By on September 23, 2012

The Mitsubishi Sigma I found a couple weeks ago was one rare Junkyard Find, having been sold in the United States for just two model years. Today, though, we’ve got something even more obscure: an Isuzu Gemini badged with both Chevrolet and Geo emblems, available for just one year.
The General never seemed quite sure what to do with the Geo brand; the Chevrolet-ized Isuzu Gemini aka I-Mark was available for a few years, but then became a Geo in 1989.
But wait! What’s that Chevy bowtie doing on the grille? I’m sure it all made sense after a 21-hour marketing meeting in an airless Motor City conference room.
These things were reasonably competent commuters, but didn’t exactly fly off the showroom floors.


It’s too bad Geo didn’t use this Japanese-market Gemini ad to sell the Spectrum.

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39 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1989 Geo Spectrum...”


  • avatar
    iainthornton

    Yeah, with an ad like that it would definitely sell. Why are these Japanese ads so strange to western people? Are Japanese people strange or is it us?

  • avatar
    detlump

    Still looks pretty good styling-wise. I miss foglamps mounted next to headlamps a la Mercedes. Popped up on a lot of Japanese cars including Lexus.

  • avatar
    jdowmiller

    In 1989, I was busy riding my bike to junior high every day (and getting hit by cars several times). My route took me through the now long-defunct Chevy dealer in downtown Xenia, Ohio. Even more a car enthusiast then than I am now, I slammed on the brakes the first time I came across this bizarre Chevy called…what does that say? Geo? Hmm…never heard of it. Was it yet another piece of American-made crap my parents might buy? Possibly!
    At school that day I felt a little special at having uncovered this strange new car. It was short-lived however as the double branded model seemed to disappear from the market just as quickly as it arrived. Years later, its fleeting nature made me think I had imagined the whole thing…that the Chevy Geo never actually existed.
    Thanks for the article Murilee.

    • 0 avatar
      mikeg216

      As a fellow Ohioan, and having been through xenia ohio… I’m sorry.

    • 0 avatar

      “As a fellow Ohioan, and having been through xenia ohio… I’m sorry.”

      Who was the offended party; Xenia or you?

      Any tornado devastation lately?

      Yes, it IS hard to differentiate between tornado damage and the cruel march of time as the Rust Belt dissolves.

    • 0 avatar
      RayH

      Oddly enough, last time I was in Xenia I saw one of these on Main
      Street close to where that dealership was!
      Growing up around Xenia and a little bit younger than you, I remember the dealership (Langs). They moved 7 miles west on the main route to/from Dayton. The dealership has almost half a mile of frontage on that route, so you get to see basically all their inventory just driving by! Sorry about getting hit by cars… For a borderline cowtown, Xenia has some awful drivers, even more now.

      obbop,
      Thanks for the chuckle. It’s been 11 years since the last round of devastation, so it’s probably overdue.

  • avatar
    Kirk Douglas

    And then they sold the next generation of Gemini as the Isuzu Stylus (in four door guise) and the Impulse/Asüna Sunfire/Geo Storm (in two door guise).

    Untested probably bulletproof LeMons engine? The Isuzu 4XE1. When my Stylus finally gives up (21 years!), I’ll see how its 95 horsepower rockets around a track.

  • avatar
    bipsieboy

    i sold these new back in the day.capable little car. gm employee’s bought them in great numbers because of the great price they were getting on them. i sold four to the same family in one day. Mom, dad and the two daughters all got a new car for around 20k total!

  • avatar
    chicagoland

    The only Geo that had any following was the Storm, but it had to be dropped when Isuzu switched to all trucks.

    I rented a Spectrum in summer 1989 for a week in LA. Was capable, it kept up with the carzy freeway traffic. But was also forgettable since it was gone by 1990, essentially replaced by Storm and Prism.

  • avatar
    Roberto Esponja

    My grandma had this as her last car, the four-door version known as Isuzu i-Mark. Bulletproof little car, very basic and plain with hardly any soundproofing, but boy was it reliable. Her prior car had been a fully loaded 1980 Chevy Citation. Reliable it was not…

  • avatar
    gmrn

    When I was in the service a buddy of mine had a new one of the 4dr turbo versions. It looked rather good in a medium gray color and moved out quite decently. I think it had a horizontal, ribbon-style boost gauge.

  • avatar
    ranwhenparked

    Under Alfred Sloan, every GM division gained a lower-priced companion make to lure budget conscious shoppers into their showrooms. Every division, that is, except Chevrolet, which was already entry-level and couldn’t drop any further.

    I always say Geo as part of Roger Smith’s belated quest to right this “historical injustice” some 60 years later, by giving Chevy not just one companion make, but two, along with Passport.

    Unfortunately, it was just as dumb an idea in the 1980s as it was in the 1920s.

  • avatar
    ciddyguy

    I remember these, briefly when they existed for such a short time.

    Don’t think too much about them these days, if at all, but I do remember them though.

    The Storm had more staying power over these.

    This one looked like it was in still nice looking shape before being junked however.

    I remember when GM decided to use the Geo name, around 1988, right as they redesigned the little Sprint, into the Metro.

  • avatar
    hifi

    Not a bad looking little hatchback compared to current Japanese economy cars. Stylistically, Toyota hasn’t progressed at all.

  • avatar
    CJinSD

    I used a 4-door Chevy Spectrum up in two months when I was a teenager. It had about 22,000 miles when it was done.

  • avatar
    Athos Nobile

    “What’s that Chevy bowtie doing on the grille? I’m sure it all made sense after a 21-hour marketing meeting in an airless Motor City conference room”

    Wasn’t this car sold initially as Chevy Spectrum? if so, ’89 must be the year on which they switched to Geo.

    In any case, the Gemini/I-Mark/Spectrum looks far much very mucho muy better than the Excel Sajeev seems to like so much. And they were both penned by Giugiaro.

  • avatar
    lilpoindexter

    GET TO KNOW…GEO

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    A neighbor of mine once has the I-Mark RS version of the Spectrum. This was the sport version w/ 16v, larger alloy wheels, body cladding and a rear spoiler. Not a bad car, far better than the previous I-Mark aka Buick Opel but not as good as a comparable hot hatch’s for it’s day Corolla FX or GTI.

  • avatar
    menasharb

    I had one of these for a few years in the late 80’s-early 90’s. Very reliable car for me with great mileage and Ok acceleration. Great car for a college student back in the day.

  • avatar
    Robert.Walter

    Nothing represented GM’s lack of commitment to the car market and protecting brand equity than Geo did, except for the Vega and the Cavalier, and the …

    Oh heck, how am I ever going to get a period on that sentence if I keep remembering all the crap GM turned out??

  • avatar
    hgrunt

    Nothing screams “You’re cheap!” like a 85 mph gauge cluster, straight needles with no garnishes, front-lit with that depressing dim industrial green color. On the other hand, it looks like the car held up extremely well, inside and out, and got the job done, before ending up in that junkyard.

  • avatar
    turbobrick

    Hah, my wife’s first car. Apparently it was so awful that the engine tried to bail out by chewing through it’s motor mounts. After the escape attempt was thwarted it became depressed and attempted suicide by breaking it’s timing belt.

    They only had it for a year or two after which it was traded in on an even more horrible Plymouth Colt Vista.

  • avatar
    Lt.BrunoStachel

    In 1985 Chevrolet sold three cars under the GEO nameplate. Prizm,Metro and Spectrum. All three were sold as Chevrolets by 1989 even though they all sported the GEO globe. 1989 was also the first year of the Tracker. IIRC in 1985 sales were split into three regions of the country. The Metro was West Coast, Spectrum was East Coast and Prizm was all of the lower 48. All three models were widely available in 1986.A Turbocharged model was available in 87-89 and was called the Spectrum Turbo.IIRC the Spectrum Turbo was both a 2 door hatch and 4 door sedan. The only thing missing was one of those “Lotus Tuned Suspension” emblems. And the Lotus Tuned Suspension. A budget priced and optioned 2 door hatch was also introduced and called Spectrum Express.

  • avatar

    I had one of these. Bought it for $250 in 1998 with a broken front sway bar and a noisy tire, sold it a few months later for $1500. This one had the sport package, with a fatter sway bar, and one on the rear. Besides the Lotus tuned 16v Isuzu i-Mark RS, there was also a Chevy Spectrum Turbo.

    Am I wrong, or did a i-Mark have a top 5 finish in one of the early Lemons races?

  • avatar
    Roberto Esponja

    Wonder what the “U/S” idiot light was for?

  • avatar
    RHD

    Up Shift. Once the RPMs hit about 2000, if the vacuum was low enough, the light would come on to tell you to upshift for maximum fuel economy.

  • avatar
    cary5170

    Hi Murilee Martin! I think this is my car!! I bought one, just like this one, back in 1989 and owned it for about 7 years! Even the dent on the front bumper looks vaguely familiar. Do you have access to the VIN? I would really love to know if this car has any ties to AZ.


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