Tuesday, August 11, 2009

1981 Isuzu 117 Coupe - Only One In North America?

I never understood why Isuzu didn't send this car to North America. Built from 1968 through 1981, this is one of the more interesting looking cars to come from Japan in the 60s and 70s.

Those looks didn't come by accident. This car was designed by Giorgetto Giugiaro.

During its run Isuzu produced somewhere between 85,000 and 100,000 of these cars. (The numbers vary depending on the source) It came with a variety of engines including a 1.6 SOHC 4, 1.6L DOHC 4, 1.8 SOHC 4, 1.8 DOHC 4, 2.0 DOHC 4 and even a 2.2 diesel 4 (Some people claim that the 117 Coupe was the first diesel powered sports car.) The 117 was ultimately replaced in Isuzu's lineup by another Giorgetto Giugiaro design, the Impulse (called the Piazza in most of the world).

Front engine, rear drive, the 117 did not use cutting edge technology under the skin. The rear suspension had semi-elliptic leaf springs while the front had wishbones, coil springs and an anti-roll bar. Pretty standard stuff for 1960s and 1970s sports cars.

While I couldn't find any 0-60 times, the car has a top speed of around 120 MPH, which makes me believe that 60 MPH came somewhere in the 10 - 12 second range. (I based that on similar sized cars with similar sized engines and similar top speeds.)

In the first paragraph I called the styling "interesting". It's not perfect though. In my mind there is too much front and rear overhang. The interior is a bit of a letdown. Giugiaro supposedly designed it, but it looks much more Japanese than Italian. The wood steering wheel is a nice touch, though. On this particular car the sideview mirrors mounted on the front of the fenders are odd looking (but common in other parts of the world, so that's just my North American brain seeing them as odd, I guess) and the aftermarket wheels look awful.

The seller says this is most likely the only one in North America. I have no reason to doubt that. I've never seen one.

With fuel injection and a semi-modern 1.8 DOHC engine, this is a car you could drive everyday if you could get used to RHD. But, given it's rarity, it's probably best kept as a show car. There's a good chance that no matter what show you bring it to you'll be the only 117 Coupe there.

Click here to see the eBay listing for this car.

There isn't a lot written about this car, but you can find a short blurb from uniquecarsandparts.com.au here

1 comment:

Richard said...

That is one nice Isuzu, although I agree the interior is a little plain. Isuzu have always been a strange little car manufacturer which never really seemed to get a break. The Trooper line is probably what they are best remembered for however they had some pretty impressive cars such as the Piazza/Impulse and even the odd looking, but very technologically advanced VehiCROSS.