Space Case: 1988 Isuzu Spacecab pick up

Isuzu has been one of the few Japanese manufacturers that struggled in the American car market. While their light and medium duty trucks did pretty well here, over the years, Isuzu Motors brought some strange and unusual cars, small trucks and SUVs to America. I’ll leave it to Scotty to recount the complete strange history of Isuzu in America. I’ve been a bit of a fan ever since I bought a new Isuzu Trooper in 1985. It was a relatively inexpensive two door SUV with a reliable four cylinder engine and a slick five speed transmission, and was a lot of fun to drive, as well as having a ton of useable space for my young family.

Isuzu joined other Japanese manufacturers in exporting modified versions of its home market pick ups to our shores. Americans like elbow room, so extended cab versions of mini-trucks seemed a reasonable approach here, and thus Isuzu’s Spacecab pick up was born. With their goofy looking side windows, these trucks look odd, but not terrible, at least to me.

Look, even their ads were a bit goofy. Isuzu has never been a major player in the American car market (and left the scene altogether) some years back; this 1988 Spacecab in four wheel drive configuration, for sale on Craigslist in Buchanan Dam, Texas, was relatively rare when new, and almost never seen on the road anymore, especially without any visible rust.

Aside from being a low cost, economical and practical four wheel drive truck, this Isuzu is cheap at $1995, and looks clean and driveable, inside and out, especially considering its age and well used condition. If you want to have some fun, read the complete ad on Craigslist. It’s one of the funniest, best written ads I have come across. Here’s a quote to pique your interest:

“It isn’t gonna win any car shows, it isn’t gonna get fine beautiful women to swoon over you, it isn’t gonna wow your buddies and make them want to hang out with you. But I’m sure you have had to deal with those disappointments all your life. A/C doesn’t work, but you’ve never been cool anyway.”

Practical and fun as it may be, I don’t need a truck like this right now, but someone ought to run down to Texas right now to buy this truck! Be the first on your block to own a Spacecab, dang it! Scotty, are you seeing this?

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  1. Jeffro

    What the truck lacks in appeal…the seller surely makes up for it. Of course, this is the perfect truck for me. As long as there is a cup holder.

    • doug

      Cup holders are the LAST thing that Isuzu thought of in these pickup trucks, and never installed them. I have a 1990 I bought brand new in ’89, and still own it. No damn cup holders. I had to improvize a baby stroller dual cup holder to attach to the center console.

  2. JW

    Never saw one of these EVER !!! But a close friend of mine bought one of Isuzu’s SUVs and after the warranty expired the windshield seal blew off doing 70 mph on the interstate, so being non-mechanically inclined he took a caulk gun and laid a thin strip of black caulk around the windshield then traded it in on a new Ranger 4×4.

  3. Wilhelm Brauer

    The first time I saw a “Joe Isuzu” ad where it says “Joe is a liar” and “Don’t believe him, he is lying” I wondered what idiot came up with this advertising campaign. It essentially doomed Isuzu to fail in America.

    • Puhnto

      No it didn’t. Those ads were extremely popular and their tongue-in-cheek humor brought recognition of the marque to legions of Americans for years.

      Like 1
  4. DAN

    no ac workie
    miles not listed
    it might be worth $999
    if it’s the only truck in the county you live in,lol

  5. Marshall

    A couple friends of mine (twin brothers) bought a new Isuzu diesel P’up in 1986. If I remember right, one of them told me that they have driven to Portland OR from Arlington WA (a little over 200 miles each way) and back on a single tank of diesel fuel. I was riding along with the other twin when the motor died at 257k in 2001. They loved that truck.

  6. sparkster

    I watched an old tv show the other day with ” Joe Isuzu ” in it. He was quite funny in the their car commercials back in the day.

  7. Sukey

    I wanted one but bought an 88 gmc s15 stripper as it was cheaper. It was noisy and crudely made but my first new vehicle
    I miss that truck

  8. Howard A Member

    I’ve always thought, Isuzu was the best of the Asian vehicles we saw. I knew friends with P’up’s, and the Rodeo ( or Passport) were great vehicles. Totally overshadowed by “the other 2”. ( Mazda never had a chance, sadly) Again, like most 4×4’s, these around here have long since gone to their maker, so this is very unusual to see. Extra cab a definite plus ( I wouldn’t want a pickup without it) Best usable deal to come through here in a while.

    • wuzjeepnowsaab

      Agreed, Howard. Isuzu made some tough little trucks. I like this one.

    • Puhnto

      People forget but there used to be Troopers and Rodeos all over the place. Rodeos were ahead of their time if you look at what’s being sold now.


    Cool truck, for that price the ac needs to work.

  10. Rentalbarn

    I work in advertising. The Joe Isuzu adds were well done. Forget the weirdness Joe got your attention but not as to drag your attention away from the product. My wife loved her 2 Rodeo’s putting on about 75,000 on each of them.

  11. tje

    Every time I’ve shopped for a cheap truck in the want ads, they are either gone immediately or you show up and it’s a complete POS. This looks decent for the price.

    I’ve had 2 Isuzu Troopers and they served me well.

  12. CJ

    Yeah, don’t remember this truck, but do remember the Rodeos. As stated in a previous post, they were everywhere at one time.

  13. HeadMaster1

    Isuzu was 49% owned by GM, Isuzu was the builder of the Chevy Luv truck and all of the Opel branded vehicles…..I worked for Isuzu Corp a while back, before they pulled out of the N. American market…..Tough trucks and the diesels are long lasting…..Isuzu is the one that developed the Duramax diesel in the Chevy/GMC trucks

  14. Big Jason

    My wife still has her 2002 Isuzu rodeo sport. No real problems, little transmission leak (fixed) and the CD player died (replaced). Great little trail runner.

    • Erb

      I have the long bed pick up.
      1989.manual transmission. Still running. Also a 2000 trooper both running very good, no problem trooper drinks oil though, I like them very much.

  15. Jose luis

    Best little inexpensive hard working trucks. Never had a problem since I bought it 3 years ago…..

  16. Jose luis

    1994 Isuzu 4cyl 5 speed manual….. Everything works

  17. Bob

    The first vehicle I ever bought new was a 91 Isuzu PUP in 4WD. I wanted the Toyota, but the PUP was $10,200 brand new. 4 cyl. 5 speed, AC. It was awesome. I had a job as a real estate photographer. Basically a pizza delivery guy with a camera. Put 45000 miles per year for three years straight with zero problems. In the end I wanted a Trooper, and sold the PUP for a more than I owed.

    Fantastic truck. I would buy this one, except once again, I want an old trooper.

    I still believe they would have sold as well as Nissan and Toyota if the truck rode just a little higher. Just couldn’t quite pull off the “Baja” feel of the SR5.

    Someone should buy this. It’ll never let them down.

  18. Leon

    Here in Lake Charles are alot of last gen Isuzus on road. I’ve seen near a dozen Axioms Who remembers the Vehicross ?? I see a couple of Amigos in town too

  19. Mark-A

    The Amigo was also a VAUXHALL FRONTERA in the UK!

  20. Jeremy Reeder

    I had a dark blue fully loaded 91 or 92 (90% sure it was a 92) Isuzu p’up, 4wd regular cab with the 3.1 Chevy tbi v6 and 5 speed stick. The truck was great, loved the radio down by the shifter and the dash layout including those awesome z24 cavalier inspired push button switches for lights, wipers, etc. The truck ran great 80 mph in 5th gear had it all over the wash coast and it was smooth as a caddy and got 22 mpg. Sadly the frame was rotten bad behind the cab and one day a pothole did it in 😢.

    P.S. On a funny note, these 4×4 t-cases could shift in and out of low range up to 15 mph without grinding and when my clutch started to slip I got 3 more months on it by popping it in low on hills then getting up to 3rd in low then shifting back to high and second once I hit 15 or so. Definitely a cool design.

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