The JMC moto is “Driven by experience”. This makes more sense than most company slogans, as the underpinnings of the Chinese-built Boarding double cab feature a previous-generation Isuzu KB design. It is entirely possible that the workshop drawings have the words “Isuzu” crossed out and “JMC” written in with crayon (to steal a line from Monty Python). Don’t think that this is a bad thing, though, since the 2,8-litre turbodiesel is still regarded as one of the most reliable diesel engines around. (As an aside, this vehicle is the result of a joint venture between Isuzu and Jiangling Motor Corporation, but one that is now switching to Ford instead.)
We paged through a CAR test of an Isuzu Frontier 280 DT LX 4x4 from September 1998 and noticed that the under-bonnet layout is identical to the Boarding’s. Improvements have been made, however, since the Frontier offered 74 kW with 230 N.m and the Boarding boasts 84 kW with 235 N.m. The gearbox’s action is very positive with a feeling of direct con- nection from lever to the gearbox.
Compared with modern bakkies, it is refreshing to test something that is not oversized for most users. In fact, you could perhaps use a new term of “compact double cab” to describe vehicles such as this. The roofline is quite low and you do not have to climb up into the cabin. The tyres are high-pro- file 15-inch items with 215/70 tyres and ground clearance is acceptable at 190 mm between the wheels. A full-size alloy spare wheel is mounted underneath and the load bay sports an attractive roll bar finished in matte black. The front and rear bumpers are chromed steel.
There are no overhead cambelt worries because this engine still uses pushrods. A Garrett turbocharger supplies compressed air but no intercooler is fitted. Engine accessibility is excel- lent for servicing ease and the only possible warning to potential owners comes from the high noise levels of these mechanically pumped diesels. Without multiple, progressive injections, the explosions emit a clatter that can wake up sleeping neighbours. This won’t be a problem on a farm, where many JMCs will live. The other thing to watch for is a diesel smell in the cabin. This is not a problem for petrol (or diesel) heads, but some may turn up their noses.
Progress is initially slow, but the engine is very forgiving, with an initial slug of torque that allows a quick whizz through the gears at about 1 000 r/min to get to suburban speeds. For freeway speeds, you plant the throttle, wait until the needle rises to over 2 000 r/min and the Garrett starts spit- ting air. Thereafter, you can get up to 120 km/h and stay there with no fuss apart from mechanical and wind noise.
Acceleration is not bad for a modest power output and zero to 100 km/h notched in at 18,5 seconds. The reasonably low mass of 1 605 kg helps. It also aids the fuel consumption; we calculated a good expected index figure of 8,4 litres/100 km.
Road noise is not a problem and the torsion bars in the front suspension handle bumps very well. The rear is, of course, leaf-sprung and subsequently sports a firm ride while unladen in order to cope when fully utilised. Steering from the old school recirculating-ball setup is a bit vague but hydraulic assistance makes it light enough. Braking needs caution be- cause, unfortunately, there is no ABS to prevent lock-up in the wet and our average stopping time was the poorest we have recorded in many years.
Inside, you are greeted with a very familiar-looking steering wheel (also from Isuzu) and clear, legible white-on-black instrumentation. In the centre is a green-backlit display showing both inside and outside temperature, plus a clock and a car outline that shows open doors and whether the brakelamps work. Below this is the fitted audio system with matching green lighting and a CD player (no MP3 or USB capability). Rubber flooring makes it easy to clean, likewise the leatherette upholstery. Red/black cloth is used on door trims and the centre armrest to add some warm colour. The rear-view mirror has no dip function, but did not reflect too much glare at night. What did reflect was the heating-knob backlighting. This bounces off the flat rear window and back into the mirror.
Rear park sensors give a neat read- out in the rear-view mirror in addition to an audible warning, but one of the sensors on our test vehicle was faulty. The rubber windscreen surround also came loose at the upper edge and probably should have been glued in.
If you require a versatile workhorse that can transport a hefty payload, the JMC Boarding is not a bad bet. You should be prepared for the high mechanical noise levels and old-school diesel oil burning. It’s also not really suitable to family use because of the lack of safety features. But the carrying capability is there, as is amazing fuel consumption for a workhorse. It’s worth a second look.