Scattered among the acres of bondo and rusted metal at this year’s Spring Jefferson (Wis.) car show were a handful of genuinely unique vehicles. The Aussie Ford Falcon and the three Detroit humpbacks were interesting enough but remember this monster? It’s an Isuzu VehiCROSS, it was for sale and I almost wish I’d brought my checkbook.
The VehiCROSS was first shown as a concept car at the 1993 Tokyo Motor Show. Unlike most of the weird, quirky concepts shown at the Tokyo show, the VehiCROSS was actually headed for production and the U.S. market.
Isuzu had already established itself as a serious contender in the 4-wheel drive segment with the Trooper and the VehiCROSS was meant to push the envelope both in terms of design and off-road capabilities. Make no mistake, this isn’t just another pretty face, it excelled at both.
With a box-section, 7-crossmember, ladder frame borrowed from the Trooper and a suspension system proven on the Paris-Dakar rally, the VehiCROSS was designed to keep up with the best no matter how rough the terrain. Its unique suspension featured monotube shock absorbers front and rear with external heat expansion chambers not normally found on factory-stock vehicles.
It also boasted a computer controlled, full-time all-wheel-drive system with locking differential from Borg Warner that Isuzu called Torque On Demand and a 3.5-liter, 215 hp V-6 as the standard powertrain for U.S. versions. A four speed automatic was the only transmission offered.
U.S. bound models were well equipped with standard leather Recaro sport seats, power windows and locks, speed control, tilt steering wheel and carbon fiber style door trim inserts. Standard skid plates protected the fuel tank and the radiator.
Feel free to differ but I find the unusual design rather appealing. At first glance it looks a bit awkward but no more so than the Toyota FJ Cruiser and it quickly grew on me. Form follows function in the design of the VehiCROSS, with its extremely short front and rear overhangs it offers approach and departure angles that few others can match.
Isuzu never intended to sell many of these and it was only offered in the U.S. for three years, 1999-2001. Just over 4100 of them found homes here. Silver was the most popular color (about 1/3 of all sold) with Pearl White Metallic the least popular – only one was ever sold here in that color.
The owner of this VehiCROSS was hoping to get $8200 (Batman logos included) for it but would consider less. Given the vehicle’s condition, its reputation for durability, its off-road capabilities, its uniqueness and its rarity, that’s probably not a bad price. Like I said, I almost wish I’d brought my checkbook.