted he wouldn’t have the time to take the project on. My father-in-law, ever a willing accomplice, found a new shop that said they’d give the Trooper a look-see. They confirmed the one conclusion the first mechanic reached, which was that the engine was locked up – big time. I moved quickly, agreeing to purchase the engine that my Instagram detective clued me into for $400. It seemed like a fair deal, especially for one that ran well with supposedly good compression. The engine has since been picked up and brought to the shop, where it will await installation in hopes of having a running Trooper by the end of May.

In the meantime, I’ve been doing what I always do, which is acquiring parts for projects that are years away from completion. I know of one – just one – first-generation Trooper in a junkyard near where I live in Rhode Island, and I’ve been making regular visits to strip it of anything I might need. In fact, the wheels on my Trooper actually came from the junked one, and now I’ve got its absolutely spotless dash panel as well, hanging like a stuffed deer on my garage wall. The next update I hope to have is a “live” video from the Trooper’s temporary home, with a running engine under the hood – but who knows what ugly secrets an unknown junkyard mill like mine may be hiding.


  1. nycbjr Member

    I like it! Good luck 🤓

    Like 14
  2. Ramone

    You’ll get it back on the road (or off). That’s what this hobby is all about.

    Like 7
  3. Chris Sanders

    I used to own an 86 Trooper. Mine had the 1.8l engine with the 5 speed. Great truck, 2 door body everyone thought it was a range rover. Traded for a new S-10. Wish I had kept it.

    Like 8
  4. Mountainwoodie

    Youre a brave man

    Like 6
  5. Rosko

    Nice tires!

    Like 2
    • Jeff Lavery Staff

      Never bought off-road tires before and now I’m addicted. I want to put them on everything.

      Like 3
      • aribert

        2.3L was the carb’ed 2wd motor. 2.6L was fuel injected typ on 4wd.

        I converted my ’92 2wd 2.3L Amigo to 4wd.

        Like 1
      • Jeff Lavery Staff

        Hmm…not sure about your info, the Troopers were all 4WD, regardless of engine. Unless the super early ones were 2WD, but this is 4WD with the carb’d 2.3.

        Like 0
  6. Howard A Member

    Trooper motors aren’t exactly rare. They were, and still are in some cases, very popular up north. Problem was, like all 4×4’s, the bodies fell off, and they still ran good. To be honest, I think you did it the right way, southern body, looks sharp, and to make you feel better, I bet the motor was stuck or had problems before it sat, why it was not driven in the 1st place. I bet a lot of folks up north would love a rust free Trooper again, They have the motors sitting out back.

    Like 10
    • Jeff Lavery Staff

      Thanks Howard. I have not seen one in decades, which is why I grabbed it. I actually have been pulling a ton of parts off the 86 in the junkyard as nothing is sun-bleached inside like mine is. I’m sure the motor – even if it turned – would have needed serious help. If the one I bought was still doing daily duty, someone likely was maintaining it.

      Like 1
  7. Bob L

    I had a 87 Trooper and it was one of my favorite cars. Of course it eventually needed a head gasket and head replaced. I went to a junkyard to see if I could find a good used one, and every single Trooper in the yard had a missing head. But mine got rebuilt for a few more bucks and served me well.

    Like 2
  8. Ed

    There is a non licensed first gen Trooper at the house across the driveway from the Hampton Inn in Pine Grove PA. Maybe Google Earth can spot it for you!

    Like 1
    • Jeff Lavery Staff

      Ed, I looked and could see some possible suspects but wasn’t able to confirm. Will keep an eye out if I find myself out that way….

      Like 0
  9. Jon Rappuhn

    I bought a new (87-88?) trooper (4dr, large engine & 4spd) and loved it. Only got stuck in the snow when it was over axles and one time in very fine loose sand. Put little over 100,000 mi on it in 2 years, and was getting real worried about timing belt so traded it. Never any mechanical problems, excellent vehicle. Would’ve liked to find another one or a Rodeo when I was still able to off-road explore.

    Like 0

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