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Rodeo Remake?

My husband thinks I’m crazy. You decide. Our 1993 Isuzu Rodeo 4WD-SUV is in showroom condition - sport model, running boards, big tires and spotless body which will stay that way forever here in New Mexico. But it runs like a tricycle uphill, especially at high altitudes. So I want to replace our 3.2 liter V6 engine with a V8, plus compatible manual transmission, drive shaft, etc. Why pay $20-40K for a new (or newer-used) SUV when our '93 just needs a little Viagara?

I dunno if you’re crazy or not. How much money you got?

Were I you, I’d be looking into turbo or supercharger kits for your existing engine. No clue if they’re out there (and if they’re not, you can custom-fab one), but it’d do a lot more for you than a V8 at high altitude, and it’d be much easier and cheaper than trying to shoehorn a V8 + drivetrain in there.

My shrink says I’m perfectly sane. Money? Something less than the cost of a new SUV. And the Rodeo, after 18 years, is like one of the family.
I appreciate the auto advice, though I think I’m in over my head on this. We do have a Japanese car clinic here in Albuquerque, so maybe that should be my next stop. Having more than one option to present to them will be very helpful - thanks.
Any other ideas out there?

You mentioned big tires. How big? Over sized wheels and tires are a terrible waste of performance. They drastically reduce throttle response and increase fuel consumption and if the Rodeo has been lifted to make room for larger tires fuel mileage is further reduced and top speed is cut. And at the same time larger tires cause the speedometer to indicate you are going slower than you actually are. Those tires may be giving you 6 extra inches where you don’t really need it or want it.

The tires in the picture are very near, if not original size. If the picture is current the tires are not the cause of the Rodeo’s weak libido.

Well, I have a question: Has it always been running like a tricycle? If not, a good tune-up may help. If it has always been that way, it’s interetsing that it bothers you after 17 years :slight_smile:

What kind of gas are you using? Your Rodeo requires 89 octane, this means that it couldn’t take the boost from a mild turbocharger unless you were running race or aviation gas. A road test on a 93 Rodeo shows 0 to 60 in 10.4 seconds. If yours won’t do that you are in need of a serious effort to find out what’s wrong or you have the transmission in the wrong drive mode. This car has one drive mode that starts it out in 3RD GEAR!.

You can get 92 in Albuquerque. That would easily compensate for mild boost, which is all you’d need. We’re not trying to build a drag car here, just one that’s more comfortable in the mountains.

BTW I’m jealous. Abq’s my old home town.

I am not sure about this octane issue. It the car is driven at high altitude, does that not decrease the need for octane?

My advice is to let it go. You have formed an emotional attachment to an inanimate object. It doesn’t mean you have gone crazy, but it indicates going crazy would be a short trip.

When it comes to lifts if you regear correspondingly to offset the effects of larger diameter tires, then the fuel mileage hit isn’t quite as bad. My Bronco had a 4 inch lift and 33 inch tires. The stock rear (and front) end gears were 3.55’s which was fine for the stock 29 inch tires. But with 33’s they were not adequate. I had 4.56 gears installed to counteract the effects of the tires and offset the added drag with the lift. 4.10 gears with 33 inch tires would’ve put me right about back to stock (same effective ratio as 29 inch tires with 3.55 gears) but I opted for the 4.56’s for a better acceleration and to offset the added weight of the bigger tires.

With the lift, tires, and new gears, fuel economy was only about 2 MPG less than it was stock.

Take a test drive in a more modern SUV with a high-output V6, like a Toyota Rav-4. You’ll be surprised at how well they run, even at high altitude. Do you need great offroad performance?

I know it’s not the tires. They are, in fact, standard with the “sport” package. I only mentioned them because - as you can see from the photo - they look so cool. My husband says the Rodeo’s problem is that the V6 is too small to power a truck that size. It runs fine on level ground, but uphill and/or high altitude (the higher the worse the problem) it won’t go faster than 20 mph (that was over CO’s Eisenhower Pass on I-70). It’s a 5-speed manual tran, BTW.

I used to own a 4-Cyl, 5speed Toyota 4Runner which is a similar sized car of the same vintage with an even wimpier engine. Based on my experience with that car I find it very doubtful that it is normal for yours to not go faster than 20 on I-70. I have been there and I have taken that wimpy 4Runner to very high altitudes (up to 12K feet).

Has it always been that way? Can you rule out maintenance backlog or other mechanical problems?

It has always been that way. And since we moved to ABQ, he’s been driving it “around town.” If we go to Santa Fe, and have to climb from 5K to 7K altitude, we take my 2005 Honda CRV. But now my husband wants to buy a new (or gently used) RAV or other small SUV - which will be smaller and less roomy than the Rodeo, and seriously dent our bank account to buy. If it ain’t broke but is simply anemic, why not feed it some iron, so to speak?

Thanks for the feedback. What year is your 4Runner? The Rodeo has always been that way. The infamous 20 mph over Eisenhower Pass was back in 1994, when the Rodeo was almost new.
My real problem, I fear, is that my husband wants to buy a new(er) SUV and is throwing red herrings at my counter-proposal to “man up” the Rodeo.

Reasonable advice, but how many Car Talk listeners HAVEN’T formed an emotional attachment to the inanimate object in their driveway?

I actually had a 2004 RAV with a 4-cylinder engine, and loved it. Sadly, six months after we bought it, I was sitting in traffic when an ancient pick-up truck plowed into the rear at 40 mph and totaled it. The original dealer offered to sell us an identical model - for $3K more! We said no thanks, and bought a 2005 Honda CRV for less than the original RAV.
But the CRV is a plow horse - the RAV was a quarter horse.

Replacement will be much cheaper than stuffing a more powerful engine in it. And much more reliable.

I have come to the conclusion: Harry is right. You are crazy :slight_smile: And I mean that in the most flattering way possible.

There is nothing that you can sensibly do to beef this thing up. Let alone put a V8 in it. In my view you are left with two choices:

  1. Keep driving it as it is. I am also suspecting that the “problem” became more apparent once you had driven more modern cars. In comparison it is probably very anemic. If it is part of the family and upkeep cost is reasonable you just keep driving it around town and take the CRV to Santa Fe.

  2. Trade it in an get something newer. I don’t quite get why your husband wants to get a 2nd vehicle that is essentially the same as the CRV. What appeal do 2 boring small Crossovers in the driveway have over one boring (CRV) and one that is considered “family”?

I say: If you feel the Rodeo is so great then you should drive it and give hubby the joy of driving the CRV. That way he gets the new or slightly used SUV that he wants at no extra cost! And you can revel in nostalgia. That’s by the way what we do in our family: my wife gets to drive our newer luxury station wagon every day while I am stuck with the 23 year old car that I gave her as a birthday gift years ago. I’d like to trade it in but my wife thinks it has “sentimental value”. Thinking of it: She should drive that thing. But now we have moved from your family discussions to mine …

Another consideration is safety: Does the Rodeo have ABS and/or ESP? How many airbags? We sold our '96 4Runner because of safety concerns.