Japan's specialist commercial and 4x4 vehicle maker is Isuzu, controlled by General Motors. A few years ago, its car division ran up enormous losses and had to be bailed out and finally closed down. This left the company to concentrate on off-roaders, trucks and commercials, which still includes the second of the two generations of Troopers examined here.
The Trooper has been a moderate success in the UK. It has a loyal following, as does that other Isuzu-designed GM car, Vauxhall's Frontera. Whilst neither of the two generations of Trooper are a match for a Range Rover, the prices asked are a lot less than those of many more prestigious competitors, whilst on and off-road abilities are not that much poorer.
The first of the three generations arrived here in February 1987. The launch model was a three-door with a 2.3-litre petrol engine. It's slow, noisy and best avoided.
January 1988 saw the arrival of the rest of the range. Engines were now either a 2.6-litre four-cylinder petrol (replacing the 2.3) or a 2.8-litre four-cylinder diesel. The last examples are on 91J plates.
There were two trim levels called D Pack and Citation. If you think they're odd names, you might be interested to know that back in Japan, the Trooper is badged Isuzu Big Horn. Yes, really. The only update was the standard fitment of central locking in February 1989. The Citations also gained heated front seats at the same time.
The original range was replaced by a much more modern line-up in March 1992, the first shape having disappeared six months earlier. The new Trooper was again initially available with the same two trim levels but the engines had grown to 3.2-litres for the petrol and 3.1 for the diesel. The 3.2 was in fact a new V6 to replace the old four-cylinder 2.6, while the 3.1 turbo diesel was a bigger version of the existing 2.8-litre four-cylinder unit.
Bodies were still a choice of three or five doors, but the shapes were far less slab-sided. Equipment levels went up, with air conditioning, cruise control and electric windows all available, along with the clever self-folding door mirrors many Japanese cars had begun to feature. The Trooper remained more or less unchanged since, though there was a dashboard redesign and an equipment upgrade for the 1996 model year that brought new alloy wheels amongst other niceties. The 1997-specification cars, on the other hand, received only minor changes but they did include the addition of airbags.
It was all-change in 1998 however, with the introduction of a new range so altered it can accurately be termed the third generation version. This car boasted a sophisticated all-new 16-valve DOHC 3.0-litre 'common rail' direct injection turbodiesel with much-improved power (and it's more frugal) plus a pokier 3.5-litre petrol V6.
Most recently, late in 1999, new petrol and diesel Insignia versions arrived with leather trim, CD changer and a clever new Torque-On-Demand system which provides the benefits of both 2WD and 4WD by sensing road conditions and adjusting the torque fed to each axle.