Saturday, September 25, 2010

1976 Buick Opel by Isuzu


A little odd piece of automotive history...

GM stopped importing the "real", German, Opel at the end of 1975. GM, in its infinite wisdom, decided that the American public didn't want sporty German coupes. Especially ones that cost more than the average Japanese "economy" car. (Apparently no one at GM was taking notice of the ever increasing sales of the BMW 2002.)

GM replaced the "real" Opel, with this; the Buick Opel by Isuzu. That's quite possibly the worst name ever given to a car. There wasn't even a model name. It was just Buick Opel by Isuzu. The reason this was done was pretty simple; cost. There were hundreds, if not thousands of Buick dealers in the US at the time. They all had big, lighted "Buick / Opel" signs out front. The cost of changing all those signs would have been a lot for the dealers to absorb.

The Buick Opel by Isuzu was an Isuzu Gemini. It was built on GM's T-car platform, the same platform as the Chevy Chevette. It didn't come close to being as fun to drive or as well built as the Opel Manta it replaced. GM dropped the line in 1980.

The car didn't disappear, though. In 1981 Isuzu reintroduced it through their own dealers it as the Isuzu I-Mark. (A name that might not have been quite as stupid Buick Opel by Isuzu, but it was close.) Isuzu's early marketing emphasis was on diesel versions. The 51hp four-cylinder was technically advanced for its time, but, as Hemmings recently wrote, "the I-Mark rode and drove like a ten-year-old car...a very slow ten-year-old car". The I-Mark never sold well in the US.

Few Buick Opel by Isuzus still exist. This one appears to be in very nice condition. An exciting car, it is not. An interesting piece of history, it is. For that reason alone, it's nice to see one in this condition.

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6 comments:

Anonymous said...

considering that the i-mark had "handling by lotus" doesn't that make this car a buick opel isuzu lotus?

Just A Car Geek said...

In that case they could have just called it the BOIL. - Also not a great name for a car.

Dave

Anonymous said...

And the fact is that we in Europe had the t-car also as Kadett C, available with the fine 1900 CIH en 2000 CIH engine. Never got it why they didn't export those to de US, they were basicly the same as the Izusu in base but completely Opel Engineered and many parts interchangeable with the previous Kadett, Manta and 1900 models. Opel was and is very competitive to VW, pity that GM never tried it harder with Opels overseas.

Anonymous said...

We had one of these -manual.

One of the first cars I drove. Actually, a great driving car. I recall the car getting very good handling reviews in Consumer Reports (I think it was) -comparable to the VW Rabbit

The main problem, however, was that it was a rust bucket. Our car's engine lasted longer than the body did.

Anonymous said...

I just love the car. Had the yellow one when I was a young mother working pay to pay and that car did well. Inexpensive. Don't see many but did see one at a car show to prove my guy that they are real. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Raced a 1976 Yellow one in SCCA Showroom Stock C in 1976-1977. Had to run the OEM 155SR13 stock tires. In 30 week-ends at the track, never a DNS or DNF. Beat the existing lap record for the class by 15 seconds @ Texas World Speedway. 16 1st place finishes. Top speed was ~100. Rear brake lockup was the worst fault the car had. Lots of great memories.

BP
Charlotte, NC