I’m Officially Insane: Acquiring a (Cheap) 1997 Acura SLX – the “Acuruzu”

Odometer (NSX):  113,832

Odometer (SLX):  178,359

Oh no I didn’t.  Oh, yes I did.  Roll those eyes!

On August 18, 2017, I got an email – as I often do – from someone who heard of me through the Jalopnik article on my crazy obsessed garage / collection.  This one came from a guy named Wyatt in southern California who had a 1997 SLX.  It reads as follows:

Pretty sweet.  Well, cutting to the chase, Wyatt only kept that SLX for 16 months and put about 2,000 miles on it, and now it’s mine.  Funny how things work out sometimes.  It’s no mystery I’ve kind of had a hankering for one of these quirky vehicles for a while.  I first wrote an article about it back in March 2014 where I introduced my blog audience to this creation of badge engineering.

You see, this isn’t an Acura at all.  Or a Honda, for that matter.  It’s an Isuzu, and in light of the surging demand for SUVs in America in the late 1990s, Acura’s new MDX wouldn’t be ready for 5 more years, so they slapped an “A” emblem on a Trooper and went with it.  The vehicle only sold about 6,500 units in its 4-year lifespan, making it even more rare production-wise than the generation 1 (1991-05) NSX.  The shaded center section here reflects annual sales between 1996 (at bottom) and 2001, totaling 6,590.

Wyatt’s SLX was a bit of a rarity – a 1997 base model in Fir Green Pearl over Light Silver Metallic two-tone paint.  The base trim level meant it had no alloy wheels, no heated seats, no leather (though someone had later added it, aftermarket), and no fog lamps.  Still, its original MSRP was somewhere in the mid $30’s.  It was originally sold via a dealership called Acura 101 West, in Calabasas, California.

Its first owner was named Jeff and he kept it for an impressive 18 years after his purchase in September of 1997, always registering it in the southern California region where it was kept free of inclement weather and probably rarely driven off pavement.

But the off-pavement potential is specifically what attracts me to having an SUV, especially a cheapo one that I don’t mind beating up from time to time.  In all my car comings and goings, I’ve never owned a 4×4, despite the fact that sometimes I drive my poor front-wheel-drive cars like they’re rally machines.  So the fact that I could have a large, high-clearance vehicle on standby for the occasional camping trip is pretty appealing.  And, the price was (very) right.  So I bit.

Due to an intermittent slipping transmission issue in 4th gear, we decided it would be best to have the vehicle transported as opposed to driving it the 400-someodd miles from Los Angeles to Phoenix.  I later asked my mechanic about the transmission, and he said, “This vehicle has the 4L30-E transmission, which is perhaps the most problematic trans ever built.  It’ll be $2,800 to rebuild.”  That’s encouraging, haha.  It took about a week for the SLX to arrive via transport carrier.  Wyatt sent this pic while it was being loaded.

Here’s a pic while it was being unloaded at my house.

My first dose of reality came when I took it to the Honda dealership down the street to have the oil changed since it was 2+ years old.  “Your belts need changing, but we can’t get parts,” the service advisor told me.  “Same a few other things. About all I can do for you is get you new tires and change your fluids.”  So this is what it’s like owning a vehicle based on a chassis from a manufacturer that’s been out of business for 10 years.  In fact, almost exactly 10 years.  Isuzu pulled the plug on all U.S. market operations on January 31, 2009.

A couple of friends correctly guessed which vehicle I’d acquired based on some of my prior mentions of wanting an SLX.  Jason solved the puzzle after seeing a comment I made on Facebook just a couple of days after getting it.

Woody was thrilled that I finally followed through on this February 4, 2011 Facebook post saying that “one day” I’d get one.

We’ll see where I go with this one!  It’ll be like no Acura I’ve ever experienced before, I am certain of that.  Here’s a 7-minute video introduction.  I’ll keep you posted.  Thanks for reading and watching as always, and Happy New Year!

First day!

A YouTube viewer also suggested I need an Acura SUV.

Ready to unload from the transport truck.

This is what they call the “safari sunroof.”  It’s massive!  And still works – most of the time!

Paperwork and manuals.  This SLX was sold with a lot of “Total Luxury Care” (TLC) materials.  That was Acura’s roadside assistance program back in the day.

Detail work has started but is not yet fully underway.  I did clean up the chrome center caps to the wheels with some Mother’s mag & aluminum polish.  Here is the before:

And here is the after!

First fuel up.

A great deal of maintenance was done on this vehicle (per Carfax, anyway) at a place call H&H Motors in Van Nuys, California.  I was able to look them up and about to reach out to inquire about getting service records, but then I saw that Yelp says the place has closed.

Chillin’ in the backyard while waiting for the new garage floor.

A few photos from an evening at Dreamy Draw Park off the 51 freeway & Northern Avenue in Phoenix.

Not bad!

Comparison with 2019 Acura MDX A-Spec.  Vehicle design has come a long way in 22 years.

Wyatt was happy to hear that I’m enjoying the vehicle.  He posted this to his Instagram story.

Initial detail underway – console before.

Console after.

Wax job in the garage.

Stay tuned!

Closing note here:  I’d like to put in a plug for my friend Rick who has been a garage inspiration of mine for many, many years.  Rick has a channel on YouTube called RAD Garage (which, incidentally, just surpassed 3,000 subscribers yesterday – congrats, Rick!).

His content centers around his incredible garage – the tools, the decor, the supplies, and vehicles that inhabit it.  Rick’s attention to detail – and I mean, the most fastidious attention you’ll ever see – is a total inspiration to anyone who’s ever obsessed over his or her vehicle’s cleanliness.  Thanks Rick for featuring my garage on your blog.  Here’s the link so my readers can check it out.

Link to Rick’s YouTube.

26 Responses to “I’m Officially Insane: Acquiring a (Cheap) 1997 Acura SLX – the “Acuruzu””

  1. I get the feeling that one of your favorite things to do is the initial detail. You could definitely turn that into a side gig! LOVE that gigantic sunroof! Your garage seems complete unless a Canadian CSX is next(?)

    • Yeah I’m done for a while, but a CSX would be fun! I do love the initial detail. This one needs lots of love. Maybe even more than I’m willing to give it.

  2. Congratulation on another 90’s Acura product! Talk about plumbing the depths of Acura’s history… I barely remember this vehicle (it feels like I’ve seen far more Honda Passports). I enjoyed the tour… although whatever was gunking up the center console looked like a middle school science project gone awry.

    I did some Amazon-ing after we talked earlier and saw that there are a number of after-market timing belt/water pump kits available for the SLX. I didn’t see anything from Aisin or Gates, though, so I’m not sure about the quality. Is there an Isuzu Trooper online community to check with and get recommendations?

    • That’s probably a good idea on looking at Trooper forums. Honestly I’m not so sure I even want to invest in a timing belt replacement for a vehicle that already needs a $2,800 transmission rebuild. Don’t you think I should just hold out for the SLX I really want? I might do that.

  3. Wesley Adams (Midnight Mystery) Says:

    I haven’t posted comments here lately, but that’s a nice find! Let me ask, does it really handle like a Vigor?

    • Haha, no, it doesn’t handle like a Vigor either. It’s definitely a top-heavy cruiser – Consumer Reports blacklisted the SLX & Trooper due to their tendency to roll over during high speed maneuvers. That being said, I do love the torque! It starts up the first time every time and has great low-end grunt!

      • Wesley Adams (Midnight Mystery) Says:

        Can’t beat that! Seems like you found a nice, exotic Acura to cruise around in!

  4. Congratulations on the new purchase, it’s much tidier that I expected for the low sum that you paid for it. $2800 for a transmission rebuild does seem a little pricey, but surely you could pick up a used one in good condition for a fraction of the price?

    Talking about squealing belts, I did a 1200km round trip the weekend before last to test drive a car that I was going to buy. On startup the belts were noisy and I drove the car for about three minutes before the fanbelt let go. As it was a Saturday afternoon and nobody local was open, it wasn’t something that could be fixed easily so I ended up driving home empty handed. Ahhhh, the joys of motoring, eh!

    • Yeah I bet you’re right, there should be less expensive solutions for getting the transmission taken care of. As of now I don’t really trust the SLX to get me too far from home – in fact, this evening was the first time I took it on the freeway at 65 miles per hour. Hope your new year is going well so far!

  5. What is one short of crazy? Passionate! Definitely wouldn’t say you’re insane but your passion for the brand goes above and beyond. Congrats on new wheels – HonMan is going to love you even more as a client.

    • I’m not so sure HonMan would be very thrilled to see this one! I probably better wait and see how much I get out of that 1990 Accord EX before I sink any money into a new project.

  6. You finally succumbed to the SUV craze! Next thing you know, we’ll see an RDX or MDX in that garage 😀

  7. Officially insane? At what point did it become official? Just saying…. and I will inspect your new ride in a couple of weeks in person. However, I will not need to borrow a car, for I have two perfectly good feet. Besides, how would I ever be able to choose from so many???

  8. Wesley Adams (Midnight Mystery) Says:

    What’s up with that MDX? I really like it! I saw the video of tge RDX you had a while back. A-Spec really makes the 3G MDX look complete.

    • My friend James does vehicle reviews (see SixSpeedBlog.com) and the 2019 MDX A-Spec was his tester for the week, coincidentally.

      • Wesley Adams (Midnight Mystery) Says:

        Oh! I just love it!

        Ready to see the TLX TypeS! The new ILX A-Spec seems really cool, it kind of reminds me of the 1G TSX according to size and power.

  9. Trevor Kinzer Says:

    I think it’s cool! Michelle and I have owned 2 Troopers. A ‘95 and a ‘99. We went MDX after that. I always wanted to find an SLX but wasnever succsessful. Congrats!

    • Hey thanks Trevor! This one’s an oddball, but it wears an Acura badge nonetheless. I didn’t know you guys had Troopers back in the day. Hope your new year is treating you well.

  10. I so approve! At least with a few bumps and bruises, you can give it a true off road experience with no worries. 😉

    • That’s for sure! I had to street-park the SLX on a sketchy street at the junkyards yesterday, and I didn’t think twice about it! Finally a vehicle that I don’t drive with constant paranoia 🙂

  11. Is a first generation Acura TSX in your future? 😉

  12. You don’t want a Milano red Tsx. They do not age well in the sun. A lot of fading. Premium white pearl is best color. 😉

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