Rare Rides: Control Yourself With the 1985 Isuzu Impulse

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis
rare rides control yourself with the 1985 isuzu impulse

Today’s Rare Ride has brown paint, a tweedy tan interior, and super rad 1980s Italian design. Think you can control your Impulses?

Okay, no more puns.

Known elsewhere as the Piazza, Isuzu’s new rear-drive coupe debuted as the Impulse in North America for 1983. Impulse was a direct replacement for the Giugiaro-designed luxury 117 Coupe, which started out looking very pretty in 1968, then got a little less so after facelift action in the late 1970s. Isuzu learned a lesson about small-scale production and luxury features with the 117 and didn’t make the same mistake again with the Impulse: The new car was decidedly more downmarket, oriented toward the economic sports driving enthusiast.

Isuzu liked Giugiaro’s work on the 117, so it turned to him again for the new Impulse. In bed with General Motors at the time, Isuzu sent over some Brazilian Chevrolet Chevettes to Italy and said “Have at it!” — leaving Giorgetto to complete the design without interference. Things got really wedgy, and the resulting Ace of Clubs prototype was ready for debut at the 1979 Tokyo Motor Show.

It proved a crowd favorite, so the brass at Isuzu sent it (mostly unchanged) into production shortly thereafter. Factories were churning out shiny new Impulses by 1980, and they were on dealer lots for 1981. Incidentally, that year was the first time Isuzu had dealers with their own branding on North American shores. Previously, the company’s efforts were relegated to Chevrolet dealers with vehicles like the LUV pickup. As it was a new experiment in North America, customers there waited a bit to get hold of their Impulses.

Initially, the Impulse was available with two different inline-four engines, of single- or dual-overhead cam variety. North American customers had only one choice — the single-overhead cam version, producing 90 horsepower. 1985 saw the introduction of a turbocharged engine generating a much more interesting 140 horsepower. The hottest version, the RS, arrived in 1987. It had a 4CZ1 2.0-liter engine boasting an additional 10 horsepower over standard turbo versions. North American Impulse shoppers were subject to a much simpler lineup than other countries: All Impulses had all equipment fitted as standard. Options to the consumer included choice of manual or automatic transmission, naturally aspirated or turbo power, and the color. “Suspension by Lotus” badges arrived (as standard) in 1988.

The first generation Impulse was available around the globe through 1991, but again North America was an exception. Here, the Impulse was finished after 1989. Isuzu replaced it with a new-for-’90 generation — now called the Asuna Sunfire in Canada. The new model was front-drive or four-wheel drive and related to the popular Geo Storm. But Geo’s popularity did not warm customers to the second Impulse, and the model went out of production in 1993 with no replacement.

Today’s Rare Ride is located in suburban Downtown Illinois, a place called Elgin. It has the 2.0-liter engine, paired with a four-speed automatic transmission (the ad incorrectly cites a three-speed). With an overall clean appearance, a bit of rust, and a crazy interior design that’s just not seen nowadays, the Impulse asks $2,600.

[Images: seller]

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  • HotPotato HotPotato on Jan 05, 2019

    Pretty funny how Giugiaro sold the same design to Isuzu and VW. This bad boy looks very much like the ‘82 “wedge” Scirocco. Great looking car with either badge. Honestly 90-110 hp in these isn’t a bad start; IIRC the 1.7 liter engine in my ‘82 Scirocco had 76 hp, and I had to replace it with 1.8 liter “hot” GTI engine to get a monstrous 91 hp. It was still slow as hell (and road noise was epic). Must say, the VW was far better looking inside though.

  • Yvettehuntdesigns Yvettehuntdesigns on Aug 14, 2020

    I had one of these! It was a great car in its day. Mine looked just like this one, wheels and all. The biggest (and highly important difference) is that mine was a 1.9 litre and had a 5-speed manual transmission. So much fun! And it handled like a dream. My father had a 1984 V6 Pontiac Firebird, and this little jewel could keep up with his car easily. At 125 MPH, the odometer never read over 3500 RPMs. Mine had 136,000 miles on it, no rust, and everything worked perfectly. I was rear-ended on the freeway, and that was the end of one of my all-time fave cars. Still looking for another one just like it.

  • Max So GM will be making TESLAS in the future. YEA They really shouldn’t be taking cues from Elon musk. Tesla is just about to be over.
  • Malcolm It's not that commenters attack Tesla, musk has brought it on the company. The delivery of the first semi was half loaded in 70 degree weather hauling potato chips for frito lay. No company underutilizes their loads like this. Musk shouted at the world "look at us". Freightliners e-cascads has been delivering loads for 6-8 months before Tesla delivered one semi. What commenters are asking "What's the actual usable range when in say Leadville when its blowing snow and -20F outside with a full trailer?
  • Funky D I despise Google for a whole host of reasons. So why on earth would I willing spend a large amount of $ on a car that will force Google spyware on me.The only connectivity to the world I will put up with is through my phone, which at least gives me the option of turning it off or disconnecting it from the car should I choose to.No CarPlay, no sale.
  • William I think it's important to understand the factors that made GM as big as it once was and would like to be today. Let's roll back to 1965, or even before that. GM was the biggest of the Big Three. It's main competition was Ford and Chrysler, as well as it's own 5 brands competing with themselves. The import competition was all but non existent. Volkswagen was the most popular imported cars at the time. So GM had its successful 5 brands, and very little competition compared to today's market. GM was big, huge in fact. It was diversified into many other lines of business, from trains to information data processing (EDS). Again GM was huge. But being huge didn't make it better. There are many examples of GM not building the best cars they could, it's no surprise that they were building cars to maximize their profits, not to be the best built cars on the road, the closest brand to achieve that status was Cadillac. Anyone who owned a Cadillac knew it could have been a much higher level of quality than it was. It had a higher level of engineering and design features compared to it's competition. But as my Godfather used to say "how good is good?" Being as good as your competitors, isn't being as good as you could be. So, today GM does not hold 50% of the automotive market as it once did, and because of a multitude of reasons it never will again. No matter how much it improves it's quality, market value and dealer network, based on competition alone it can't have a 50% market share again. It has only 3 of its original 5 brands, and there are too many strong competitors taking pieces of the market share. So that says it's playing in a different game, therfore there's a whole new normal to use as a baseline than before. GM has to continue downsizing to fit into today's market. It can still be big, but in a different game and scale. The new normal will never be the same scale it once was as compared to the now "worlds" automotive industry. Just like how the US railroad industry had to reinvent its self to meet the changing transportation industry, and IBM has had to reinvent its self to play in the ever changing Information Technology industry it finds it's self in. IBM was once the industry leader, now it has to scale it's self down to remain in the industry it created. GM is in the same place that the railroads, IBM and other big companies like AT&T and Standard Oil have found themselves in. It seems like being the industry leader is always followed by having to reinvent it's self to just remain viable. It's part of the business cycle. GM, it's time you accept your fate, not dead, but not huge either.
  • Tassos The Euro spec Taurus is the US spec Ford FUSION.Very few buyers care to see it here. FOrd has stopped making the Fusion long agoWake us when you have some interesting news to report.