By on September 30, 2012

North Americans bought the post-Chevette Isuzu Gemini under several marques. There was the Spectrum, sold as a Chevrolet, a Geo, and a confusing Chevrolet/Geo. In Canada, you could get a Gemini badged as a Pontiac Sunburst. And, of course, there was the Isuzu I-Mark, a destined-for-China’s-steel-industry example of which I’ve found in a San Francisco Bay Area self-service wrecking yard.
These things were cheaper than a Corolla, had front-wheel-drive, and… they were cheaper than a Corolla.
The 1.5 liter four delivered 90 horsepower, which wasn’t so bad in 1987, and the I-Mark proved more reliable than, uh, the Hyundai Excel?
All in all, a forgotten commuter appliance that now serves as a reminder of The General’s musical-marques efforts of the 1980s and 1990s.

Who can forget the “Joe Isuzu” ads of the 1980s? Let’s watch a few for the I-Mark.

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19 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1987 Isuzu I-Mark...”

  • avatar

    That Joe Isuzu ad with the Beefeater was awesome. I did not remember what Isuzu it was associated with but I loved that ad. These ads were fodder for the George HW Bush debate with Mike Dukakis, where Mike made some reference to George as being the “Joe Isuzu” of some such thing. George replied that Mike’s joke was a clear as Boston Harbor. Great stuff.

  • avatar

    I remember the 1st 2 commercials, don’t remember the 3rd.

    My 87 Accord only had 98 HP, so this was in the same neighborhood.
    98 HP with a stick was more than enough. Not sure about 98 or 90 and a AT.

    I don’t remember these things being on the same level as Hyundai. Hyundai was in the same class as Yugo. This was definitely a step up from those.

    • 0 avatar

      The Isuzu only had 70 hp. I drove a Chevy Spectrum for a couple months, and power wasn’t its strong suit. Belonging to a rental company was pretty much its greatest virtue in my eyes.

      • 0 avatar

        70 might be pushing the lower limits of acceptable.

        I had a 74 Super Beetle with 46 HP. On-ramps and hills were a challenge. The car fit the term “Drive it like you stole it”. Urban driving was no big deal.

  • avatar

    Oh my gawd.. is that a non-standard passenger door mirror? Just like the outgoing 87 Chevette? Styling very similar to the B11 Sentra 82-86 and a little behind…

  • avatar

    One little thing… American recyclers use about 70% of our ferrous metal scrap, and China buys less than 25% of what we export. In fact, Turkey is the largest single customer. West coast yards primarily export to Asia, but the scrap is more likely to go to South Korea, Taiwan, Malaysia, Vietnam or India than China.

    The problem is that ferrous metal scrap quality is only as good as the scrap yard operator, and some non-ferrous metals in the scrap can weaken the steel produced. China produces more reliable iron ore and augmented it’s supplies with ore from Australia and Brazil – I think those three produce over half the world’s production of high quality ore.

    You might want to modify and rotate the “destined-for-China’s-steel-industry” phrase to include other Asian countries, except Japan, which exports some of its own ferrous metal scrap.

  • avatar

    Ex wife had an 85 Spectrum. She bought it new. It was a decent enough little car, but very accident prone. Not long after buying it, she was rear ended. A few months later, it was hit while parked at a curb. The final straw was when she rolled it after being run off an interstate in CT by a Semi-truck.

    We paid to have a passenger side mirror installed, too.

  • avatar

    I am a former owner of the “LOTUS ESPRIT” I-Mark, I think it was an ’89, and the same body style as this one. With it’s 24 valve DOHC, 5 speeder, it actually was kind of a pocket rocket and replaced the 83 GTI that died on me in Chicago while in sales on my first job.

    What I loved about it then (and sort of cringe about now, sort of like my affinity for Flock of Seagulls?) was the plastic body cladding added to this body, all white and the graphics on the glass that reminded all you people that it had DOUBLE overhead cams.

    It took me all the way out to Los Angeles, where I’d suffer 1.5 hour stop-and-go with the manual tranny. In ’91 I finally traded up for an Exploder, and an automatic.

    Thankfully my taste for ‘air dams’ waned, as did my love for the Flock.

    • 0 avatar

      That would be the 1989 Isuzu I-Mark RS. The integrated front air dam, rocker panel extensions, and rear wing were typical for the time. The “DOHC 16 VALVE” emblazoned across the bottom of the rear side windows was a little boastful.

      The 125hp sounds tame today, but it weighed only 2200 pounds (or 2300 in four-door sedan form), revved to 7600rpm, and had wicked-short gearing that made it take off like a scalded cat.

      Lotus tuned the suspension (seriously) so it handled very well for a beam-rear-axle econobox, and it was available with factory Recaros. (So when I say my 23 year old hatchback has better factory seats than my C6 Corvette, I’m not lying.)

      It was probably the best bang-for-the-buck of the Hot Hatchback Class of 1989.

      Joe Isuzu even passed a 911 on the Autobahn in one; search YouTube for “Joe Isuzu in Germany” or check v=f0HX1k9OgVk

      • 0 avatar

        …The “DOHC 16 VALVE” emblazoned across the bottom of the rear side windows was a little boastful…

        How 80s is that? Remember the Dodge Colt turbo? The back window was emblazoned with “Don’t step on the gas unless you really mean it”…I loved the 80s!!! Flock was pretty good too…

      • 0 avatar

        …”Remember the Dodge Colt turbo? The back window was emblazoned with ‘Don’t step on the gas unless you really mean it\'”…

        The car I owned before the 1989 Isuzu I-Mark RS was a 1984 Dodge Colt Turbo. The original owner had removed that sticker from the back window, and added flat-black louvers. How 80s is that?

      • 0 avatar

        Ah, thank you. Right on the money. I think the only thing that drove me mad in that car (other than a stick shift going over the Santa Monica mountains on the 405 in stop and go traffic) was there were no intermittent wipers–and I had traded in my 83 GTI that DID have them. In LA it wasn’t a problem but in Chicago? Oh golly that was not fun (FIrst world problems, indeed)

  • avatar

    For decades, cars didn’t have right hand mirrors. Now, can’t imagine not. My mom once said of her ’78 Cutlass equipped with one “I dont use it”. Now, she uses them all the time.

    Anyway, the Chevy Spectrum was in a crowded showroom with NUMMI Nova, Cavalier, and left over Chevettes. Roger Smith figured ‘throw a few on the wall and see what sticks!’

  • avatar

    Decent enough cars, but certainly disposable. No enthusiast base, little redeeming or unique features, no real incentive to keep them on the road once they start requiring anything beyond routine maintenance.

    These things really epitomized the cars-as-appliances concept. GM sold this car the exact same way Sears sells Kenmore refrigerators, only with noticeably less care and passion.

  • avatar

    I seem to recall Isuzus of this period ate rear shock/struts and you’d see them going down the road bouncing enough that the rear tires would leave the pavement.

  • avatar

    A college friend of mine had one of these (I want to say it was a high school graduation present). Not a very memorable car (she was more memorable). I remember she had this thing for setting out to drive home from Nashville to Memphis for the weekend on under half a tank of gas and trying to make it all the way without stopping to refuel or empty her bladder (200 or so miles). Typically she and the car would arrive equally dehydrated.

  • avatar

    The intriguing story of Joe Isuzu

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