CC Outake: Cavalier and Trooper II – Suddenly It’s 1988

Cavaliers of this vintage aren’t exactly getting any more common, and that applies to the Trooper II. I suppose it’s a stretch to say these are about as disparate of GM cars as any, as GM didn’t actually have much to do with the Trooper, which was a 100% Isuzu project, unlike some of its other cars, like the Opel Kadett-based Isuzu Gemini (sold as an Opel in the US).

The Trooper was initially called “Rodeo Bighorn” in Japan, but the Rodeo part soon was dropped. Because Bighorn had been used by Dodge, for its biggest truck ever, that was not going to fly in the US. So Trooper it was, but why the first generation was called “II” is a mystery, especially since the second generation was just called “Trooper”. Needless to say, its boxy styling and very tall green house was strongly inspired by the Range Rover.

The Trooper was one of the first of the more compact SUVs on the market, arriving in the US in 1983, just as that segment was about to explode with the Jeep Cherokee, Chevy Blazer S-10, Bronco II, and the Mitsubishi Montero. Initially, the Trooper was only available as a two door, but wisely a four door soon was added.

The Trooper quickly acquired a rep for being tough, like all Isuzu trucks, although it was rather under-powered with its 1.9 Lgasoline four.  A 2.3 L came along in 1986, a 2.6 L version was added in 1988, and in 1990, the Chevy 2.8 V6 was optional. So that version wasn’t 100% Isuzu.

There’s still a few Trooper at work here, as they seem to be nigh-near indestructible. Shall we say the same thing about the Cavalier? Some folks think so, at least after the bugs were worked out in the early versions, in typical GM style. Its rather primitive ohv four and the THM-125 both developed a rep for being rather durable. Pleasant to drive is another matter, but then presumably nobody bought them for their refinement.

So which one will outlast the other one?