Truck Restoration Projects

Isuzu’s factory SBR restoration 


Isuzu Australia Limited (IAL) restored a 1979 SBR 422 truck in 2016, just in time for its 25 consecutive years’ Australian truck market leadership celebrations.



Although Isuzu didn’t become market leader until 10 years after the SBR’s release, this model is widely credited for setting strong foundations for the brand’s growth.

Back in 1979, the Isuzu SBR was a relative new comer, competing against products from established North American and British brands, including International Harvester, Ford, Dodge, Bedford, Austin, Commer, Leyland, Fiat and Mercedes-Benz. These makers provided products with varied degrees of quality and reliability. 

In this highly competitive company, the Isuzu SBR stood out for its combination of price, quality and reliability, hence ensuring the SBR’s enthusiastic acceptance.

Compared to modern day Isuzu trucks, the SBR offered little in the way of creature comforts but delivered strong performance and coped exceedingly well with anything drivers could throw at it.

Restoration of this Isuzu SBR was a two-year project, undertaken by the IAL Product Development Department in Port Melbourne.

All mechanical and assembly work was performed in-house and key industry partners were engaged for specialised jobs such as the cab panel work and body build.



Purchased with a suspected 1.3 million kilometres on the clock (odometer reading 300,000) from the outskirts of Melbourne, the truck was definitely showing its age, but its originality provided a sound starting point for the restoration.

Despite having had a long, hard life, the truck’s chassis was still in reasonable condition; requiring only sand blasting, minor repairs and a paint job to make it look like new. 

As testament to the SBR’s tough nature, the driveline needed no significant mechanical attention, but was given a fuel system reconditioning, which included injectors and a well overdue mechanical injection pump rebuild.



The old 6BB1 engine scored a hot wash, some new gaskets, a paint job and a trip to the electroplating factory, When new, the 5.8-litre, in-line, naturally-aspirated six produced a claimed 97.5Kw at 3200rpm, with peak torque of 343Nm at 2000rpm.

The interior and exterior of the truck cabin and the tray body were a totally different story.

To return the truck to the condition in which it rolled out of the old assembly plant in Dandenong, Victoria, all rust, dents and blemishes were repaired and the cab was then finished in Isuzu white. The interior received new door trims, seat coverings, roof lining and floor vinyl – all completed in then fashionable Isuzu signature blue.



With the cabin refitted to the chassis, the intricate task of installing the rest of the trim, as well as the vital electrics, began, including fitting a refurbished wiring harnesses.



In keeping with the era of the truck, a custom-built body featuring a Tasmanian oak floor was fitted. Finishing touches included old-fashioned incandescent lighting, secured to the chassis with period-correct, but often cursed, U-bolts.

The end result was a shiny truck that looked just as good as when it left the assembly plant 35 years ago.

The restored Isuzu SBR enjoys relative retirement these days, making appearances at truck shows and IAL events, to raise awareness of Isuzu’s heritage in Australia.



Historic Vehicles was fortunate to score a brief test drive in the restored SBR, with a then-new Isuzu NQR 450 for comparison. The modern truck had around 50-percent more power and torque from a smaller, but turbocharged and electronically injected engine, a choice of six-speed manual or automated-shift transmission and a stack of electronic safety and comfort aids.

However, the old SBR acquitted itself very well in this comparison, showing how advanced it was in its day, back in 1979. It wasn’t as comfortable as the new truck; nor did it go, handle and stop as well. That’s progress.



Isuzu Trucks Australia thanked the hard work of its Product Development Team and the following industry partners for their assistance: Austruck Truck Bodies, B and K Panels, FleetMark, Michelin, Narva and Renix Auto Trimmers.

Stay informed and receive our updates

From Jim Gibson & Allan Whiting directly to your inbox

You have Successfully Subscribed!