In Motion Classic: 1999 – ’01 Isuzu VehiCROSS – What’s In A Name?

022 - 1999 Isuzu VehiCROSS CC

This intersection at Jackson and Clark in Chicago’s Loop district, along with a stretch of North Sheridan Road in my neighborhood, has been responsible for more of my CC sightings than probably all other locations combined.  It may sound like hyperbole, but it has been here that I’ve photographed a 1974 Plymouth Satellite Sebring Plus, a ’79 Pontiac Catalina two-door, an MGB GT (which remains to be written up), and a few other goodies.  This past Friday afternoon, as I was walking to that final Red Line train of the workweek back to my neighborhood, this New Millennium-era rarity came barreling southbound down Clark.  Traffic cooperated and gave me a view, and my reflexes and shutter finger served me well.

I was in my mid-twenties and had just started my post-college career in the insurance industry when the VehiCROSS made its debut.  I had called this thing the “Axiom” for months before seeing one up close and reading the decal on the wide C-pillar, with its dual fonts and unique combination of lower- and upper-case letters.  After checking the internet to see what an “Axiom” actually was, it occurred to me that Isuzu had wasted a great naming opportunity.  Any thing with the letter “X” in its name automatically seems just a little wicked, and look at this conveyance.  It has fangs in its grille, for crying out loud.  It is short and sinister and from the front, it looks like a cobra ready to strike.

024 - 1999 Isuzu VehiCROSS CC

I’m not the only one who thought this SUV was called the Axiom.  My older brother was also fooled.  He and I would spot one in traffic (which, to be clear, was not often) and pronounce “AX-iom!” with emphasis.  Also fooled was the daughter of one of my co-workers at the time.  Cathy’s daughter, Kristin, was in the market for a new car and was quite taken with the VehiCROSS, but thought it was called something else.  The Monday following the weekend test drive of what was supposed to be one of these, Cathy told a small group of us about how she and Kristin had gone to the Isuzu dealership.  They did have a few Axioms on the lot, but Kristin looked at it confusedly and stated this was not the truck she wanted.  When Kristin described her dream Isuzu, the salesperson correctly identified it as a VehiCROSS – and went on to state they didn’t have any and wouldn’t for a while.  Needless to say, and as recounted by Cathy, Kristin was very disappointed, and they left without making a purchase.

025 - 1999 Isuzu VehiCROSS CC

The irony is that the actual Axiom wasn’t a bad-looking vehicle.  It didn’t look very “corporate GM”, and didn’t seem to share any obvious visual similarities to other vehicles in the Isuzu lineup.  It was somewhat unique, but still a boxier, more conventional design.  More importantly, and to the point of this article, it didn’t look like something called an “Axiom”.  That’s not to say that the “VehiCROSS” moniker would have suited the Axiom better via nameplate swap with the former, but if I was in Isuzu’s North American Branch Naming Department (if something like that existed), I would have sent a few folks back to the drawing board to rename the Axiom something else so I could affix those five letters to this vehicle.

028 - 1999 Isuzu VehiCROSS CC

Oh, wait…what’s this?  A temporary plate affixed to the rear window?  You know this guy is smiling ear-to-ear with his new-to-him purchase.  One doesn’t just accidentally wind up with used example of an Japanese SUV with a total U.S. import run of less than 4,200 units over three, measly model years.  I did manage to snap a frame featuring the driver, but the picture wasn’t of great quality, and hey – I’m not trying to embarrass the guy.  He might be a regular CC reader.  (Many prefer the anonymity of reading and not commenting, which is perfectly alright.)  He did look to be about my age, so perhaps he, like me, remembered when the Axiom…ahem, VehiCROSS (I’m sorry, I still think that’s such a dumb name) was the deal.  It may not have been the prettiest thing on four wheels, but it certainly looked in-your-face as only could a vehicle born in that booming, more-of-everything time at the end of the last century.  Many happy miles, Friend.

Downtown, The Loop, Chicago, Illinois.
Friday, August 19, 2016.

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