Once again the written counterpart is lagging well behind real-life happenings, with the following catching us up from the tail-end of the most recent Update. Unfortunately for Project VX, this marks the end of the road. It was a fun, albeit short-lived, period having it as a second car, but life changes and sometimes your vehicle(s) have to do so accordingly. Without further ado, Project VX’s Final Update…
When we last left off Project VehiCROSS had just been out on the road for the first time under my care. It was an overwhelming experience: exhilarating and nerve-racking and laugh-inducing all at the same time. I drove the VX intermittently for a few months between then and now, had my fun, and realized the inevitable: wrong vehicle, wrong time. The cliché scenario– a lack of space, time, and disposable income– eventually reigned supreme, putting the VX in a bad spot when it came to prioritizing. I hinted at it in the post-script of my two Project Car SOTU pieces (Update II / Update III), but it’s for real: the VX is gone.
It was a dream vehicle of mine, an offbeat oddball that had me mesmerized since laying eyes on the little Japanese 4×4 for the first time as a kid, and I’m lucky to have owned one for the short while that I did. But to experience something and know it’s not right for you or for the moment is better than to not experience it at all, and such is exactly what happened here. Keep reading to see how and why things played out the way they did, and also to see how I felt about the Isuzu VehiCROSS after the dust settled and I’ve had time to look back on everything.
It was March of this year when the seemingly perfect VehiCROSS turned up. I’d been searching passively for one for years, hunting more intensely over the prior months. I test-drove a 1999 in Victory White two and a half years ago, did so with another of the same color this past January. Looked at tens of them on the internet, never found the right one. Then in February a beautiful Ebony Black example, fitted with extensive off-road modifications, just barely slipped away. I was crushed. It was in Chicago, had a price tag higher than was ideal, and, most crucially, fell through due to poor timing. But then along came a single-owner 2001 in Kaiser Silver, odometer showing just 93k miles, interior cleaner than any I’d come across, and a price that fit my bank account nicely. It all happened in a perfectly natural way and, after a couple test-drives and a look-over from the local mechanic, it was mine. I was ecstatic.
Things went fairly smoothly with the VehiCROSS over the following months. Aside from a few issues it ran well and drove in a passable manner, and was fun enough to garner my attention and time. But what proved most important to the story was that I loved it blindly as most do with a newfound obsession. Despite its imperfections I saw it as perfect, and nobody could get my mind off that. And then over time reality finally hit me: it was flawed. Deeply, truly flawed. Not just this exact VX with its own slew of problems, but in how the vehicle as a whole didn’t fit my life. I tried to make it work but ultimately couldn’t. And, as I was reminded merely months later, most good things come to an end.
Unfortunately for the fate of Project VX, I need one all-weather capable, fun but efficient and safe and reliable vehicle—with emphasis on the singular part. No room, finances, or space to do the two-car juggle right now. I moved, going from a house with a driveway to an apartment complex with a lone space in a parking garage. Meanwhile the VehiCROSS suddenly, and with shocking force, had become a liability and of questionable integrity that made me nervous to own long-term and, in some cases, nervous to drive. But that whole moving thing hit me hard: it’s one thing to juggle a summer and a winter car when you have a driveway to take advantage of, but it’s another when you simply don’t have the space or time for it. A VehiCROSS needs to be driven and tended to, and I just couldn’t give the VX what it needed to not feel bad about keeping it around. To add insult to injury, my Challenger was shaping up to fit my needs poorly and also showing a pretty negative outlook for long-term ownership. It was time for a change but first, the VX, as the toy and second car it was serving as, had to go.
As usually is the case with trying to sell a car via the internet there was quite a bit of BS along the way. Once again Craigslist proved to bring about many interested parties, yet none actually interested enough to dole out the cash. One potential buyer turned out to be a mechanic and nitpicked over the smallest of things, asking me questions I had no knowledge of how to even answer. Another would-be-buyer turned out to be a massive disappointment, a complete and utter failure. Failure as in: had met with him for a look-around and test-drive, had negotiated price and settled on a figure, had made plans to transfer money, had discussed which bank we would do so at, had gotten multiple texts and phone calls confirming his want for the VX and readiness to purchase it, had been carrying the title around with me for when all was to be done. Something seemed iffy from the get-go, but cash talks and I was ready to get it over with and off my conscience. Long story short, the sale didn’t happen.
He strung me out, possibly probably attempted to scam me, and all-in-all straight-up lied. It ended when I called his phone and was met with a dead-end message saying, “This number has been disconnected. Goodbye.” It sucked but getting scammed would have sucked a whole lot more, so all things considered it could have been worse. Craigslist transactions can really be miserable.
Anyways, I ended up trading in the VehiCROSS along with my Challenger on a single car to serve as a replacement for both. I’ll be finishing up its own Introduction shortly, but here’s a few hints: more doors than the VX or Challenger, same number of driven wheels as the VX, half the cylinders of the Challenger, less ground clearance than either, 6-speed, very blue. Correct guess wins an internet cookie.
Up to and through its final moments in my ownership, the VehiCROSS never ceased to turn heads and drop jaws. At Cars & Coffee it garnered confused glances, and in a supermarket parking lot it had the relative effect of leaving a spaceship next to the common boredom-mobiles. Parked in a lot among other “normal” cars it stands out almost hilariously. It’s such an unusual and eccentric thing that it’s hard to believe it was actually produced. Even next to small/midsize CUVs the VX is small, but it’s so unusual that you can’t not love it. So ugly it’s cute, if you will. As we signed the papers at the dealership the day it left my care, the finance guy laughed as he looked over how much they were giving me as much for it, and used the phrase “[…]and the VehiCROSS, whatever the hell that thing is […]” in reference to the wildly outlandish vehicle he had never heard of.
But there was weight in his feelings toward the amount which I was receiving on trade for the VX, and such is something I learned first-hand in this situation: a rare vehicle is not always worth a lot because it’s rare, and even more so, perceived value is not the same as actual worth.
Try selling a rare vehicle on Craigslist or a forum or in a Facebook group and you’re bound to be told how it’s not worth what you think it is or what you want it to be worth. It may be rare, it may be in (relatively) decent condition, and it may be semi-desirable to a small group of people in the world of niche vehicles, but that doesn’t necessarily translate to it being worth a lot when it comes to selling it. Maybe worth more emotionally, but that’s about it. Find the right buyer and sure, you’ll get decent change for it, but finding that buyer is going to take so much time that in most cases you’re better off skipping the hassle altogether. The process takes so long and causes so much frustration that it’s simply not worth it when you’re talking relatively low-cost ordeals.
If you have a sub-100k mile single-owner VehiCROSS in good running condition with no notable issues then it’s worth maybe $6500-7000, and you can deduct by the thousand from there for anything substantially wrong. When it comes time to sell a vehicle like this it’s an entirely optimistic and hopeful selling process, and you’ll almost never get what you want for it. You might think it’s worth a lot but that doesn’t mean anyone else will, or that someone who does actually has the money for it or actually wants to buy it. My VX was in much better condition when I traded it in than when I bought it so luckily I made out alright on the financial side, but my hopes and dreams of selling the VX in a few years at a huge profit after prices skyrocketed went down the drain.
And so did many of my other VX-related dreams. Bringing it back to near-new condition glory would never happen. Off-roading it? Nope, never even did so over the few months I had it. That may have been a blessing in disguise though seeing as I have another, more attention-needy, off-road project—my ten-year-old Kawasaki Brute Force ATV– which is my passion and vehicular love above all else. Speaking of which, getting rid of the VX was undoubtedly in a way doing it a justice. For me, it was another project that I didn’t have the time or money to properly take care of. Oh, and there’s also the MR2 which will hopefully see some attention this fall, so the VX would have had nothing to do but look on while that car and the quad were played with. A life of little attention the VX most definitely would have lived, and that’s just not right for the vehicle’s sake.
It came down to a few very definitive reasons to let the VehiCROSS go. As I’ve said, I wasn’t ready financially to start repairing/replacing everything that broke— and because the VX is so rare, parts are incredibly hard to find and expensive to acquire when you do. Also, finding somebody to fix the quirks is tough. Keeping it around was an injustice to the VX itself. The parking space issue became nerve-racking, and driving the thing was even more so. The engine would eventually shit itself, as most all of the 3.5L V6 motors do. The ABS would inevitably go. The rust would rot through the frame without serious care. And then parts would prove difficult, if not impossible, to source, a never-ending anxiety-inducer. The VehiCROSS very quickly became a psychological burden in worrying about what would break next, as well as an inevitable financial burden. The signs were there…and it was the logical/responsible choice to say farewell. In the end, it didn’t make sense to keep around two vehicles that I liked driving 75% of the time and worried about 100% of the time when I could, for less money and stress, own and drive something I enjoy driving 100% of the time and that stresses me out almost none of the time.
I really did, and still do, love the VehiCROSS. Maybe I still feel bad for getting rid of it. Maybe I felt worse about seeing the VX go than my Challenger. Maybe I’ll find another VX in the future, at a better time for me to own one. Maybe, just maybe. But for now, know this: the Isuzu VehiCROSS is an incredible, fun, quirky, unique, charismatic little thing that was way ahead of its time and deserves every stare it gets. It’s a fantastic, though flawed, little 4×4 and there’s nothing else like it, and I love it as much as the day I first laid eyes on one. It’s feelings like this that make project cars so great: you can have a so-so experience with one and come out the other side still loving it and appreciating it for what it is. Whether my experience with the Isuzu VehiCROSS was positive or not depends on how you look at it, but one thing’s for sure: I’d do it again in a heartbeat.