Isuzu elf GMC forward front grill shot

Isuzu Elf / GMC Forward – the “Good Truck”

The Isuzu Elf / GMC Forward Has Been a Leader in the 2 to 7 Ton Medium Truck Category for Years and Years.

I Finally Get the Good Truck

I loved the Isuzu Elf I drove back in the 1980s in Toronto, Canada. That was when these excellent straight trucks, badged as GMC Forward, first came to North America. The company I was driving for back then bought a little fleet of them to replace our old Ford C-Class cab-over box vans.

I and the other drivers were happy campers when we got those Elf trucks because they were clearly better than our old goat Fords. In fact there was a bit of a struggle among us drivers as to who would get the new Isuzu machines and young drivers like me had to wait at the bottom of the totem pole with our C-700s until the senior guys had all got the new Isuzus.

I and the other drivers were happy campers when we got those Elf trucks because they were clearly better than our old goat Fords. In fact there was a bit of a struggle among us drivers as to who would get the new Isuzu machines and young drivers like me had to wait at the bottom of the totem pole with our C-700s until the senior guys had all got the new Isuzus.

Can you believe that there is a business of cleaning dirty laundry exclusively for hospitals? Well, there is, and it’s a specialist job. It is not to be left up to any Tom, Dick, or Harry to unpack (or even to transport) a load of blood soaked sheets and garments that just came out of an emergency operating room and have somehow got a few “extras” thrown in with the blood; extras like scalpels, syringes, and maybe an organ or two. Kinda gross, eh? But that was what we were hauling, first in our Ford C-700s and then in our Isuzu Elfs.

The Elf Debuts in North America

The Isuzu Elf medium duty straight trucks came to the USA and Canada in the early to mid 1980s, and that’s when I got my Isuzu truck. But, as I said, he wasn’t badged as “Isuzu,” rather he had “GMC” out there on his snub nose.

To tell you how my Isuzu Elf straight truck was better than my Ford C-Series truck I have to tell you what the Ford was good at for the downtown hauling work we had to do. So look again at the first picture above. You’ll see that, when I was driving that truck, I was sitting with my butt just slightly in front of the front axle. That allowed me to be well forward and to have a good view. That view was improved by the slight wrap around on the left and right sides of the front windscreen and by the lower front portion of the left and right side (door) windows. I had a good view for safe driving downtown. Another good point of the Ford was that it was, believe it or not, a fairly quick machine. That big V8 got the whole rig going and away from the lights in good time, and the wide power band that is a natural plus of spark ignition engines, as compared to Diesel engines, meant that the truck only needed a five speed transmission, whereas our new Isuzus had a two-speed rear, thus giving us ten speeds but being a little more complicated to drive. So not bad overall, the old Fords, but the Isuzu Elfs were better for sure.

The Isuzu Elf is the Winner

Better how? Well, the first thing I noticed when I first drove the Elf was that the seating position was actually a little higher, and the front windscreen had a lower line of sight so that I was able to look down and to the front even better than in my old Ford. In addition, the left and right side windows were also lower (deeper) and gave me better look down. Visibility on the Isuzu Elf was, and still is, first rate. Have a look at this Elf here that we recently exported from Japan.

The Elf transmission, with its shorter throw, was easier to shift than that of the Ford, with its longer throw. So even though we were running ten speeds now rather than five, the Isuzu was an easier straight truck for the driver. And it was easier for the fleet manager, too, because the Isuzu Elf had a Diesel engine which, coupled to the 10 speed drive train, allowed for much better fuel economy compared to the gas powered Fords. And this is still a feature of Isuzu’s light and medium duty trucks: Good fuel economy.

But what I, myself, really liked about driving the Isuzu Elf straight truck was its tight turning circle. The front wheels could really crank over to left and right at an impressive angle.

My Ford C-700 wasn’t so good in this area. And, by the way, the Elf’s cabin was more comfortable, too.

So when you are looking to buy a used straight truck from Japan I can say: “Put a used Isuzu Elf at the top of your secondhand truck shopping list.” Whether you need a medium truck with a basic van body (that’s what our Elfs were running for the hospital laundry) for delivery work, or whether you want a dump body for landscaping and building renovation jobs, or whether you need a more specialist body like a fire truck,

the Isuzu Elf can take the truck body you need. (Have a look here on our Japan Car Direct web site to learn more about used fire trucks from Japan)

And regardless of the body on the used truck you buy and import from Japan today, we can ship it to you using the cost effective roll-on / roll-off (RO-RO) used vehicle shipping system that saves you good money on shipping costs from us here in Japan. This five ton Nissan Condor with his big box van body was no trouble for loading on one of our car carriers. (Check him out elsewhere on our JCD web site here.)

When it Comes to Options….

I think that straight trucks in the two to seven ton class like the Isuzu Elf have got to have the widest variety of possible bodies on any type of motor vehicle; I mean, when it comes to cars, the same car platform can be built as a sedan, a coupe, a station wagon, even a sports car. But I’ve seen so many bodies on the Isuzu Elf chassis. Of course there are always the main stalwarts: the box van, like our used Elf here (with or without freezer units), the classic drop side flat bed,

medium duty dump trucks that are ideal (indeed, essential) for the renovation and landscaping trades. But we’ve also got Isuzu Elf fire trucks as in the crew cab fire truck above, Elf campers,

Elf double cabs,

Elf based busses,

and even, a favorite of mine because of its simplicity and ease of use, the roll on / roll off Isuzu Elf car carrier:

An Isuzu Elf straight truck can become anything you want with any body you want; my gosh, even the fellow who delivers the home cooking gas all the way up to my cottage up here on Mount Fuji delivers our gas in a four wheel drive 3 ton Elf. These trucks can do it all for you.

Good Road!

In terms of engine and drive train, I can’t begin to give you a comprehensive listing of Elf medium truck options as far as transmissions are concerned, but with the engines in the most common second hand Elf trucks that we export from Japan, we are looking at mostly straight four Diesel engines, both turbo-charged and normally aspirated units, running in size from two liters or so up to almost 3.9 liters. There are also gasoline powered Elf trucks using a two liter straight four. Looking at Isuzu Elfs at the larger end, like the Isuzu Elf / GMC Forward trucks that we were running at the hospital laundry back in the day, there are straight six Diesel units that can be bigger than seven liters. We needed those big engines because, depending on the day and time, some of our loads were near oversize but still had to be moved to the plant on a tight schedule. The extra power came in handy.

But whatever Isuzu engine we are talking about, they all have a very well deserved reputation for reliability and economy. You can’t go wrong with any of them. We never had any problems with our Elf trucks back in Toronto; summer, winter, nearly overloaded, whatever we asked them to do, they never caused any trouble or delays…and so the patients in all those downtown hospitals always had clean sheets!

Yes, the Isuzu Elf is indeed the classic “Good Truck.”

To get a good used Elf medium duty straight truck from us here in Japan for self import to a port nearest to you, just contact us here and we’ll help you get things in gear.

These days we export good used cars and trucks from Japan to many countries. Our main markets at present (time of writing: Spring, 2024) are the USA, the UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Germany, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and Ireland. To find out the used car import rules for these countries, just click on the country name. For other countries just check “Shipping Destination” on our main Japan Car Direct web site.

Kei Truck Cutie
Isuzu Elf / GMC Forward – the “Good Truck”

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