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Isuzu's predecessor, the Tokyo Ishikawajima Shipbuilding & Engineering Co. Ltd, began building British-designed Wolseley A9 trucks under licence from 1922. These were built mainly for military use. The agreement with Wolseley terminated in 1927. Typical of the company's products in the early 1930s was the bonneted 2-tonne Sumida truck. In 1934 a research program into diesel engine production was put in place, and 1936 saw the development of a 5.3 litre/ 323cu in air-cooled diesel. The TX40 2-ton truck, with modernized cab strongly influenced by contemporary American styling, was in production in 1936. A new factory for heavy trucks was completed at Kawasaki in 1938, the Tokyo Jidosha Kogyo (Tokyo Automotive Industry) Co. Ltd having been formed in 1937. combining the motor divisions of the Ishikawajima Shipbuilding & Engineering Co. and the Tokyo Gas & Electric Co. The latter produced Japan's first truck in 1917 and also formed the basis for Hino Heavy Industries which went on to become a separate truck-building concern, being renamed Hino Motors Ltd in 1959 and which eventually merged with Toyota in 1966.
Diesel trucks were in full production by 1941. The company became Isuzu Motors Ltd in 1949 and the main truck model during the 1950s was the TX550 bonneted 6-tonner powered by a 6.1 litre/ 372cu in, 125bhp 6-cylinder diesel driving through a 5-speed overdrive gearbox. A military 6x6 development, the TW540, was also offered as well as a 5-tonne 4x2 with military pattern bonnet (hood) and wings powered by a choice of 5.6 litre/341cu in, 145bhp 6-cylinder gasoline or the 6.1 litre/372cu in diesel. In 1959 Isuzu's heaviest truck was the TD150 bonneted four-wheeler for 9-tonne payload. This was powered by a 10.18 litre/621cu in 6-cylinder diesel developing 180bhp and had air-assisted brakes.
During the 1960s, heavier and more powerful models were introduced. Typical of these was the bonneted 8-tonne gvw TD with a completely new pressed-steel cab with single-piece curved windscreen and four headlights. The power unit was the 10.18 litre/621cu in diesel uprated to 200bhp. The same engine powered a forward-control TD-E 8-tonner as well as 10-tonne payload 6x2 versions Ч the TP (bonneted) and TD-E (cabover). At the lighter end of the weight scale Isuzu offered the Elf forward-control 2-tonners which were built at the Fujisawa car plant and embodied some Rootes Group engineering.
General Motors acquired a 35 per cent holding in Isuzu in 1971 and in 1973 a new range, the Forward, was introduced. The SBR and JBR at 9 tonnes and 12 tonnes gvw respectively were at the lower end, while the SLR grossed 16 tonnes. The SBG was a twin-steer six-wheeler at 21 tonnes gvw and the SPZ a 6x4 for 24 tonnes. There were two 38-tonne gcw tractor units too Ч the VPR 4x2 and the VPZ 6x4. Models from 21 tonnes gvw upwards were powered by the Isuzu E120 direct injection 12 litre/732cu in diesel. It was selected models from this range that GM chose to market as Bedfords in Australia and New Zealand, GM Holden carrying out the assembly.
Alongside the Forward range, Isuzu continued to offer their medium-weight TXD45/55 4x2 and TWD55 6x4 bonneted models, which by the 1980s were looking very old-fashioned. Heavier bonneted models were also available as the TDJ (16 tonnes gvw) and TDH (17.5 tonnes gvw) 4x2 and the 24-tonne gvw TMH and TMQ six-wheelers. An all-wheel drive range with a military-style cab, unchanged since the 1950s, the TSD 4x4 and TWD 6x6 also soldiered on into the '80s.
For 1980 Isuzu launched a facelifted forward-control range with the new 10PB1 14 litre/854cu in V10 diesel producing 292bhp. The range featured a new larger radiator and a set-back front axle. Throughout the 1980s and '90s Isuzu have maintained a strong position in the truck market with healthy export sales. During the last decade of the 20th century the principal models were the EXR (4x2) and EXZ (6x4) tractor units and the C range. In its latest form this is being marketed as the Giga, featuring a premium-cab specification. During the '90s, assembly of medium-weight Isuzu trucks has taken place in the UK, first at Leyland Truck's, and later at Western Star's UK subsidiary, ERF.
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