Project Isuzu VehiCross Part 6: Getting Sprung With Old Man Emu
One of the biggest complaints about the Isuzu VehiCross, even when new, is its ride. It is very stiff; much stiffer than your average SUV. Part of the reason for this is the stiff springs and motorsports derived shocks (Isuzu did run VehiCrosses in the 1998 Dakkar Rally). While the ride is stiff, the handling is reasonably sprightly for a two ton, body on frame truck. The other reason for the stiffness is the bumpstops. Back in 1996, Consumer Reports tested the Isuzu Trooper and found it was prone to tipping over in hard cornering. Isuzu disagreed and a nasty legal battle broke out between the two companies. While the jury agreed that CR skewed the tests to help the Isuzu roll over (they did the same thing a decade earlier with the Suzuki Samurai), Isuzu still needed to take some action to assuage the fears of consumers. So they installed very long, hard rubber bumpstops onto the suspensions of their trucks to help prevent body roll. While these work in keeping the trucks upright, the hard rubber makes for a jarring ride over speedbumps, bumps, and potholes. Cutting down the bumpstops is an easy way of improving the ride quality on most Isuzus. However our VX has a third reason for a crappy ride: those awesome shocks are completely worn out from 170,000 miles of hard use.
Instead of cutting down our bumpstops and simply replacing our worn out shocks (which are as expensive as mid-level coilovers), we decided to look to the aftermarket for a solution and we found one. Well, that’s not quite right as our VX came with a lift kit at a very good price. There are many ways to lift a truck. One way is to lift the body over the frame using spacer blocks. This can cause a lot of issues with clearance between body and drivetrain. The ideal lift kit uses new suspension arms and links to not only add ground clearance, but improve suspension flex and fix any altered suspension geometry. No such kit exists for Isuzus, so our kit went with the simple solution: longer springs and longer shocks. In essence, this is just putting our truck on stilts, but when done properly, even a basic lift kit like this can make room for larger tires, which in itself is an important upgrade for offroading.