Rare Rides: A Stylish and Tasteful Isuzu 117 Coupe From 1975

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis

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]

Corey Lewis
Corey Lewis

Interested in lots of cars and their various historical contexts. Started writing articles for TTAC in late 2016, when my first posts were QOTDs. From there I started a few new series like Rare Rides, Buy/Drive/Burn, Abandoned History, and most recently Rare Rides Icons. Operating from a home base in Cincinnati, Ohio, a relative auto journalist dead zone. Many of my articles are prompted by something I'll see on social media that sparks my interest and causes me to research. Finding articles and information from the early days of the internet and beyond that covers the little details lost to time: trim packages, color and wheel choices, interior fabrics. Beyond those, I'm fascinated by automotive industry experiments, both failures and successes. Lately I've taken an interest in AI, and generating "what if" type images for car models long dead. Reincarnating a modern Toyota Paseo, Lincoln Mark IX, or Isuzu Trooper through a text prompt is fun. Fun to post them on Twitter too, and watch people overreact. To that end, the social media I use most is Twitter, @CoreyLewis86. I also contribute pieces for Forbes Wheels and Forbes Home.

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  • Krhodes1 Krhodes1 on Aug 05, 2020

    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.

    • See 1 previous
    • PeriSoft PeriSoft on Aug 06, 2020

      @Duaney "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.

  • Thehyundaigarage Thehyundaigarage on Aug 05, 2020

    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.

  • Ras815 Their naming scheme is almost as idiotic as having a totally separate Polestar brand for EVs that look exactly like...de-badged Volvos. But you can tell it came from the same idiocy.
  • Dukeisduke "The EX naming convention is used for the automaker’s new and upcoming EVs, the EX30 and EX90."Only upcoming when they can figure out the software.
  • SCE to AUX I've always said that consumer/business pressures will reign in government decrees, as they have in the past in places like California. That state has moved the goalposts many times for "ZEV" mandates.But the problem is the depth of politicization of the EPA. Mfrs need continuity and long-term commitment to requirements, not living on a 4-year political cycle of who's in the White House and Congress. Your President - whomever that is - isn't going to be around forever.Ironically, backing off the gas means handing a greater lead to Tesla, Rivian, and Lucid, (and possibly H/K/G). The whiners have begun heavy investments whose ROI will be extended by years, and their EV sales will reduce even further.It's like the coach granting his players less practice time because they're tired, while the other team stays fit - that's how you lose the game.
  • Dukeisduke The administration is slowly dribbling out details of the change - it's like they don't want to piss off environmentalists, the auto manufacturers, or the UAW. John McElroy covered this very well in today's installment of Autoline Daily: AD #3751 - 2024 U.S. EV Sales Could Grow 43%; China Price War Spreads To ICE; U.S Vehicles Biggest Ever, Also Lowest CO2 - AutolineAlso, even though vehicles in the US have gotten larger, heavier, and more powerful (thanks to the shift away from sedans to trucks and SUVs), according to a year-end report by the EPA, in 2023, average fuel economy was at its highest ever, and CO2 emissions of new vehicles were at their lowest ever ( The 2023 EPA Automotive Trends Report: Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Fuel Economy, and Technology since 1975, Executive Summary (EPA-420-S-23-002, December 2023 ).
  • Golden2husky How about real names instead of alphabet/numeric soup?