Buy/Drive/Burn: Japanese Coupe Action in 1986

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis
buy drive burn japanese coupe action in 1986

Sporty styling, flip-up headlamps, and promises of performance. These three had it all in the mid-80s, but which one goes home with the Buy? Let’s find out.

Today’s trio came about from a discussion on the

The 200SX appeared on this series once before, though in a slightly different guise. Nissan’s 200SX model (for the most part) was a North American marketing name for the company’s long-running Silvia coupe. The awkwardly styled second-generation model debuted in 1975, a decade after the introduction of the beautiful original Silvia. A very malaise third generation turned up for 1979, and muddled its way through to 1984 before being replaced by the fourth S12 version seen here. For the North American market, available engines included a base 2.0-liter or upmarket 1.8-liter turbo (hatchback only). 1986 was the last year for the turbo engine, as it was replaced by the VG30 from the 300ZX in 1987. Today’s selection is a turbo model, with 120 horsepower and a five-speed manual.

Toyota Celica

Debuting for the 1970 model year, the Celica shared its platform with the Japanese-market Carina sedan. Toyota aimed its new coupe right at Americans, intending to take on the Ford Mustang. A second-generation model appearing in 1978 grew larger and more American; the design was then handed off to Toyota’s California research location. With the second generation’s debut, consumers had a new coupe option, as the sportiest offering became the Celica Supra. Things changed again for the 1986 model year, as for the first time Celica became front-wheel drive. Rounded lines, more trims, and optional four-wheel drive accompanied this new, modern Celica. Today’s selection is the sportiest front-driver GT-S, with a 2.0-liter DOHC engine producing 135 horsepower. We won’t suffer the automatic today — it’ll be the five-speed manual.

Isuzu Impulse

The underdog of the trio, Isuzu’s rear-drive successor to its luxurious 117 coupe arrived in North America for 1983. Angular lines were penned in Italy, and the chassis underneath came from a Chevrolet Chevette. Isuzu saw fit to load up every Impulse it sent to North America, even though their 90-horsepower inline-four lacked power. Things got better in 1985 with the introduction of a turbocharged 2.0-liter. Unfortunately, the sportiest RS version is off-limits today, as it was not introduced until 1987. Don’t despair — today’s standard turbo produces a trio-topping 140 horsepower, sent through a five-speed manual.

Three coupes, one Buy. Make your selections!

[Images: Isuzu, Toyota, Nissan]

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  • Jfk-usaf Jfk-usaf on Jan 09, 2019

    Drive - The Nissan. Looks fun and 120hp wasn't too bad back then. Burn - The Toyota... Just boring and I imagine it would have the driving feel of a kitchen appliance Buy - The Izuzu. I always liked these. Now that I know where the underpinnings came from I am a little discouraged though.

  • Celebrity208 Celebrity208 on Jan 10, 2019

    I had an '87 200SX with the 2.0L. It felt and sounded fast but wasn't. I got beat by my younger brother's '88 civic and roasted by my friends in Jeep (YJ). What ever. There were a few "vellum venom" critiques I had with the car. 1. I hated the look of the negative camber on the rear axle. It was a cool anecdote that the suspension in the back was the same as that of the 300Z (IIRC) but that was it. 2. From the side I always thought it looked like the car was in the midst of a launch, i.e. more space between the tire and the fender at the front than the rear. I don't know if I liked this or not. 3. I didn't like how the rear track width was/seemed-to-be so much narrower than the width of the body. This is kinda typical of the 80s but that doesn't mean I disliked it any less. 4. The stereo wasn't a standard DIN size. I didn't have the fabrication resources (errr... too lazy) to make/buy a filler plate for the replacement stereo I installed. I fantasized about turbo charging that 2.0L with junkyard parts from a 1.8L but that's all it ever was, fantasy.

  • SCE to AUX I charge at home 99% of the time, on a Level 2 charger I installed myself in 2012 for my Leaf. My house is 1967, 150-Amp service, gas dryer and furnace; everything else is electric with no problems. I switched from gas HW to electric HW last year, when my 18-year-old tank finally failed.I charge at a for-pay station maybe a couple times a year.I don't travel more than an hour each way in my Ioniq 1 EV, so I don't deal much with public chargers. Despite a big electric rate increase this year, my car remains ridiculously cheap to operate.
  • ToolGuy 38:25 to 45:40 -- Let's all wait around for the stupid ugly helicopter. 😉The wheels and tires are cool, as in a) carbon fiber is a structural element not decoration and b) they have some sidewall.Also like the automatic fuel adjustment (gasoline vs. ethanol).(Anyone know why it's more powerful on E85? Huh? Huh?)
  • Ja-GTI So, seems like you have to own a house before you can own a BEV.
  • Kwik_Shift Good thing for fossil fuels to keep the EVs going.
  • Carlson Fan Meh, never cared for this car because I was never a big fan of the Gen 1 Camaro. The Gen 1 Firebird looked better inside and out and you could get it with the 400.The Gen 2 for my eyes was peak Camaro as far as styling w/those sexy split bumpers! They should have modeled the 6th Gen after that.