Feb 2008, Offroad Magazine "The Unsung Hero"

Here is something we built a few years ago that was a little different. It was featured in Offroad magazine in February 2008. Here is the write up.


If you get out in the dirt much, then you have likely noticed that Ford Rangers rule the whoops while Jeeps and Toyotas reign supreme in the rocks. What about all of the other makes and models out there though? Isuzus are often overlooked as the basis for an off-road vehicle, but Rodeos and Amigos can be capable platforms. They come equipped from the factory with powerful engines, rugged frames, and Dana 44 rear axles with disc brakes. These vehicles are also available for thousands less than their Jeep, Toyota, and Ford counterparts.

Jake Hallenbeck has built numerous offroad rides in the past, so he was not daunted by the lack of aftermarket support for Isuzus. Hallenbeck knew that he had the skills to fabricate everything needed for his latest project: an Isuzu Rodeo. "I'll never buy another Toyota again," Hallenbeck boldly proclaimed while we were shooting photos of his Isuzu.

After seeing how well the Rodeo works in a variety of terrain, we can't say that we blame him.

The '93 Rodeo was purchased for only $2,500, yet the interior and exterior were in showroom condition, complete with comfortable bucket seats, power windows, and power door locks. Add a healthy 175hp V-6, automatic overdrive transmission, and geardriven transfer case, and the deal looked even better. Hallenbeck knew that more ground clearance, suspension articulation, and gearing was all that were needed to turn the Rodeo into an off-road hero.


The V-6 has plenty of power to spin the tires when Hallenbeck mashes the skinny pedal.


1993 Isuzu Rodeo Off Road Unsung Hero Mashes Spinning Tires


The suspension was set up for rockcrawling, but the wide stance also provides added stability when Hallenbeck tosses the Rodeo sideways while at speed.

1993 Isuzu Rodeo Off Road Unsung Hero Wide Stance Stability


Two-by-four-inch, 0.250-wall box tubing was used to create rock sliders and protect the rocker panels and doors. The tubing is welded directly to the frame for strength and simplicity

1993 Isuzu Rodeo Off Road Unsung Hero Rock Sliders Rocker Panels


Shackles were hung off the front of the frame instead of underneath it. This innovative approach allows the use of longer springs and shackles for a greater range of movement without additional height.

1993 Isuzu Rodeo Off Road Unsung Hero Hung Shackles

A fullsize spare was mounted in the stock location and is surprisingly rattle-free. A tubular rear bumper constructed from 1-1/2-inch, 0.120-wall HREW protects the rear and sides of the Rodeo in the rocks.

1993 Isuzu Rodeo Off Road Unsung Hero Fullsize Spare Mounted


The front bumper was fabricated from 1-1/2-inch, 0.120-wall HREW tubing and houses a Ramsey 8500i winch. An integrated skidplate protects the radiator, while the holes allow proper cooling.

1993 Isuzu Rodeo Off Road Unsung Hero Fabricated Front Bumper


A custom 3-inch air intake complements the 3.2L V-6 engine that produces approximately 205 hp. The Isuzu engine was ahead of its time in '93, utilizing all-aluminum construction, dual overhead cams, and distributorless ignition

1993 Isuzu Rodeo Off Road Unsung Hero Engine View


The interior is largely stock, but it is in excellent condition for a 14-year-old vehicle. Hallenbeck added fighter-jet-type toggle switches for the ARB air compressor and Air Locker, and an iPod loaded with hours of standup comedy keeps him entertained on the trail.

1993 Isuzu Rodeo Off Road Unsung Hero Interior View


"Blue Label" 37-inch BFGoodrich Krawlers are mounted on 17x9 Marsh Racing steel rims. The tires fit nicely under the fenders and stick to rocks like mama's home cooking sticks to your ribs. The full-width axles and Krawlers make this Isuzu look like a Tonka Toy.

1993 Isuzu Rodeo Off Road Unsung Hero Bfgoodrich Krawlers


The rear suspension consists of the stock springs mounted over the full-width Dana 60 rear axle and Rancho 5000 shocks that damp the spring movement and use the stock frame mounts. The full-floating rear axle was chosen to match the bolt pattern of the 8x6.5 front axle and stand up to the abuse of tall, sticky tires. Hallenbeck added brackets for a traction bar but has found it unnecessary so far.

1993 Isuzu Rodeo Off Road Unsung Hero Rear Suspension


Custom 3-inch exhaust with a Flowmaster muffler exits above the full-floating rear Dana 60 equipped with a Detroit Locker, 35-spline axleshafts, and 5.89 Yukon gears. The 5.89 gears are used to return the engine to the proper powerband with the larger tires and somewhat compensate for the poor 2.28 Low range in the transfer case.

1993 Isuzu Rodeo Off Road Unsung Hero Custom Exhaust Flowmaster Muffler


The independent front suspension was removed and replaced with Rancho 44044 leaf springs on custom-fabricated hangers. Rancho 5012 shocks were hung from tubular shock mounts to complement the leaf springs and their additional articulation. Hallenbeck hung a full-width 3/4-ton Dana 44 axle from the leaf springs and fitted the axle with an ARB Air Locker, 5.89 Yukon gears, MileMarker hubs, and a custom diff cover. The U-joint caps are tack-welded to the stock Spicer axleshafts to keep from spitting them out when the Krawlers are bound up in the rocks. The stock steering box was attached to the front axle using a custom drag link that mounts between the factory pitman arm and a steering arm bolted on top of the passenger-side knuckle. The tie rod is located in the stock position, but it was constructed from 1-1/2-inch, 0.250-wall tubing to stand up to rock abuse.

1993 Isuzu Rodeo Off Road Unsung Hero Rancho 44044 Leaf Springs


Sold Out


This product was added to our catalog on Wednesday 22 August, 2012.