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The Junkyard 1986 Isuzu Trooper Has Landed!

After lingering in Georgia for a few months, my 1986 Isuzu Trooper two-door that I rescued out of a bramble bush has made its way to my humble abode in Rhode Island. The Trooper, as you may recall, was found on my friend’s property in Georgia, and we’ve listed a lot of his vehicles here as Exclusives (you can check out the most recent post here.) I snagged the Trooper for a few reasons, mostly because it was entirely rust-free and because it was an early model with the round headlights, which always struck me as being a Range Rover in miniature. The Troopers of this generation rotted out in the Northeast eons ago, so a solid example seemed like a fun way into square-body SUV ownership with a chance of not losing my shirt should I decide to sell it down the road. Read on for more updates and our latest Barn Finds project car video.

You can check out the very first post about the Trooper here, along with some photos of it being dislodged from its long-term home in a thicket. Now, remember: the original 2.3L four-cylinder engine was locked up tighter than Tom Thumb’s ass, as John Candy would say, so it had to come out. A junkyard engine from a salvage yard in Cumming, GA was found and installed by a great little shop in Blue Ridge, GA called Mr. Fix It. Check out the video above and comb through our YouTube channel for previous updates, which covers some of my initial thoughts upon getting the Trooper home (in the pouring rain and with a dead battery – a terminal spacer helped solve the charging issue, thankfully.)

Once running and driving, it came up north with a few concerns left to resolve, which I’ll get into later. Really, it was largely good news as I had no idea what to expect in terms of running condition. One of the first things I set about doing was an extensive, deep cleaning of years of dirt and junkyard debris, along with de-tinting all of the windows. What a difference that made. In driving it around my neighborhood, I was surprised at how smooth it seemed to run, especially for a vehicle that sat in a junkyard for ten years! Literally, the suspension didn’t clunk, all the controls worked, and anything that didn’t came back to life with some electrical cleaner.

This is now the second vehicle I’ve rescued from my friend’s property, and here’s the cleaned-up Trooper sitting next to the other project: a gray-market 1981 Toyota HiAce, a diesel-powered utility van I’ve posted about from time to time. I love the fact that these two vehicles were otherwise left for dead, and with a nominal investment, they are both running, driving vehicles. There’s plenty more to do, however, as the Trooper still needs an errant coolant and oil leak fixed, the transmission and differential fluid changed, and a wiring job for my coolant and oil pressure gauges, both non-op at the moment. Fortunately, I won’t be worrying too much about rust repair, unlike the HiAce which still needs a bunch of bodywork needs addressed.

Which brings us to the next update: the Trooper has had some other odds and ends addressed, including replacing the cracked windshield (this broke my heart as it was the original, Isuzu-stamped glass) and replacing the cracked turn signals with European-spec units. Right now, the Trooper is at a new shop here in Rhode Island to install a rare Calmini lift kit, which is practically extinct for the early-model Troopers; huge shout-out to Calmini for tracking down all the disparate components and getting them to me so this Trooper can not only ride a little higher but on period-correct components. Bigger wheels and tires are also in the mix so this Trooper can tackle some trails before I have to re-focus on other projects, like the junkyard Mercedes Cosworth – which may be running soon.


  1. Scotty Gilbertson Staff

    Congrats, Jeff! I’m looking forward to seeing future installments on your collection.

    Like 6
  2. Gunner

    Great rescue story Jeff! Always liked this generation of the Trooper. They are built tough and will last if taken care of (rust excluded). Keep us posted on your progress.

    Like 2
  3. redwagon

    Love 2 door Troopers! but must we lift everything?

    Have fun with it.

    Like 2
    • Jeff Lavery Staff

      I don’t disagree, but a 2 inch lift won’t be overkill and the original suspension is muy tired – even though it’s quiet at the moment!

      Like 3
  4. Stangalang

    I couldn’t find a trooper…but I did find a 90 isuzu pickup 4×4 with 5speed and no rust or dents..runs good too gotta do a tune on it 😁👍

    Like 1
  5. Mtshootist

    I had a friend in Helena that drove a rust bucket Trooper. It was a wonder that the entire body didn’t fly off going around a corner. The thing would not die. I don’t know where it came from must have been back East somewhere or Michigan would not be surprised if it was still lurking around Helena MT.

    Like 0
  6. Doone

    They’ll all think it’s a Range Rover when you take it up on Atwells for pizza night. Nice!

    Like 0
    • Jeff Lavery Staff

      That’s a comment only a local would make! And I’d be lying if I didn’t enjoy the occasional Atwells cruise on a summer night.

      Like 0
      • Doone

        No, I am from Jersey, however I worked for a company that had offices in Lincoln in the 80’s and when I came back in another career I ate at Buddy’s favorite hangout up there. I love Providence, it’s a cool city. Too bad it turned on him in the end.

        Like 0
    • Jeff Lavery Staff

      Yeah, Buddy may have had his faults, but he got stuff done.

      Like 0
  7. Nick P

    Remember Joe Isuzu? Funny stuff. Thoroughly enjoyed as a kid.

    Like 2
  8. Howard A Member

    Troopers were great trucks. They didn’t call them “Trooper” for nothing. I always thought the roof was too tall, and like most vintage Asian vehicles that aren’t made anymore, I’d be concerned about parts. Here in 4×4 land, I see a lot of Troopers, that must have been popular at one time, sitting behind garages in alley’s, clearly not moved for a while. That makes me think they can’t be repaired. Who knows where this hobby will go. We never thought a 1st gen Bronco was worth anything either,

    Like 1
    • Jeff Lavery Staff

      Indeed. I had a terrible science teacher who owned a first-gen Trooper and used to kick the door closed with his foot every day. Such a beater truck. Now, they’re extinct in some parts of the country (like the northeast). I wonder what happened to Mr. Visentin…

      Like 0
  9. angliagt angliagt

    Good job in saving it! I’ve always liked that style
    of Trooper – looks boxy & business like,rather than “trendy”‘
    & space inefficiant.

    Like 0
  10. 427Turbojet 427Turbojet Member

    A few years ago I would drive by a semi rural house that I could see a small pickup chassis sitting behind the garage. I was looking for a 6 lug narrow hydraulic brake rear axle to put in a ’30 Chevy beater I was building. They had a garage sale one day so I had the perfect introduction to snoop. It was a Trooper chassis, but new enough that it had 4 wheel disc brakes. Too new for what I wanted. The guy showed me a mid ’80s Trooper that had been hit hard on the left front wheel, bending the frame and front suspension. The chassis had been purchased to repair the complete Trooper. I bought both for $250, thinking I’d just part them out. The wrecked one was drivable enough to get home, with everything working perfectly. I decided to put the newer chassis under it and just save the drum brake rear axle as originally planned. On the complete truck, I cut it down to just the cowl and floor to behind the seats. I use it as a side by side ATV, capable of 70 mph (!) with the A/C blasting though it never gets over 10 mph in the yard. Sorry I cut the windshield off at cowl level- but the wipers still flap around and would clear the glass if there were any. One of my nephews builds race car roll cages as a sideline so I’m going to pull in some favors and have him put a cage on it.

    Like 1
  11. 427Turbojet 427Turbojet Member

    My “UZI” EFI, 5 spd, 2 spd transfer case, P/S, 4 wheel disc brakes. Plan on a roll cage and small dump bed

    Like 1
  12. Karl

    I had an 86 trooper if people are talking about lifting the body for bigger tires, bad idea that little engine won’t pull it. I used my trooper for work, hunting and general transport great vehicle but in cold weather getting it out of 4 wd took a lot of backing up. I drove it for 60k miles and had no problems but after a couple years of treating rust issues I got rid of it and got a much newer GM half ton pickup. But besides rust the trooper was a good vehicle.

    Like 0
  13. Ken Wittick

    I have only one question….Why ?

    Like 0

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