Click here to go to Help Page World Off Road September 1998

It's silver and black, out of this world, yet in production in Japan. We drive the Vehi-CROSS, Isuzu's radical concept vehicle turned reality.

Story by Bob "Michael Knight" Maclaren.
Photos by Mike Crouch.


As the rear ramp of the silhouetted large black Knight Industries truck lowered amidst dramatic backlighting and wisps of dry ice, I knew something was wrong. "Yo, Devon!" I shouted "what have you done to KITT?"

Vehi-CROSS goes back to the future"We’ve made a few modifications, Michael" he replied "we thought it was time you caught up with the post ‘futuristic-Saturday-afternoon- American-low-budget-mini- series’ nineties, as the Millennium is just around the corner."

"Say again?"

"We just cannot afford to keep replacing shock absorbers, front spoilers and tyres on KITT every time you decide to turbo-boost your way through a factory wall chasing machine gun wielding second-rate actors in military-coloured Jeep CJs", Devon elaborated. " It’s time you put aside your lousy singing career, stopped prancing about in the surf with silicone enhanced beauties in skimpy swimming cossies and focused on protecting the helpless and innocent." He continued, "Michael, allow me to introduce you to your new partner – Vehi-CROSS".

Outside the Knight Industries HQ"What does that stand for?" I asked curiously

"Very Exclusive Hybrid Isuzu - Considerably Rarer than Other Sad SUVs" replied Devon knowledgeably.

"But that would be Vehi-Crtoss" I retorted.

"Don’t be pedantic, Michael."

"Good morning Michael" Vehi-CROSS said forcefully.

"Woah, he talks in a far more masculine voice than KITT ever did", I commented. "Tell me VehiCROSS, what is your primary function?"

The silver machine replied; "to stand out from the crowd and offer a glimpse of the future".

"Hmmm, and what are your origins?"

Recaro seating and Momo steering wheel"Father was a plain old short wheel-base Isuzu Trooper and mother was a Stealth spy plane. Together and with the aid of British designer Simon Cox, they set about producing my older brother – a design concept at the 1993 Tokyo Motor Show. People liked him so much they set about building clones on a limited production run of 250 per month in the Japanese market. With the aid of Isuzu UK I escaped, assumed a new identity on British number plates and set about ascertaining whether the UK market could cope with my superior intelligence. My brothers have already won a series of top awards in Japan for styling and design."

"And this makes you capable of replacing KITT?"

Modern styling meets modern architecture"The VehiCROSS generation is far more advanced than that old shed. Take a look at my technical specifications…Torque-On-Demand 4x4 system offering advanced torque distribution between the axles; rear wheel drive in normal conditions and up to a 50/50 torque split in slippery conditions. My uprated version of the Trooper 3.2 V6 petrol power plant offers supersonic performance in combat situations from its 212 bhp output. To reduce velocity I am equipped with anti-lock ventilated disc brakes front and rear. Even my shock absorbers feature advanced aluminium construction incorporating a ‘piggyback’ reservoir. This reduces deterioration in damping characteristics due to high temperatures in severe driving conditions."

Isuzu seems perfectly at home in Cardiff"Okay, okay enough bragging my oddball friend. Let’s go looking for a well-tanned moustachioed ex-military fanatic intent on blowing up the Houses of Parliament." I snapped back, jumping into the black Recaro driving seat. ‘Wow’, I thought, ‘almost as snug fitting as my blue denim Levis and almost as comfortable as my Alligator skin cowboy boots. What no LED speed readouts? What on earth are all these Km/h calibrations on the speedometer? Presumably to completely baffle would be hijackers.’

"Would you like me to reverse down the ramp?" Vehi-CROSS rudely enquired.

"No thanks, I can handle it" I replied, firing up the smooth V6 and selecting reverse. "Just one cotton-picking minute. There’s a TV monitor in my dashboard!"

Dashboard-mounted monitor and stereo unit"That is correct. The one problem with my superior design is that because spare wheel is located on the inside of the rear door you are not able to see where you are reversing. In fact some people have even been rude enough to say you could not spot a Nimitz class aircraft carrier through any of my rear windows."

I could see why, for Vehi-CROSS was not blessed with rear vision or rear passenger space. It certainly had a few nifty design touches like the carbon fibre look trim and supremely comfortable Momo steering wheel, but a practical load carrier it was not. Unfortunately the rear camera took some getting used to, and I took great delight in seeing how close you could get to other vehicles in the ‘Knight Industries’ car park. Even better was how much fun you could have backing up close to hedges at night time, watching the various insects jump to safety on the monitor. Vehi-CROSS certainly was infinitely better than KITT.

Dashboard layoutVehi-CROSS and I spent the weekend on a new mission, running in stealth mode around the almost stationary M25, deflecting both admiring and puzzled glances and then visiting key personnel members in the violent neighbourhoods of Arundel in West Sussex and then across the border to Radyr in Wales. Dangerous stuff, I know, but with Vehi-CROSS by my side and our friendship flourishing we fought on. Vehi-CROSS was an undeniably competent performer, rapid and confident if a little harsh on the posterior due to its over firm suspension. I thanked my lucky stars that Devon had spent those two weeks teaching me to operate the monitor and stereo combo, as I would have never got my ‘David Hasslehof sings Country’ tape inserted in the right orifice nor would I have had the amazing digital night scenes playing on the monitor screen throughout the course of our journeys.

Rear load space and reclining seatingThen my mind went blank. All I can remember is the bright lights and those men in white coats as I was bundled into the black Chrysler Voyager. As I sit in my padded cell shouting into my plastic Timex digital wristwatch "Vehi-CROSS, can you hear me? Vehi-CROSS respond! Vehi-CROSS, rescue me now. I’m held behind enemy lines…" there is something you should probably know. My name is not really Michael Knight. I’m not really an employee of Knight Industries. Vehi-CROSS at rest in Suffolk fieldMy name is Bob and I’m a motoring journalist. More importantly Vehi-CROSS is not a figment of my colourful imagination but really does exist. It may not talk but it does do just about everything else, however it is unlikely to ever reach these shores in any number. Doesn’t stop me wanting one though. I’ll try shouting into my wristwatch again…..


Further reading:
Isuzu Trooper LWB Duty
Isuzu Trooper SWB Duty
Isuzu Trooper LWB Citation