Hungary’s one and only* Isuzu P’up is back on the road again after 5 years/// vol. 1
*as far as we know
If you have limited resources, getting your car back on the road after a fatal error can claim several years of it’s life. Even more if it ends up in the wrong shop.
Turbometal presenter Adrian’s car has been on the waiting list for years in an auto shop where they always had another project on priority.
If you’ve been there, you know how it goes. Weeks, months, years go by. Promises after promises, but you’ve already given up calling the shop. Completely burned out, you hardly believe getting it back again. Then the impossible happens: your friends show up out of the blue at your birthday party with the car you’ve almost given up on.
This is the story of an unusual car’s unusual recovery.
Let Adrian, the owner tell it:
How I ended up with an Isuzu? You all know the story
Young guy is out to buy himself a car. Something cool, something to show off. The first one in his life.
The time is 2007, the place is Tapolca, a town in rural Hungary. VTEC just kicked in, big time. Boy racers, body kits, underglows and exhausts as seen on F&F, transformed to Eastern Europe reality. I wanted to stay out it and stand out with something unique, so I went for something completely different. The classic Saab 900 grabbed my attention first, I even checked out a couple from the classifieds, but I just never ended up buying one. Then all of a sudden I had realized I needed a small pickup truck. I was scrolling past VW Caddys and GDR Wartburgs when I bumped int the listing of this Isuzu P’up.
It was located in a nearby town, so I gave the seller a call. Couple of hours later we were on our way with a friend to check out my future car. When I first saw it I was mesmerized.
Long bed, USDM trim, 1.9 liter engine, automatic, and a bench seat.
I was over and out. The owner sadly explained he bought it as a dream car project, but he had to gave it up because he was leaving for work aboard. He considered it 70 percent done, with a few faulty parts and dingy bits, mostly engine-wise, but I simply didn’t care. I had to have it, but I did’t have asking prize in cash, and he was kind enough to gave me a day to grab the money since i was the first to call. My cash flow was low at the time and I needed to grab some quickly, so I turned to my grandmother who was happy to help me out. Don’t worry, I paid it all back shortly afterwards. Thanks Gran!
On the drive home it would’t idle, and the ancient tyres kept the light back end going sideways on the wet backroads but it didn’t matter to me. I was the owner of this badass american/japaneese truck!
[caption id="attachment_1756" align="alignnone" width="1000"] 30. may 2007 - where the story begins. Japanese truck with an american touch.[/caption]
At the time my brother started his career in the movie industry, so we decided to make a video about our summer. The Isuzu was to be the truck of of our sand dune riding snowboard gang.
[caption id="attachment_1789" align="alignnone" width="1000"] Agrometal snowboards presents //// Keep it Beautiful /// 2007 /// DVD cover[/caption]
In the opening title at 1:20, the Isuzu is blazing trough the picture, with our snowboard team on the bed. Memories…
BTW, our movie won the first prize of XAFT Alternative Movie Meeting.
It was even a wedding car! On my own wedding in 2009.
Well, as I mentioned earlier, the truck was far from perfect, and was just getting worse with time. It even screwed up one of our shooting days.
We could drive about 5 more kilometers, and we had to call it a day.
[caption id="attachment_1792" align="alignnone" width="660"] Coolant is all boiled.[/caption]
A new head gasket was just a temporary solution - I moved to Budapest, and in the heavy city traffic boiling incidents became increasingly frequent.
Fire in the engine bay
On a hot summer day my brother was navigating trough downtown traffic, when smoke strated coming out of the engine bay. He tought it was just another overheating, so he pulled over at a nearby construction site. When he popped the hood huge flames burst out. The construction workers warned
Back off, it’s gonna explode!
One of them handed a fire extinguisher to my brother, but would’t go anywhere near the Isuzu. Finally my brother was able to put out the fire - thank you for beeing so brave, Bro!
But the damage was done, and the Isuzu was a complete disaster. It was parked in a nearby parking lot for a few weeks, then we moved it to the backyard of an apartment complex where our friend lived.
It was a hard time for the Isuzu. The car has been sitting for months. Autumn filled the bed with leaves, winter with snow, and the neighbors with various trash. They also leaved several polite and not-so-polite notes telling me to move the truck away, and they broke the rearview mirror and the aerial to make sure their message gets trough. In the meantime un-registered the car and started searching for a replacement engine, which didn’t prove to be an easy task. I didn’t have the money to have one shipped from the USA, so i kept scanning the classifieds and the yunkyards but I did’t have luck finding a donor.
In the first place we didn’t have many Isuzus at our shores, and wast majority of the few were oil burners.
We were searching for a 4 cylinder Isuzu gas engine - namely the G200 - which is very far from beeing common. It was produced for a few years for pickup trucks and the Trooper SUV. A few details if you’re interested: Bore x stroke: 87 mm x 82 mm, displacement: 1,949 cc (118.9 cu in)
Finally we put the car on a tow truck, drove home and parked it on our driveway under the roof, the exact same spot where i first parked it two years back. This time, it wasn’t a heroic homecoming, but at least it was at a safe spot now.
[caption id="attachment_1721" align="alignnone" width="1000"] I cleaned it from time to time just like I used to.[/caption]
[caption id="attachment_1722" align="alignnone" width="1000"] Destroyed by fire.[/caption]
You’re maybe wondering, why didn’t we just swap some V6 or V8 in if we wanted it back on the road so much? Well, didn’t know anything about cars back then, and didn’t have any infrastructure either. Truth to be told, we’re still no car repair experts. Secondly, I consider it as a future classic, so wanted to keep it original and clean.
In 2010, we started Turbometal Motorblog, and again we were determined to get it back to life. Maybe this was the reason for the miracle that happened.
New hope shines
My phone rang - it was the Isuzu junkyard. They just got a 1986 trooper in, with the long awaited G200 under the hood. Let’s go and get it ASAP. For about $200 it was mine.
I’ll start tomorrow
Finally we had the new engine, now we needed to find a way to install it. A friend’s friend, a nearby mechanic was familiar with the Isuzu’s story, and agreed to do the engine swap. He offered to get it done as a side project in his spare time, with a handsome discount to man-hours. He said it should be done in 2-3 months. I’ve been waiting for 2 over years, so 3 months seemed like nothing. I saw myself driving my pickup truck again… we even posted a quick update to Turbometal’s facebook page, thinking it was back back on track again. Boy I was wrong!
But somehow our mechanic friend didn’t seem so willing to get work done. A couple of months later, the Isuzu was still sitting in his backyard with the donor engine on it’s bed. Whenever I called, he explained how detailed and complex the is going to be - disassembling, painting, assembling, wiring… I felt like he’d rather gave upon this job, but he kept telling me he was going to start tomorrow. A year passed by, the truck was still left untouched and the bed used as a scrap metal container.
I started mentioning to him I was going to move the truck back home, because I didn’t want to see it decaying like this, but he kept promising he was going to start it soon, just give him some more time.
Finally the big day has come - my mechanic started working on the Isuzu! It was making more progress in two days than in two years. The old engine came out, and they started sorting out the various issues.
The engine bay and the hood got a fresh lick of paint, the frame’s rust protection was refreshed, the alternator and the starter got rebuilt. It cost me 500 bucks, then 250 more.
[caption id="attachment_1746" align="alignnone" width="660"] Alternator refurbished.[/caption]
I wanted to get it running again the sooner the better, but for some inexplainable reason he continued with the chassis. Brake pads, bushings and the like. $200 again. To get the new engine back in place, he asked for money in advance, but I didn’t have any at the moment, so the Isuzu was put aside again. I did’t knew it was going to sit and slowly rot for 1,5 years again.
At the time it begun to dawn on me that the mechanic must have underestimated the amount of work, and I’ve underestimated the costs. It was a check-mate - i was waiting for him to cath up up with the job, he was waiting for me to pay for future expenses. The project has gotten to a complete standstill, and I didn’t even call or visit. I guess I did’t want to see it in its miserable state anymore.
Truck gets stolen
If you’ve thought it couldn’t get worse… it could. It’s rotting into the ground at an auto shop, and somebody nicks it… the worst part is, they didn’t even tell it for months.
More on that in the next part...
Bernáth Adrián (Isuzu tulaj)