Jack be Nimble

$3,300 - 16,800 AUD




  • Comfortable interior
  • Tough driveline
  • Cheap to buy



  • Quirky diesel engine
  • Low-slung transfer
  • Thirsty V6


When most people think of buying a mid-size 4WD, the Prado and the Pajero are the two obvious models that come to mind.


Lurking up the back of many a car yard is a long forgotten proper 4WD that is equally as capable and as well built as either, but guaranteed to cost you thousands less. What exactly is it the Holden Jackaroo.


Offered in either petrol or diesel, and with the option of SWB or LWB, the mighty little Jackaroo lasted right through until 2004 when Isuzu decided building wagons was a dying sport. With in-built truck reliability, the Jackaroo is a solid used buy if you make sure a few gremlins don’t surface!




Originally released in 1992, the Jackaroo was built by Isuzu in Japan specifically to compete with the Pajero and 4-Runner.


Back during a time when Isuzu-GM looked after truck sales in Australia, it was decided to market the vehicle through Holden.


With a grunty new Petrol V6 and tough 3.1 turbo diesel, the Jackaroo was offered in SWB or LWB variants to mirror the Pajero. A torsion bar IFS and four-link rear coil suspension meant on paper it would drive everywhere the competition did, and the option of seven seats suited the family market perfectly.


A series of upgrades culminated with a major facelift in 1999, which brought new petrol and diesel power, the latter of which became renowned for setting the standard with modern diesel/auto 4WDs.


With the pending de-merger of Isuzu and GM, and the need for replacement, the Jackaroo was quietly killed off late in 2004, but Holden had plenty of stock on hand, meaning many late Jackaroos were not first registered until well into 2005.




The Jackaroo is a tough vehicle, especially the early 3.1 diesels. This engine is almost bulletproof, and will last hundreds of thousands of kilometres. Like any engine, make sure it’s been serviced on time and regularly, and you’ll be onto a winner.


The 3.2 V6 and later DOHC 3.5 are all grunt, and particularly suited to keen drivers. Their only downfall is their thirst, but this is par for the course with a 4WD wagon.


They do suffer if they’ve been flogged, and such examples have a tendency to develop bottom-end knocks. This can eventually result in conrod failure, leaving you with a rather large hole in the sump. If you get to this point, the engine is a throwaway, so listen carefully for noise on a test drive. Any engine over about 200,000km will be in the danger zone. Apart from that, check the servicing once again is per the owner’s manual.


The gearbox and part-time transfer are robust like their Rodeo cousin. The Jackaroo is proper part-time 4WD, with the post-1999 models featuring on-the-fly front hub engagement.


It’s usually not problematic, but make sure it works. The same goes for the operation of the auto transmission – with no inherent faults, all you need to check for is clean fluid and smooth shifts.


The 3.0TD offered from 1999 was a revolutionary engine for several reasons. Not only was it the first truly desirable automatic diesel 4WD, it introduced a raft of new technologies that ultimately became its downfall. Perceived to be the least reliable of the Jackaroo’s engines, the 4JX1 is a direct-injection DOHC diesel featuring high-pressure HEUI injection.


Before you ask, HEUI is ‘Hydraulic Electronic Unit Injection’, whereby each fuel injector utilises high-pressure engine oil to pressurise the diesel, so it can be injected directly into the cylinder. This is the same as the Ford F-250 V8 diesel, and rarely understood by most mechanics. Not only is it electronic, it requires a second engine oil pump (which is why the Jackaroo has two oil filters).


Because of this secondary high-pressure pump, the Jackaroo requires special engine oil that is very thin and very expensive to buy. Many mechanics simply didn’t understand the need to use this oil, and used their regular old thick diesel oil.


Because this oil is too thick to be sufficiently pressurised to run the injectors, the engine can’t fire, and mechanics will be left wondering why the car they drove on the hoist won’t start!


The incorrect servicing of these engines is their number-one cause of failure, resulting in warped heads and all manner of injector and electronic problems. The sheer power and driveability of this engine far outweighs the higher servicing costs. If you’re looking for one, make sure it’s been well looked after, and ask the previous owner - if you can find them!




The Jackaroo is built using heavy panels and a full chassis, making it tough. The body is mounted using soft rubber bushes, which keep vibration to a minimum, but do wear out. Crawl under and check these, and while you’re under there, check for any driveline oil leaks.


The body is well rust proofed, but it’s worth checking the rear hinges of the door for corrosion as they are mounted behind the panel. Also check the rear doors aren’t sagged. The Jackaroo has two rear doors, with the driver’s door peculiarly the smaller of the two.


Inside, the Jackaroo is a gem. The quality is up there with Toyota standard, with reliable switch gear, comfortable upholstery and plenty of room.


The seats are comfy, and the flat floor is great for long-legged passengers. Like most wagons, the rear seats are best thrown out for cargo space. A family will be most happy in a Jackaroo. Apart from the usual wear and tear items, the only thing worth checking for is wet carpet in the front foot wells, which may signal a blocked air-con tube.




The Jackaroo suspension offers plenty all-round. Big anti-roll bars help on-road handling, and don’t seem to affect wheel travel off-road too badly. The front IFS isn’t as good as the Prado’s coil arrangement, but as good as you’ll find a torsion bar set-up to be. The oddball four-link rear (two lower arm, a singe upper and Panhard rod) works well, but reasonably shallow wheel wells mean articulation is limited.


Post-2001 SE and Monterey models feature upgraded diffs – these are significantly wider and more stable in the rough. The extra 40mm really does make a difference.


These models are easily identified by having their rear numberplate in the lower bumper and not on the smaller rear door. If you’re looking for a late-model Jack’, go for one of these.


The engines are grunty, and the low range is great. As one of the last 4WDs built truck-tough, the engine braking is excellent, but the later diesel is a little touchy on the throttle.




Like most tourers, the first mod worth making is a decent 2in suspension lift followed by solid barwork. The Jackaroo isn’t the sort of vehicle you’d build up to be too tough, but they have been known to be modded for rallying (with much success).


Most manufacturers make a full range of accessories for the Jackaroo, which are your best bet unless you’re keen on making things yourself. The early models can be body-lifted if you’re keenon maximising articulation.


Stick with touring mods and the Jackaroo will remain reliable and simple to maintain.




If you have a limited budget and you’re looking for a midsize wagon of this era, the Jackaroo is worth more than a second look.


Compared directly to the Prado, the Jackaroo isn’t quite as capable off-road, but will certainly take you further than the four-wheel independent NM– NP Pajero. It’s also built better than the Pajero with better-quality material.


Rapid depreciation hurt new Jackaroo buyers badly, which is great news now. Early models will cost you no more than a couple of grand, and even the later examples are thousands less that the Toyota or Mitsubishi.


They might be getting on a little, but still one of my top-five 4WD wagons of all time. For families the Jackaroo is a winner – reliable and cheap, comfortable and capable. What more do you need?





1992 3.1 TD MANUAL
RRP NEW: $45,268 USED: $3300–$5700


1994 3.2 V6 MANUAL
RRP NEW: $36,929 USED: $2600–$4800


1996 3.2 V6 AUTO
RRP NEW: $50,366 USED: $3700–$6400


1997 3.1 TD MANUAL
RRP NEW: $46,276 USED: $4900–$8100


1999 3.0 TDI AUTO
RRP NEW: $47,960 USED: $9000–$13,900


2003 3.5 V6 MONTEREY
RRP NEW: $58,050 USED: $11,200–$16,800




A 30-year-old male living in Western Sydney could expect to pay between $960 and $1100 for a 2001 turbo diesel auto Jackaroo. (Please note: insurance costs vary greatly depending on your driving record and place of residence).




UP TO 1994:
S – Base model, steel wheels, diesel or petrol, fabric trim
XS – Upper spec velour trim, 16x8in steel wheels
LS – Fully trimmed interior, cassette stereo, 16in alloy wheels, headlamp wipers


AFTER 1994:
S – Base model, steel wheels, diesel or petrol
SE – Seven seats, steel wheels, velour trim (Widetrack after 2001)
MONTEREY – two-tone paint, leather trim, automatic transmission, CD stereo, alloy wheels (Widetrack after 2001)



APRIL 1992 – July 1993 – model launched as UBS, SWB or LWB (“HOLDEN” script in grille)
JULY 1993 – December 1995 – trim upgrade, Black Holden badge on bonnet
DEC. 1995 – Feb. 1998 – trim upgrade, Silver Holden badge on bonnet, SWB discontinued 1998
FEB. 1998 – Feb. 2001 – all-new interior and front styling, large Holden badge in grille
FEB. 2001 – mid 2005 – SE and Monterey models are Widetrack, last Jackaroos built in September 2004 but sold right through 2005






6VD1 – 3165cc SOHC EFI V6
130kW @ 5300rpm
260Nm @ 3100rpm

6VE1 – 3494cc DOHC EFI V6
158kW @ 5400rpm
310Nm @ 3100rpm


4JG2 – 3059cc OHV four-cylinder turbo diesel
84kW @ 3600rpm
260Nm @ 2000rpm


4JX1 TC – 2999cc HEUI direct-injection turbo diesel
118kW @ 3900rpm
333Nm @ 2200rpm


AUTO: Four-speed with lock-up torque converter
MANUAL: Four-speed with overdrive


FRONT: Independent double wishbone, torsion bar spring and gas-filled hydraulic dampers and anti-roll bar
REAR: Four-link rigid live axle, coil springs, gas filled hydraulic dampers and anti-roll bar


FRONT: Ventilated discs, semi-floating calipers
REAR: Ventilated discs


Power-assisted recirculating ball and nut


KERB WEIGHT – 1919kg
GVM – 2500kg
HEIGHT – 1840mm
WIDTH – 1745mm
LENGTH – 4660mm


BRAKED – 1600kg
UNBRAKED – 750kg