By on December 7, 2015

1991 Isuzu Impulse

I suppose that I could be considered a “professional” car shopper. I mean, I am paid to spend my time checking out cars for sale across the web and report back what I find. It’s not my full-time gig (yet), but I guess it keeps me off the streets.

Over the years, my friends and acquaintances have decided to help me in my shopping. I’ll get emails with eBay links, get tagged in various Facebook groups (Mr. Zuckerberg, I’ll register as The Charity Rest Home for Wayward Amateur Auto Mechanics and Sentence Manglers for a bite at that $45 billion) and have my Twitter handle (@tonn_chris for those playing at home) added to tweeted Craigslist shares.

Last week, a good friend tagged me with a hot Kei-car not that far from home. However, were I to investigate that car, I’d need a camera crew and “Yakety Sax” dubbed in for the inevitable hilarity involved in getting my linebacker-sized frame in such a diminutive automobile. I’m still tempted, but it’s way out of my price range.

Yesterday, I was alerted via @SexCpotatoes while I was in church to a seriously rare, yet temptingly cheap car also close to home. The 1991 Isuzu Impulse RS was a turbocharged, all-wheel-drive rocket. Unfortunately, it was overshadowed by the similar, but much more popular Diamond Star triplets from Mitsubishi and Chrysler.

I love the obscure. This Isuzu was twinned with the Geo Storm, but the all-wheel drive and turbo were quite unusual with only around 1,000 examples of that combination imported. Parts can be nearly impossible to source, so this particular basketcase is fraught with danger. Worst yet, there’s likely little upside to restoring this car with an eye to selling it.

Plus, whoever does buy this runs the risk of one of the classic blunders. The most famous is “Never get involved in a land war in Asia,” but only slightly less known is never buy an older Japanese car from North of the Mason-Dixon, where it’s likely to have acres of rust!

Had I the shop space, this Isuzu would likely be in my greasy hands by now.

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27 Comments on “Crapwagon Outtake: 1991 Isuzu Impulse RS...”

  • avatar

    TTAC is doing a great job bringing to light cars from my youth that I somehow didn’t know existed. Last week it was the Corolla XRS, now a turbo AWD Isuzu Impulse?! Never heard of it. Or did I? Maybe I have Alzheimers.

    As someone who took on a JDM engine swap on a Mazda MX-3, this Impulse gives me the cold sweats.

  • avatar

    Not knowing a whole lot about these cars, I’ll assume that the hood scoop directing cold air to the spark plug wires and what looks like a giant air filter attached to the radiator are aftermarket mods.

  • avatar

    Not as good looking as its Giugiaro-styled predecessor or its Geo Storm cousin. It’s no surprise that these Impulses are nearly forgotten as isuzu’s passenger cars were slowly fading from the scene. When was the last time anyone has seen an Isuzu Stylus sedan?

  • avatar

    That Impulse is absolute garbage. Wouldn’t touch it even at $500, unless I had someone offering me $1000 just to complete the deal for them.

    Now the Alto Works is very adorable and cool, but that price is loony. That place online with the neato website (always forget it – bumpyii knows) will get you a cooler/better JDM for less money.

    I’d rather have a Suzuki Wagon R-Wide, or a Dihatsu Cappuccino, or that Autozam ZZ thing.

    • 0 avatar
      bumpy ii

      My latest oddball fascination is the AE92 Corolla GT-Z: flashy late ’80s FWD Corolla coupe with a supercharged 4A-GE and a hood scoop. Was available with two-tone paint and either fixed or flip-up lamps.

      • 0 avatar


        For present stock I’m down with the two-tone Silvia K (sold) or that white Laurel (sold), or even the Homy (sold).

        And ALL of them are several thousand cheaper than the Alto Works.

    • 0 avatar

      Suzuki Cappuccino, you mean?

      (Finally, I get to correct CoreyDL.)

      • 0 avatar

        (LOL – if I knew you were waiting for it so eagerly I coulda done messed up sooner!)

        Yes, that one! I did an image search and got plenty of results for “Daihatsu Cappuccino,” Google no fu-correct me.

    • 0 avatar

      Beat me to it, this Isuzuz been modded but I guess they didn’t swap the engine right since it don’t work. Then theres the ruined interior.

      The best way to experience an old car is with a factory example.

  • avatar

    That car has a small intestine!

  • avatar

    Very obscure. I knew Isuzu did TURBO but never knew there was an AWD version. But then I spent the 80s and 90s surrounded by Detroit Iron of the finest Brougham grade. In an area where people would look at you funny for buying a “furrin\'” car.

  • avatar

    We had these at the Pontiac dealers I worked for as the Asuna Impulse. Asuna being GM’s brilliant branding idea for crappy cars foisted on unsuspecting Canadians. The one impression I have of the Impulse is that every single one you see has blown rear struts. I was following one and the back end never stopped bouncing, the rear wheels even left the ground. Can’t imagine everyone riding in it didn’t get sea-sick.

  • avatar

    Lotus developed this motor and used it in the ’90-’93 fwd Elan. For the very brave, this has all the parts to convert the Elan to AWD.

    • 0 avatar

      That is not possible. The Elan has a double wishbone suspension front and rear, the Impulse is struts all around. The knuckles nor the wheel bearings are shared. Secondly, and most importantly, the Elan M100 has a backbone chassis and you would have to totally re-engineer, like to the point you might as well make a tube frame silhouette car, to make the driveshaft, transfer case and rear diff fit.

      • 0 avatar

        OK, the rear suspension would require some creativity but there is a big void right down the center of the backbone that looks like it could easily accomadate a driveshaft. As I recall, there was a big access hole from where the rear diff would be straight into the backbone on the M100 I had.
        When the M100 came out there were rumours floating around that there was an AWD variant in the works.
        Thete is an interesting story about the M100 tooling getting sold to Kia which produced their variant of the M100 BTW.

  • avatar

    This looks closer to a LeMons racer than anything else, only difference is that the price tag isnt LeMons friendly exactly.

    Tags, 300zx, boosted, cb9, evo, 4g63, civic, mitsubishi, lowered, ek, cb7,drifting, slider, sr20,rb26,rb20,honda,bride,skunk, f22, b16, eclipse, boost, turbo manifold

  • avatar

    IMO the Wagonback Storm is more desirable and kewl. Also, just learned there was an Impulse Wagon as well.

    Never EVER seen one in real life. Would drive.

  • avatar

    I had one of these. Bought it around 2001 from a lady who just had baby and couldn’t put the kid in the Mexican prison otherwise known as the backseat. This was the best, most fun car I ever had. Tore up the rice rockets of its day but was outgunned by a decently running DSM machine. The handling was sublime. Seating position was practically sitting on the floor, almost go-kart like. Rear suspension struts were unique to the RS and were impossible to locate replacements. The awd transmissions weren’t reliable either. They would snap from the stresses of AWD launches and eventually break. Mine was modded to fwd due to trans failure and ended up being faster due to lower weight. Fwd trans are easy to source from the likes of Geo stom gsi or asuna sunfires, drops in. The car was eventually sold as the tin worm got to it pretty bad from Montreal over salting its roads. Want it back now, I can actually fix things these days, own a decent service shop at my home garage.

  • avatar
    Athos Nobile

    I had one :P. Also a FWD one.

    Infinitely nicer than the one pictured. I miss those little bastards.

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