By on February 10, 2012

Last week, I had never heard of the Isuzu Statesman Deville. Then, my fellow LeMons Supreme Court Justice suggested that I do a quick internet search for the name of this fine Detroito-Australo-Japanese luxury sedan… and my life changed forever.
Dave at Bellett.net (a site devoted to the strangely non-Opel-based Isuzu Bellett) has written up what I believe to be the definitive history of the Statesman Deville, and I suggest that you read every word.
The Isuzu Statesman Deville was essentially a rebadged Statesman HQ Deville (Statesman was a separate GM-Australia marque, being to Holden as Eunos was to Mazda), complete with vaguely Cadillac-ish emblems and the look of an alternate-universe ’70 Chevy Impala. Now, I’d have gone for the Toyota Century over this car, were I a wealthy Japanese car shopper in the early 1970s… but it would have been a tough decision. Let us now bask in the healing rays of this fine example of Pointless Yet Amazing Badge Engineering, brought to us by The General.

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40 Comments on “Possibly the Greatest Badge Engineering Feat In History: Isuzu Statesman Deville!...”


  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    Is that golfer Jack Nicklaus in the top picture? Say it ain’t so Jack, say it ain’t so…

    If it is this car needed a “Golden Bear” edition like Lincoln eventually got for the Town Car.

    • 0 avatar
      tonyola

      You might be surprised at the Western personalities who have gotten fat paychecks for appearing in Japanese advertising. I’ve seen Harrison Ford, Sean Connery, Paul Newman, Jodie Foster, Anthony Hopkins, and Madonna shilling for stuff in 1990s Japanese magazines.

      • 0 avatar
        Educator(of teachers)Dan

        Oh I know they have I was just hoping he wasn’t one of them. Even Arnold Palmer shilling for his own ice tea and lemonade, at least he drinks those things in various combinations.

      • 0 avatar
        jz78817

        yep, it was even central to the plot of the Bill Murray film “Lost in Translation.”

      • 0 avatar
        Zackman

        40 years ago, you would not believe just how much a fashion icon Charles Bronson was in Asia. When on Okinawa, you saw posters of ads featuring him everywhere.

      • 0 avatar
        philadlj

        Tommy Lee Jones is still the American spokesperson for Suntory Boss Coffee…though I’m not sure why. I guess he looks like an archetypal boss?

        http://www.suntory.co.jp/softdrink/boss/rainbow/cm.html

      • 0 avatar
        Felis Concolor

        Being a former islander, my favorite celebrity appearance in Japanese ads was Konishiki’s series of photo spreads done for Hawaii’s tourism board. Showing him lounging in a hammock surrounded by palm trees and sand, or adrift in a float ring surrounded by the azure Pacific Ocean, the ads bore no other adornment apart from four short words.

        Big Relax.

        Big Hawai’i.

        The scariest celebrity ads out of Japan I have come across were the Arnold Schwarzenegger series done for a then-new satellite television service. The video clips and photographs showing him standing behind a presidential podium, taking the next question, were especially disturbing. The factory packing line showing various Schwarzenegger iterations being folded into their respective boxes for subsequent shipment was way up there on the WTF-meter.

      • 0 avatar
        Styles79

        Haha, Harrison Ford, “Kirin lager beeru, kudasai”!

    • 0 avatar
      Brobdingnagian

      One day In 1981 I was in a corporate meeting viewing the latest Jack Nicklaus commercial for the company’s products. I was a peon watching the execs around me ooh and ahh about how wonderful it was to have Jack shilling for us.

      I wisecracked, “was that a commercial for golf balls or what?” People laughed, and luckily for me nobody pinpointed where the crack came from. The meeting leader heard the joke and launched into a lecture about how great it was to have Jack Nicklaus representing us and how we should take it seriously and not make fun of it…how Jack only endorses products he believes in, how he personally checks out these things, etc., etc., blah-blah-blah. I felt kind of bad. Well, now I feel VINDICATED. Obviously the great golden bear would shill for anybody. The “De Ville Statesman” proves it.

      BTW, my huge corporate employer went bankrupt a few years later. Apparently those fancy endorsements didn’t do enough.

    • 0 avatar
      tresmonos

      Jack Nicklaus. Wrong famous golfer :)

    • 0 avatar
      Johnster

      Back in the states Jack Nicklaus was a spokesperson for Pontiac throughout the ’70s.

  • avatar
    Lemmy-powered

    That IS quite possibly the greatest badge-engineering feat in history.

    It trumps my former front-runner, the Volkswagen Taro.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    Ha! My first impression? Looks like a 1970′s Matador and a Chrysler fuselage Newport merged!

    GM, you have been out- badge-engineered!

  • avatar
    HEATHROI

    At least Isuzu had the good sense just to switch badges unlike Mazda….

    http://mrec.rotary.net.nz/articles/roadpacer.htm

  • avatar
    Speed Spaniel

    That back seat reminds me of a funeral home. Scary!

  • avatar
    Pch101

    If the original Holden wasn’t being sold in the Japanese market, then it wasn’t a case of badge engineering, but just a name change.

    I assume that the side view mirrors are mounted where they are for some regulatory reason. But I can’t imagine that having them mounted miles away from the driver would make them very useful.

    • 0 avatar
      ExPatBrit

      Door mirrors are a more recent innovation. Most of the vehicles I grew up with had those mirrors on the “wings”.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        On American cars, the mirrors have been on or near the door for as long as I can remember.

        It seems that all of the Japanese-market cars of that era had the mirrors installed on the fenders, toward the front of the car, even while they were mounted on the doors in other markets. They don’t seem to do this anymore. I would guess that they were once required to do it, but no longer.

      • 0 avatar
        geozinger

        Somewhere in our collection of family photos, I have a pix of my dad’s 1962 Fairlane 500 with the rear view mirrors on the front fenders. I don’t know anything about the law at that time, I have no idea if there was a regulation for that kind of thing.

        Somewhere else in the albums is a pix of my dad’s 1965 Monterey, with the side mirror on the door.

        ???

      • 0 avatar
        joeaverage

        No they aren’t a recent invention. We’ve owned cars going back as far as the 1920s and most cars sold in the USA had the mirrors on the door as did my old aircooled VWs from the 50s on up. However the British cars that we owned from the 40s and 50s on up used the mirrors mounted on the fenders. I never could see much value in them. Japanese cars also had mirrors mounted way out on the fenders. All I could imagine the mirrors doing for a person is perhaps indicate that “something” was in your blind spot. Useless for backing up a trailer or anything else IMHO.

    • 0 avatar
      bumpy ii

      The fender mirrors kept the car within a particular tax bracket based on overall width.

    • 0 avatar
      Secret Hi5

      This. It ain’t badge engineerering when the cars aren’t available in the same market.

  • avatar
    HEATHROI

    I guess the thinking was that the mirrors were in the drivers line of sight, looking forward. In a lot of Japanese cars through the 70′s and early 80s, even if side mirrors were attached there were usually plastic hole covers where the wing mirrors should be.

  • avatar
    FPF422

    Want one!

  • avatar
    gottacook

    Having read a good sampling of alternate-universe fiction,* I simply love the phrase “an alternate-universe ’70 Chevy Impala”… although no large American car of the time would have rear doors small enough to require a portion of the side glass to be fixed, I can totally see it being the primary U.S. Chevy of the ’70s.

    *Is anyone here familiar with the Heinlein novel The Door into Summer? The protagonist, from 1970 but new to 2000 for complicated reasons, finds a job:

    The job I found was crushing new ground limousines so that they could be shipped back to Pittsburgh as scrap. Cadillacs, Chryslers, Eisenhowers, Lincolns – all sort of great big, new powerful turbobuggies without a kilometer on their clocks. Drive’em between the jaws, then crunch! smash! crash! – scrap iron for blast furnaces.

    It hurt me at first since I was riding the ways to work and didn’t own so much as a Grav-Jumper. I expressed my opinion of it almost lost my job….until the shift boss remembered I was a Sleeper and really didn’t understand.

    “It’s a simple matter of economics, son. These are surplus cars the government has accepted as security against price-support loans. They’re two years old now and then can never be sold….so the government junks them and sells them back to the steel industry.

    You can’t run a blast furnace just on ore; you have to scrap iron as well. You ought to know that even if you are a Sleeper. Matter of fact with high-grade ore so scarce, there’s more and more demand for scrap. The steel industry needs these cars.”

    “But why build them in the first place if they can’t be sold? It seems wasteful.”

    “It just seems wasteful. You want to throw people out of work? You want to run down their standard of living?”

    “Well why not ship them abroad? It seems to me they could get more for them on the open market abroad then they are worth as scrap.”

    “What! and ruin the export market? Besides, if we started dumping cars abroad everybody we’d get everyone sore at us – Japan, France, Germany, Great Asia, everybody. What are you aiming to do? Start a war?”

    (Then it turns out that the cars destined to be crushed wouldn’t even be salable in the first place: “The workmanship was sloppy and they often lacked essentials like instrument dials or air conditioners. But when one day I noticed from the way the teeth of the crusher came down on one that it lacked even a power plant…”)

    • 0 avatar
      outback_ute

      “no large American car of the time would have rear doors small enough to require a portion of the side glass to be fixed, I can totally see it being the primary U.S. Chevy of the ’70s.”

      That’s because the doors were shared with the shorter wheelbase Kingswood, just with different window frames. The wheelbase stretch was between the door and wheel arch.

    • 0 avatar
      bunkie

      Ah, Heinlein. The gateway drug to Ayn Rand.

  • avatar
    Dukeboy01

    Is it just me, or does it kinda look like a silver dog turd on a black background in the center of the faux- Cadillac crest in the middle picture? I know it’s supposed to be something else, but WTF is it?

  • avatar
    MrWhopee

    I assume only Isuzu executives would be driving/riding in one in Japan… For the average Japanese these would just be totally the wrong car. I wonder just how many were sold to ‘regular’ Japanese car customer?

  • avatar
    Towncar

    Due to the GM tieup, Isuzu must have been the all-time champ of badge engineering. Anybody remember the Buick Opel by Isuzu? That one nearly made my head explode, but the Isuzu Statesman Deville is a step beyond even.

  • avatar
    outback_ute

    “the strangely non-Opel-based Isuzu Bellett”

    Isuzu built cars for roughly 20 years before the GM tie-up.

    Worthy of note in the linked forum post is that they sold 246 of these in 3 years, less than the 799 Mazda Roadpacers!

  • avatar

    It’s only been two years, but I just chanced upon this post. Flattered you say my Bellett.net post on the Isuzu Statesman Deville is the definitive history. If only it was! It would then reveal why the ferk this car even existed!

    We had a forum member, however briefly, who slammed us with sage information with every post he put down, but joined, sprinkled us with some 19 posts, then left never to return. In those posts, he revealed more about the cars we’re passionate about than us non-Japanese-speakers have ever put together, including that there were some 246 Isuzu Statesman Devilles delivered between 1973 and 1976, which is weird as the HQ-series ended in 1974. Perhaps they had a few left over.

    I still have never seen a picture of one; the Roadpacer does show up from time to time in Japanese auctions, but the Isuzu Statesman is still a unicorn.

    Thanks for all the comments, however off-topic they got.

    Cheers,

    Dave


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