By on August 5, 2020

Rare Rides has already featured Isuzu’s mass-market successor to the 117, in the boxy and thoroughly Eighties Impulse. Let’s check out what Isuzu offered to its coupe customers a decade prior, when it aimed for a discerning, well-heeled customer.

The 117 was a new type of product from Izuzu. They’d offered subcompact and compact coupes before, but those entries were focused on being simple and economical. The 117 was designed to be stylish grand touring transportation, employing the latest technological innovations and luxury equipment.

In the beginning, 117 was a project code Isuzu used during its development of a trio of cars. A coupe, sedan, and wagon were all part of the 117 project. Eventually all three went on sale; the sedan and wagon were consolidated under the new Florian nameplate, while the 117 remained a standalone. To save some yen, the 117 and Florian models shared a platform, mechanicals, and their steering. All the sharing meant a range of gasoline and diesel engines were available in the 117. All power was in inline-four arragement; gasoline displacement ranged from 1.6- to 2.0-liters, while diesel engines were of 2.0- and 2.2-liter size.

Three different transmissions were offered: four- and five-speeds if manual, and three forward gears for the automatic.

Unlike the Florian sedan and wagon, which were pedestrian in their design, the 117 received its own unique look. Penned in Italy by Giorgetto Giugiaro, the coupe was one of the first Japanese cars designed by an Italian. Its flowing lines debuted in prototype format at the 1966 Geneva Motor Show, but the 117 was slow to market. Isuzu didn’t start production until 1968, and even then the manufacturing process of the 117 was largely by hand. Seldom did more than 50 coupes exit the assembly line each month.

Aside from its Italian styling, the 117 earned other notable mentions. It was among the very first Japanese cars to offer a DOHC engine (the 1.6-liter), and the first to have electronic fuel injection. The Bosch system was available from 1970 onward and earned its own trim level – EC – for Electronic Control. On the luxury front, standard equipment was plentiful in the 117. All examples featured a laurel wood dashboard made from Taiwanese trees, leather seats, and, in an era where they were often not present, headrests.

The 117’s production remained somewhat low-volume through 1972. But in 1973 a decision was made to turn the 117 into a mass-produced vehicle. Perhaps new stakeholder General Motors had some say in the matter. The expensive 117 was a popular model already, and the increased production was a good idea. In 1972 Isuzu shifted 965 examples of their coupe, but in 1974 that figure jumped to 9,506. None were ever sold in North America.

Given its very long production period, Isuzu updated the 117 in 1977 with a refresh, giving it a more modern and Fiat 130-ish appearance. Stylistically, it was sort of ruined. Yet Isuzu kept on making the 117 through 1981, at which point it was immediately replaced by the Impulse seen on these pages previously.

Today’s Rare Ride is for sale in northern Ohio via a well-known collector. In a beautiful emerald green, the 117 asks $19,500.

[Images: seller]

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15 Comments on “Rare Rides: A Stylish and Tasteful Isuzu 117 Coupé From 1975...”

  • avatar

    Whoa! It’s in my favorite car color (any shade of dark green).

    The picture of the interior and RHD suggested why I’ve never heard of these or seen one; then near the end of the article you confirmed that for me, “None were ever sold in North America.”

    The wiki article doesn’t say anything about the suspension or brakes, but suggests that the engine choices ranged from 60-100+hp. With 2370lbs curb weight and a manual transmission, that is a very high possibility of fun!

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    It’s too bad Buick didn’t offer this as a entry luxury sport model just above the Opel Manta and 1800 sedan and wagon. The Gemini Chevette based I-Mark Opel/Isuzu replaced them. Though it might have been too costly or cut into sales of the Monza based Skyhawk.

    • 0 avatar

      As a one time Manta owner, their biggest problem was that the retail point was a Buick store where the 65 yr old cigar smoking sales guys in checked sport coats had no idea what the car or its competition was.

      • 0 avatar
        MRF 95 T-Bird

        My dad had a Opel 1800 sedan manual that he used as a commuter car. It ran great for a few years and handled like a budget BMW 2002. It eventually rotted and the electrical system gave up the ghost.

  • avatar

    I see a little of the Triumph Stag and Jensen Interceptor in the front end.

  • avatar

    How very English. This looks like something directly from Triumph or Jensen. I’m sure that was intentional on Isuzu’s part

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Wow – a beautiful find!

  • avatar

    Are those mirrors better or worse than ‘ours’? (I don’t get out much and have never driven a vehicle with fender mirrors.)

    [Am thinking that might be a better location for a side-view-camera-in-lieu-of-mirror rather than sticking it at the base of the A-pillar.]

  • avatar

    Damn I like this car!
    That green is gorgeous!

  • avatar

    As soon as I saw this I thought “that is so very Italian looking”. So of course it was penned in Italy.

    Absolutely lovely. Can someone PLEASE send a few cars of this era to the idiots who are currently “designing” Japanese cars with hack and slash lines and gaping predator jaws and horrid floating rooflines? This is beauty on four wheels, and we need a LOT more of it on the roads.

    • 0 avatar

      Great comment krhodes1, my thoughts exactly. Why are we subjected to so much ugly today?

      • 0 avatar

        “Why are we subjected to so much ugly today?”

        Because the market wants it. People buy it. Remember that to a large degree the point of new car designs is not to be beautiful but to be *new*. That’s why we go through big cycles and supercycles of stuff like stretched-back headlights, narrow headlights, big grilles, coupe rooflines, rear lightbars… it’s all signaling that this new thing isn’t the old thing. Same with creasy sheet metal.

        The *average customer* isn’t looking at a car in an aesthetic vacuum. They’re not saying, “How does this thing compare to the most attractive imaginable car”. They’re saying, “It’s either the CRV or the RAV4 at this point, so let’s see…”, and they might not even be consciously aware of why they end up going in the direction they go. Car styling is designed for them, not for us, because they’re the people who write the checks.

  • avatar

    The second generation Isuzu impulse was sold in Canada for a short time before being rebadged as the asüna Sunfire.

    They were sold through the Canadian “passport” dealer network which sold Isuzu and passport branded vehicles (which were rebadged daewoo’s and Isuzu’s)

    My mother had a 91 Impulse RS Turbo AWD that my parents bought at Springman Passport/Isuzu/Saab in Langley BC, with a super rare factory installed spoiler sunroof.

    We had a very odd driveway back then…Moms Turbo impulse, and dad’s Fuego turbo that he babied.

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