3 Names 3 Countries: 1978 Buick Opel by Isuzu

I know a few people with three names but I can’t think of too many cars with three names, or at least three separate companies in three different countries! This 1978 Buick Opel by Isuzu is listed on eBay and it’s located in Newark, Delaware. You’d better take a seat before I give you the asking price. Are you ready? The seller has it listed with a buy it now price of $12,500 but you can also make an offer. Let’s check it out.

This Japanese/American/German car.. wait, what? Most of you know that Opel was, originally at least, a German company. GM got a hold of it in 1929 and held tightly until 2017 when Groupe PSA, a French company, got it from GM. Most of us know that Buick dealers were where a person could buy an Opel but this added Isuzu connection is really unusual. Apparently, it has the distinction of being the only vehicle without a model name but with three different brand names! Can you think of another? Somebody will, I’m guessing.

There is no questioning the shape of this car, it’s definitely an Isuzu Gemini under those badges. It became the I-Mark a bit later than this car, in 1981, after GM stopped importing them for Opel, or Buick.. AHHHH!!! My head hurts! This particular example appears to be in good condition considering it was “part of an estate sale” and it appears to have been in storage for quite a while. I love the shape and design of this car. I’m a solid Isuzu Gemini fanboy, even though I’m in my 50s.. (fanman doesn’t sound right)

I’m dying to hit this car with polishing-compound to within an inch of its life. I wonder if the seller has the original wheel covers? They aren’t giving up a lot of information in the listing other than to say that it’s a “barn find”, it was an estate car, the “trunk has not been opened” (oh oh, what’s in there?!), it has a “clean title” and, ugh, there are “no keys”. The T-Body Gemini Buick-Opel-Isuzu was in a tough spot at GM as Chevrolet had recently come out with their own similar T-Body car in the Chevette.

The interior, although pretty grimy, looks like it’s really in nice condition. The back seat looks great other than maybe some seam separation at the top. As such a rare car (again, rare doesn’t always = valuable) I can see where the seller would have it listed at a high price. I highly doubt if they’ll have any takers at anywhere even near half of their asking price, but I could be wrong. You can see how things look good in the interior. And, I hate to say that it’s a drawback every time, but that GM Hydramatic 2oo 3-speed automatic makes me somewhat sad. A 4-speed manual would make for a much more fun car to drive. But, a 4-speed in a Buick? Ok, it’s an Opel. Or, I mean, an Isuzu. It’s really an Isuzu! They say that this is a rare car with AC and also radio delete. It’s rare no matter how it’s equipped.

This is Isuzu’s G180Z 1.8L inline-four which would have had 80 hp. The seller doesn’t know if it runs or not, I’m assuming because they don’t have the keys. It looks dusty but decent. These cars had standard power brakes. I’m guessing that most Barn Finds readers could have this car humming again in no time. Have you ever heard of this triple-moniker Buick Opel Isuzu?

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Comments

  1. David Ellis

    not heard of this…because in Australia, it was called the Holden Gemini

  2. Boatman Member

    What’s going on with the windows? Is this the commode model? (Frosted glass)

    • That AMC guy

      The photos are not so great, some look way out of focus on the edges.

  3. Luke Fitzgerald

    And it was marketing here in Australia as a Holden (Gemini) – very popular

  4. Nsuracer

    The car is really a Japanese version of an Opel Kadett C. The German version of the car had anything from an 1100cc engine to a 1900. Some were also 16v. If you want to see some in action, Go to YouTube and enter Privat Knipser and watch them in hillclimb competition.

    • Poppapork

      I was hoping to see the legendary opel CIH engine under the hood and a manual since these old automatics rob way to much hp from them old 4 bangers…

  5. Rusty

    I had a ’76 4-speed in this color combo. It was kind of fun to drive, with decent steering and a lot of power for the time. It rusted badly in just 3 Ohio Winters, and also split the driver’s seat at the pleat seams. It’s worst sin, though, was that it started running very rich and nobody could seem to set the complicated carb back right. They seemed to do a better job of both rust prevention and smog controls with the later ones that were sold as Isuzus.

  6. Rube Goldberg Member

    $12,500? Oh, for crying out ,,I suppose being the only driving example on the planet, maybe it’s justified,,,nah, certainly not $12,000 dollars worth of automobile here. I remember, when this came out, us diehard (German) Opel fans were mortified. What the heck is this crax? It even kind of looked like a Kadett/Manta, but Japanese? Get lost,,,it was not well received. The German Opel’s were much nicer cars, and these were typically Japanese tinny, although, probably good cars regardless, plus, they probably passed the emission standards, something the German Opel couldn’t do. I heard, Buick dealers hated the German Opel’s, and these even more. It just wasn’t the car one would associate with a Buick. Pretty rare, indeed, but that doesn’t make it worth $12g’s, however.

    • John M.

      I agree that the $12,500 asking price is way too much for the car. For that amount, a nicer vintage American classic could be had.

    • gene

      obviously an extra ZERO in that price……….??

  7. RayT Member

    Hmmmmm…. One kinda mangy “Buick Opel by Isuzu” or four Honda Civic CRX SIs in decent shape?

  8. Dave Mc

    Bar Find? You’d have to be drunk to pay that price.

  9. Mark Evans

    Side profile reminds me of a Vega.-Not a good thing,

  10. Ben T. Spanner

    These were nasty when new and never got any better. Note the reference to its related Chevette. Buick dealers didn’t want them and didn’t want to stock parts or service them. Buick’s image was more upscale. Isuzus were sold to the credit challanged. If they sold one of these to their repeat Bucick customer, they would get lots of flack when problems came up.

    If you want to run a buffer, volunteer to compound the for sale cars at the pic-and-pull. (Spoken as one who buffed the right side of a rental car just to see how it would look.)

  11. Fred W.

    I thnk this breaks the all time Barn Finds record for “Most Overpriced Piece of Junk”. And that’s being kind!

  12. Miguel

    The only good thing I can say about this car is that it has a gasoline engine, and not the diesel a lot of the Isuzu versions had.

  13. Kirt

    I love sellers that ask a super-premium price, yet they don’t wash, vacuum, or even take decent pictures. My cars are ALWAYS fully detailed when they get sold.

    • Miguel

      The rust coming through on the hood is always a plus.

  14. mallthus Mallthus Member

    As someone who owned a Chevette and an i-Mark (they were free!), the one thing I can say is that they actually handle really, really well. They’re super lightweight and RWD. On the other hand, they’re all gutless as hell, which I think went a long ways towards making me the driver I am today. Nothing’s as good a driving coach as driving a slow car fast. $12k is a silly ask for this thing, but I’d seriously consider it for $10k less.

  15. Chris Londish Member

    GMH sold these here as the Gemini with the 1.6 litre motor and two models also were sold for short time with a 1.8 diesel, also there was a racing series with coupes all the same so good for driver development, I think they were also sold as a station wagon and panel van

  16. Wayne

    Here in Australia there’s even a race series for virtually stock Holden Gemini’s in Queensland.

    1
  17. Adam Clarke Adam T45 Staff

    As a number of others have already stated, this was marketed in Australia as the Holden Gemini. It was introduced to replace the four cylinder Holden Torana. I wonder how many of my Aussie mates remember the advertising jingle from the below link.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rTAmwuGlrqc

  18. ACZ

    These weren’t bad cars. In fact, very little ever went wrong with them. Just fuel pump relays (which they were recalled for), and the driver seat back side panel being cut through by the seat frame.
    Exciting, they were not. It was just a good, cheap car that could be used to get a customer in the door of a Buick dealership. They also worked good for a car for your college kid.
    Although, just like all Japanese cars of this vintage, they were very susceptible to rust.

  19. Craig

    Since you said someone would think of another car with three international brand names, I don’t want you to be disappointed. GM had another platform with four names, The Kappa platform was sold as the Pontic Solstice, Saturn Sky, Opel GT and Daewoo G2x. They all had model names though. I only know this because I have a Solstice GXP.

  20. Alexander

    I wouldn’t even pay $1,250 for this one. When they first came out, I was disappointed that the Manta design gave way to this GM badge-engineered box.

  21. Joe U

    This car looks like it sold at a copart salvage auction, go figure… You can beat these cars up all you want for having three names but they were fun little cars and they handled great! The Holden Gemini Fans figured that out!

  22. SJ

    They rusted horribly and quickly, unlike their prior all German models.

    The whole Buick, Opel, Isuzu thing was a bad situation, I didn’t mind the follow on Isuzu Imark or the Impulse, and they seemed to hold up better. Now you can’t find any of them at all.

    I had Opel Manta once, had AT, hated the AT.

  23. Bill Payne

    1975-1976 IIRC, the US Dollar against the Deutsch Mark forced GM to go to Isuzu which they owned 51% of, in order to offer an entry-level equivalent to the German Opel which would have been $5K & up vs $3-4K. Apparently met a lot of resistance + the economy sucked so I bought my 2 door 4 speed, no AC in July 77 for $3K in Alexandria, VA. 1800 CC, cross flow hemi 2 bbl. Dynoed at 62 rear wheel hp.

    There were at least 5 of these raced in SCCA SSC in the SE + others across the 7 SCCA divisions in 77 & 78. Put a rollbar & 6 pt harness & go racing. No mods to the drive train or suspension. Cheap racing, 23 race week-ends in 13 months, no maintenance expenditures except brakes & plugs. Set several lap records, TX World Speedway broke the existing record by 15 seconds due to a draft tow from a real fuel injected German Opel. Lots of great memories.

    Sold the car to a novice racer who rolled it during 1 of his schools, finished the school after duct taping the unbroken windshield back in the warped hole. He drove it home, did some additional repairs, raced it for the rest of the season, sold it and it survived for several more years as a street car.

    1
    • Joe U

      They’re fun cars to drive Bill! I had quite a few of them back in the 80’s. I have a 78 S/C now with 29k with no rust believe it or not. It was rust proofed by dealer and never driven in bad weather. I take it to car shows and it blows peoples minds, most don’t know what it is.

      1
      • Bill Payne

        Love to see a picture. My purchase yielded at least 3 other purchases in SCCA to convert to SSC racers.

        1
      • Joe U

        I couldn’t figure out how to post a pic Bill. Shoot me an email and I’ll send you some pics. Ubautosales@gmail.com

    • Little_Cars Little_Cars Member

      @Bill Payne would that have been Temple Buick in Alexandria? I was there in 77…

      1
      • Bill Payne

        Rode Amtrak to Alexandria, walked down to the underpass, 1/2 block up to the Buick store just across the tracks/street from the depot. Don’t remember the dealership name, had all the paperwork ready, signed the docs & drove’er home. Tried to exceed the speed limit as much as possible, so as to break it in right.

        Dealership in Charlotte offered to sell me the identical car for $4000(IIRC MSRP was <$4300 in 9/76) & the $1500 rebates were already available. I already knew Alexandria's $3K price & explained they could sell me the car & save me the trip…NO such luck. I did drive by when I got home & show the sales mgr the car & my invoice.

        1
  24. Little_Cars Little_Cars Member

    My old stomping ground! Yes, that would be Temple Buick/Opel. Wedged into the corner of Diagonal Road and Duke Street. Sales manager there, Mr Kroll, opened Kroll’s Kars on Mount Vernon Avenue a few years later — it’s where I traded in my big Ford convertible for an awesome 67 Buick Skylark that I trimmed out like a GS.

    1
  25. Bill Payne

    And as soon as I read the name, realized that was the gentleman who I dealt with on the phone to set everything up & who personally handled the in person stuff.

    Your big Ford vert would be worth a ton more than the Skylark today probably.

    1
  26. Little_Cars Little_Cars Member

    That would be an interesting study today, actually. I’ll check Hagerty’s! LOL It was a very rusty 1971 Galaxie convertible with bucket seat interior — black and white houndstooth inserts, staple shifter, console, Earl Schieb blue. Needed its transmission bands adjusted. The Skylark, funny enough, was also Earl Schieb blue and had a leaky gas tank. Kroll was a curious fella and a real gearhead and traded me even Stephen since the Ford was “newer.” The year was 1979 so the Skylark was already twelve years old.

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