–Shows remarkable description of Isuzu’s historic evolution and technology development–
Last month, I went to Motors Museum “Hino Plaza” last , then now I decided to visit Isuzu Motors in Fujisawa city, Kanagawa this time, since I’v heard there’s unique facility called “ISUZU Plaza” exhibiting historical auto products that was opened just two years ago in 2017. The Plaza is functioning well as a automobile museum in explaining the history of automobile and the related technology. That is displaying the most Isuzu’s vehicles they have produced since its beginning, including Isuzu’s latest brand trucks and buses, in addition to the history of Isuzu Motors itself, as well as its engines of Isuzu. The museum also exhibit its assembly processes of working vehicles and technology background. I’ve got impression that is a quite useful museum to examine the development of Japanese working commercial vehicle industry alongside with Hino’s Plaza..
ISUZU PLAZA HP: https://www.isuzu.co.jp/plaza/
<Exhibition of Isuzu Plaza>
The exhibition of “Isuzu Plaza” begins with briefing of Isuzu’s history first, and, introducing successive engines developed by Isuzu, and then it proceeds to the exhibition of various models of bus & truck including the Isuzu’s latest heavy trucks and special vehicles. In addition, there’s an explanation of the structure and mechanism of the truck and find the systematic illustration of the production process are displayed too. There many miniature models of various truck and bus is exhibited to show how the company has been involved in the various commercial vehicles. Finally, the plaza offers future image of Isuzu products and global strategy. The distinctive feature of this museum would be the exhibits that various classic historic vehicles have been nicely preserved and displayed them in the state being able to move. Another attractive point is the installation of large, moving diorama that replicates how trucks and buses play an active role in modern urban society. Below, I’d like look into the history and development of Isuzu along with the flow of the exhibition, and summarize the history and technology of Isuzu development, recent efforts, characteristics of the museum as seen in the museum plaza.
♣ The history and development of Isuzu Motors found in the exhibition
Isuzu Motors was believed to be founded in 1916. However, the origins of the company can go back to the Yokosuka Shipyard, which was established by the Edo Shogunate and transferred to the Meiji government. In the Meiji era, this shipyard was purchased by Tomoji Hirano, and he established Ishikawajima Shipyard (current IHI), and then that was led to move to the actual born of current Isuzu Motor now. This Ishikawa began to initiate the move of automobiles production in anticipation of big future business. This year is 1916, so it was regarded as the founding year of Isuzu Motors. Meantime, the company established an “Automobile Department” and made it independent later as named Ishikawajima Auto Works. Under this circumstance, the company started the first production of car in 1929 in partnership with Wolseley UK. This is the “Wolseley A4 car”. And then, the Ishikawajiama merged with “DAT Automobile Manufacturing (later transformed to Nissan) to strengthen the production later, and the name of the company itself changed to the “Automobile Industry Ltd.” (1933) at that time. This transforming is a bit complicated, but it is extensively described as Isuzu’s company history in the lobby of the building. By the way, the actual product of the first “Wolseley A4 domestic car” is displayed in the main lobby as a monumental exhibit of the Isuzu Plaza. Besides, around this period, “Sumida M-type Bus” (1929?) was also produced. This restored car is also displayed in the hall. So you might imagine the situation of automobile in Japan at that time of period.
On the other hand, Isuzu was producing domestic trucks TX40 truck in 1938 with its own initiative. Actually, it said that, prior to this production, the company had already begun to cultivate a diesel engine technology and tried to use it for truck manufacturing. In this way, Isuzu became a pioneer of diesel automobiles in Japan and change the name to the “Diesel Automobile Industry” in 1941. Then it started to produce various automobiles under these schemes. During War time from 1942, Isuzu was vigorously engaged in producing armored vehicles with request of Japan’s war-time government and a lot of automobiles and trucks were produced by its hand. However, just after the War vast devastation of Japan by War, the most facilities were devastated. So, the real development as an automaker of Isuzu had to wait for several years. But the recovering process was quite fast and dynamic promoted by huge demand of commercial vehicles for public transportation after the rapid economic growth of post-War Japan.
♣ Post-war Isuzu car production model and historic exhibition
After the War, responding to big social demand of commercial vehicles, the company changed the name to “Isuzu Motors” to show intention to involving in the production of trucks and buses with using diesel technology, particularly in the field of heavy-weight vehicles. The other technology challenge was to produce tough vehicles to endure severe natural conditions, like fire-fighter’s work, natural disaster rescue operation, and exploration works to the Antarctic. In the exhibition hall, this kind of challenging works are displayed with real operation vehicles.
Post-war Isuzu had also involved in the passenger car as well. The high-end passenger car “Isuzu Bellel” was well reputed by the Post war autoloving generations. However, after that, in the 1980s, production of passenger cars was stopped and afterward Isuzu has been specializing in the production of trucks and buses only. The most vehicles produced under these periods are extensively displayed at the history corner in the hall. They are quite helpful to understand the company’s business trend in this period.
First, in the truck category, the Isuzu TX80 truck (since 1946), the ELF series (since 1959-), the Forward series (since 1970-), and the large truck series GIGA (since 1987-) were continuously developed. These are consecutively upgraded technology and design-wise up to the current latest models. In the bus production field, the “BX91 bus” was produced as early as 1948, the “GALA” series bus was developed in 1996, and the” ELGA” series bus was also developed in 2000. You can see some of these actual vehicles, and miniature models of all successive vehicles which are displayed with the chronology at the wall board. Then you can understand how their technology has been evolving from simple trucks and buses to more advanced and larger scale vehicles, or to more sophisticated ones. Many small and medium-sized vehicles have been also followed this line of development.
♣ Development of Isuzu diesel engine and features of truck production
Isuzu has an advantage in diesel engine development from the beginning and has been developing their business by using its technology in trucks, buses and passenger cars. Therefore, many real engines of Isuzu are proudly displayed with their technical background. For example, there are “H-series” engines installed on medium-sized trucks like “ELFs”, “P-series” engines used in large trucks since the 1970s, and “T-series” engines since the 1990s. The engine’s ability is posted along with each utilized vehicle. You will be able to confirm the characteristics and performance of the engine developed by Isuzu.
♣ Mechanical structure of trucks shown in the exhibition and its manufacturing process
One of the features of the museum is that the manufacturing process of Isuzu trucks is explained in detail with flowcharts and actual components. In fact, if you walk along the flow chart corner, you can visually check the design concept, manufacturing process, and functions and features of commercial vehicles that are clearly different from passenger cars. In addition, the side cut models of the completed medium truck are on display there too, so you can examine the internal structure of it. In the manufacturing process, the miniature models of real factory are provided as well so that you can observe the full process from parts making to vehicle assembly, inspection, and shipment flow with your own eyes. I thought this was a unique feature of this museum.
♣ The features of the museum and the charm of the diorama exhibition
One of the attractive points of this museum is a moving diorama exhibiting demonstrative shows using the largest space in Japan. There is the scene simulating actual modern urban transportation, and on the diorama, you can see the variety of miniature cars moving automatically. You can get real images how trucks, buses, fire engines, delivery vehicles which support public logistics and people’s move with changing forms from morning, to noon and until mid-night. It is really spectacle to be able to look the situation where it illuminates many lights with sounds of urban bustling. You might be fascinated by the dynamism and beauty of the diorama there. When I visited, a group of Thai trainees cheered and watched enthusiastically. I’ve felt there’s a new style of technical museum that emphasis much on the entertaining elements not only technical and operational explanation.
This time, I was able to see the concept of commercial vehicle’s technology, its development process and mechanical structure which are different from passenger cars by visiting the Isuzu Motor’s museum Plaza following Hino’s similar facility. I can realize that firstly, significance of truck technology which should run with heavily loaded stuff, while seeking its extreme safety, resilience, and efficiency. In addition, passenger buses must follow the standard of absolute safety, comfort, and durability. I also understand how these vehicles are extremely required high level of technology to bear heavy responsibility to the society and to operate smoothly in the modern society. Both the museums of Hino and Isuzu seem to be functioning well in explaining the history of automobile and the related technology well while emphasizing promotion of products and companies themselves in good balance.
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- 日本自動車史（佐々木烈） 三樹書房