Rides from the Readers: 2001 Isuzu VehiCross(es)

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Michael Bustell

Hagerty readers and Hagerty Drivers Club members share their cherished collector and enthusiast vehicles with us via our contact email, tips@hagerty.com. We’re showcasing some of our favorite stories among these submissions. To have your car featured, send complete photography and your story of ownership to the above email address.

Today’s featured vehicle is a 2001 Isuzu VehiCross—technically, three of them, but we’ll get to that in a moment. A tinge of “sales failure” often surrounds this funky ’90s crossover, which moved from show floor to factory line with remarkably few changes. True, Isuzu only made 5958 of these now-overlooked SUVs, but the decision was intentional, revealed by the company’s decision to use ceramic, rather than steel, tooling dies to lower cost and production time—even though that meant fewer vehicles.

Despite its aggressively funky (for the 2000s) styling, this little body-on-frame SUV has legitimate off-road prowess thanks to its 3.5-liter V-6, with 215 hp and 230 lb-ft of torque, and part-time 4×4 system. Isuzu even kitted it out with monotube shocks with external heat-expansion chambers. The vehicle’s quirks include a spare tire mounted on the inside of the side-hinged rear door and an instrument cluster that includes a readout of the real-time torque split. Why do XJ Cherokees get all the love? You tell us.

Back to the (multiple) VehiCrosses at hand, all of which belong (or belonged) to Michael Bustell. His first VehiCross purchase was a twofer, a pair of Ebony-colored 2001s he bought after selling a ’94 Mazda RX-7 and a ’93 Range Rover LWB. One VehiCross is “in show condition,” he writes, with less than 80,000 miles. It gets respectful, light use. The other is a road-tripping beast with over 198,000 miles.

Tragedy befell the more veteran VehiCross, however, when a stolen Mercedes careened into it at 90 mph. Both Michael and his son were safe, but both the Isuzu and the Benz were in sorry condition.

Michael Bustell

By this point, however, Bustell knew exactly what he was looking for, and soon another 2001 VehiCross, in “Foxfire”, red sat in the driveway.

“In a lifetime of collecting cars I’ve experienced no other vehicle that makes me smile more to look at or drive than the Isuzu VehiCross,” writes Bustell. “This little body-on-frame sporty SUV drives like my Porsche 993 and takes on the mountain trails and snowy roads better than my Pinzgauer 6×6.”

Well, at the very least, that’s an endorsement you’re not likely to hear again!

Michael Bustell
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