Visitors to the General Motors stand at the Johannesburg International Motor Show will have an opportunity to experience an under the skin view of the technical features of the popular Isuzu KB pick-up. A “transparent” version of the KB has been built for the show that will enable visitors to see the many practical and safety features of the vehicle.
By being able to effectively look through the outer skin if the Isuzu KB viewers have a clear view of a number of local enhancements that have been made to the KB in an engineering collaboration with Isuzu in Japan. Together with Isuzu local engineers at GMSA have, over time, assessed a number of unique local requirements that have been engineered into the KB to make it an overall better performer.
The basis for these improvements is an intensive local testing and development programme that can take up to two years before any new locally manufactured Isuzu is signed off for entry into the South African market. The development process is ongoing with GMSA engineers constantly involved in improving the product and proving new technologies.
One example of this is the ambitious 72-hour endurance record bid in April 2010. The object was to prove the endurance and reliability of Isuzu’s latest D-TEQ common rail diesel engine technology in an extremely tough test. Isuzu KBs powered by a range of these engines set numerous new time and distance records, one of them the total distance covered of 11 495,567 kilometres at an average speed of 159,66 km/h.
One example is the suspension. Isuzu in Japan offers three broad based suspension setting options, all of which represent some form of compromise is a South African product context.
An extensive local development programme saw local engineers optimize the firmest of the available settings to provide an ideal balance between comfort with the vehicle unladen and its ability to still carry its full payload without compromise to vehicle dynamics – its basic ride and handling characteristics, ability to climb gradients, and brake and steer effectively.
Proof of the excellent suspension performance and on-and off-road capability of the Isuzu KB comes from the August 2011 issue of SA 4X4 Magazine.
This well known publication assessed five local Double Cab pick-ups in a group test and found that, in their opinion, the Isuzu KB had the best suspension articulation of all the vehicles. Good suspension articulation is key to keeping all the wheels on the ground to provide traction and is a determining factor in off-road performance.
So effective have the changes implemented by GMSA together with Isuzu that a number of these developments have been implemented on other vehicles within the GM global network
One-ton pick-ups, like the Isuzu KB, are exposed to a working environment in South Africa that is considered to be more harsh than most. With this in mind the thickness of a number of sheet metal panels is increased over the normal global specification for extended durability. Doors, fenders, the outer and inner skins of the bonnet, and the inner and outer skins of the loadbox are all thicker than their counterparts in other world markets, not by a huge margin but enough to provide an extra degree of toughness.
As a result Isuzu KBs built by GMSA in Port Elizabeth are considered the toughest and most durable built anywhere in the world.
Also a local development for the Isuzu KB is an electronic convenience module. This allows for the full integration of the ultrasonic alarm system; differential lock control module; auto door lock (doors lock automatically when the vehicle drives away from rest); and selective door unlocking.
Unlike traditional cutaway vehicles normally seen at motor shows this display model has eleven of its major body panels replaced with totally transparent acrylic mouldings that follow the exact form of the vehicle.
A vacuum forming process has been used to achieve this and provide a unique view of the inner mechanical and structural features of the vehicle in the context of the normal full body shape.
The process involved taking a set of eleven precise moulds of the required panels from a standard Isuzu KB. These moulds were then used as the forms for the acrylic panels to be produced. Attention to detail was taken with the placement of panel joints to ensure a seamless transition of the panels over the body. Blue accent lighting was provided to highlight the various technical features.
A transparent bonnet and side panels provide a detailed view of the engine and front-end mechanical detail. The door original panels were totally deconstructed to model new transparent door skins that offer an unhindered view of safety features, including crash protection beams, and the normally hidden inner workings of the doors such as the window winder and locking mechanisms.
Likewise, the loadbox and tailgate were deconstructed and modelled in acrylic to provide an insight into the rugged construction of these elements, together with the chassis and driveline that are normally hidden from view.
In keeping with General Motors support for local industry this entire world-class, true to life display project was designed and manufactured by a local bodywork specialist in Nigel, Gauteng.