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After some success providing General Motors with small Faster pickups badged as Chevrolet LUVs in North America (plus some Chevette-related Geminis labeled “Buick/Opel by Isuzu,” which confused everybody), Isuzu began selling vehicles under its own name here in the early 1980s. At first, we just got I-Mark subcompacts and P’up pickups. Then the Trooper SUV appeared in 1984, and Isuzu joined the suburban-commuter truck game in a big way. For the 1989 model year, the little Amigo three-door convertible SUV landed on our shores. Here’s one of those early trucks, found in still-rad condition in a San Francisco Bay Area self-service yard recently.

Once Isuzu made a version with five doors and a solid roof, giving it Rodeo badges in the process, the Amigo became more of an afterthought in the North American Isuzu world. Amigo sales halted here after 1995, then resumed for 1998-2000 (after which the three-door became the Rodeo Sport before disappearing in 2003).

Starting in 1996, Isuzu replaced its Amigo-platform-related pickup with a rebadged Chevy S-10 known as the Hombre. That meant that Spanish-speaking Isuzu shoppers could be disturbed by the prospect of buying a friend or a man. The Isuzu company itself was named after a river in Mie Prefecture.

The Suzuki Samurai kicked off the “cute-ute” craze for the 1986 model year, with the Suzuki Sidekick/Geo Tracker appearing in 1989. Around the same time, irritating pastel colors and squiggly graphics became trendy. This — and other unfortunate 1980s fashions — continued well into the 1990s (One man’s “irritating” and “unfortunate” is another’s “delightful” – Ed).

This odometer can’t be right! I suspect a broken speedometer cable.

The engine is a 2.6-liter inline-four rated at 119 horsepower. 

Unlike Honda’s VTEC, the variable-cam-timing system that made its debut in the 1989 Honda Integra, Isuzu’s I-TEC name just stood for an electronic fuel injection system. 

The only transmission in the Amigo for the first couple of years was a five-speed manual, which is in this truck. That three-pedal setup kept the Amigo’s appeal limited to the small group of American drivers willing to work a clutch. The optional automatic became available for 1992. You could get the Amigo with four-wheel drive, but this one is the cheaper rear-wheel-drive version.

This interior looks so nice that perhaps this Amigo really did get junked with 57,000+ on the odometer. Checking the California BAR’s Vehicle Smog Check history (by plugging in the VIN), I see that it last took — and passed — a smog check in 2010. Perhaps something broke at age 18 and it sat in a garage until its last owner finally gave up on it.

Which is too bad, because this little truck would have been a hit at Radwood.

This commercial is for the second-generation Amigo, but it’s a must-see due to the homage to the old Slinky ads.

Because just about every Isuzu (and Daewoo and Suzuki, for that matter) was sold under different names elsewhere in the sprawling GM Empire of the 1990s, here’s a commercial for the German-market Opel Frontera.

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