This year marks the 60th birthday of the N Series of Isuzu light trucks. Known as the Elf in Japan, the versatile cabover has become a ubiquitous sight on the roads of Australia. The N Series has been available in a remarkable range of configurations, and is now more reliable and fuel-efficient than ever.
“There’s little doubting the impact this light-duty truck model range has had on the success of the Isuzu brand both here in Australia and all over the world,” says Isuzu Australia Limited’s Chief Operating Officer, Andrew Harbison.
Born An Elf
Isuzu debuted the Elf in Japan in 1959 as a two-tonne unit with a 1.5-litre petrol engine. From the start, the 60-PS (44-kilowatt) truck came with its signature integrated bed, but was also available with a drop-side tray, a dual cab, and several body types. Then, as now, the Elf came in a variety of configurations. At the time this included a tanker truck, a rubbish truck, and a beverage truck.
In the 1970s Isuzu started to export the truck to foreign markets as the N Series. In Australia at the time, the truck sold under the Bedford by Isuzu brand. Such was its popularity that the automaker started to assemble N Series trucks in Dandenong, near Melbourne, in 1984. Its seminal Aero-cube cab came along in 1994, inspiring future N Series designs for years to come.
The N Series Today
Currently, Isuzu sells five subseries of the N Series in Australia. These are the NLR, NNR, NPR, NQR, and NPS ranges, with a GVM (gross vehicle mass) range of 4,500 to 8,700 kilograms. The lineup includes short, medium, and long wheelbase editions with narrow and wide cabs, single and crew cabs, tippers, 4x2s, all-wheel-drives, and 4x4s.
The diesel-powered vehicles now range from 82 to 190 PS (110 to 140 kilowatts) with torque ratings of 375 to 513 newton meters. The engines of the N Series use a maintenance-free DOC (diesel oxidation catalyst) emissions management system.
The truck family features electronic stability control, an available automated manual transmission with torque converter, and dual airbags. There is also an optional 360-degree camera system, along with heated side mirrors and cornering lamps for better visibility in turns.
Since 1972, Isuzu Australia Limited says it has sold 111,300 N Series models, more than half of its total sales across all weight segments.
“It’s remarkable to think the humble beginnings of the Elf in Japan could have led to such levels of market domination,” Harbison says. “It’s a testament to the original cabover concept conceived back in the late fifties. Its qualities have resonated across just about every application imaginable and have certainly stood the test of time.”