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Japanese Alfa: 1971 Isuzu Bellett GTR

For as long as most of us can remember, the BMW 2002 and the Alfa Romeo GTV have been the benchmarks in sports sedan manufacturing. Today, those same models are among the more sought-after vintage European models you can buy, but surprisingly, noted truck manufacturer Isuzu also had a compelling entry in the space that was never sold stateside: the Bellett GTR. This 1971 Bellett GTR listed here on Craigslist was imported by a member of the military and has been in storage since 1991.

I’m an avowed fan of Isuzu’s most popular U.S. model, the 4×4 Trooper. The truck I own is immensely charming – and capable – but not exactly a testament to having sports car DNA. It’s a truck, and as such, the mechanical systems are designed to be simple and robust. There’s nothing sporting about it, with its mechanical attributes solely focused on its ability to go off pavement with minimal fuss. The GTR shown here is a different breed of Isuzu, with a 120hp DOHC twin-carb engine under the hood and discrete cosmetic touches like the “DOHC” badge and driving lamps.

The interior is simple and driver-focused. The big, three-spoke steering wheel is charming and was likely considered a bit of an item when the Isuzu was first introduced; still, I can’t help thinking a smaller Prototipo would look fantastic here. The bucket seats are in good shape but the door panels have clearly been replaced. As much as I love obscure models like this, I’ve owned some seriously strange gray market vehicles in the past and I am scarred for life at having to find parts for them. Hopefully, the next owner of this Isuzu has some connections overseas.

Given how fragile vintage Japanese cars like these can be, it’s nothing short of amazing to not see extensive or even moderate rust in areas like the tail light panel. The years of indoor storage have undoubtedly helped to keep this Isuzu in one piece. The seller mentions there is some rust in the body but it sounds minor based on the listing. Some spare parts are included, such as a headgasket kit, which begs the question as to whether this engine needs an overhaul. Regardless, you won’t find another one anytime soon, so I’d jump on this GTR if you’re looking for some JDM exotica. Thanks to Barn Finds reader Zac for the find.

Comments

  1. RayT Member

    I’m confused, and I hope someone who knows more than I do (not so difficult!) can help: I remember these early Isuzu models somewhat, as the dealer who sold my father his Austin-Healey — and sold other BMC cars — tried without much success to peddle Isuzus back in the ’60s. One was the Bellel, which I recall as a little sedan with a diesel engine. The other was the slightly fancier Bellett (not “Ballett”) two-door.

    It’s small potatoes for sure. In fact, I want to know more for my own mental stash of arcane car stuff than to correct Jeff….

    Like 2
    • Carbuzzard Member

      Isuzu sold cars in the US in the 90s. I can’t remember the model name but there was a hot rod one-year model with a hot 1.6 L engine (IIRC) and suspension tune d by Lotus. And I wrote a comparison, article for AutoWeek between it, and the Lotus Cortina for AutoWeek. They were very much in the same spirit, although the Isuzu was front wheel drive. It was a real hoot to drive.

      Like 2
      • princeofprussia

        Impulse?

        Like 0
    • Solosolo UK

      I lived in Southern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) 1954-1964 when the Isuzu Bellett GT (not the GTR) was introduced and much to the surprise of the Lotus Ford Cortina boys it out performed them easily. The Bellett did 0-60 mph in 10.9 sec. The Lotus took 13.6 sec. The Bellett did 118 mph and the Lotus 108 mph. I don’t know what the Lotus did over the 1/4 mile but the Bellett did it in 18.1 sec. The Bellett had 120 bhp and the Lotus 120 bhp. All in all the Bellett was one fast little car!

      Like 0
  2. Bud Lee

    What a cool little car. I have driven a lefty with automatic, not sure if I could shift gears though.

    Like 1
    • Martin Horrocks

      It’s easy.

      Like 1
  3. alphasud Member

    120hp should make this little car scoot! I had a couple 16V GTI’s with 123hp and no doubt a few hundred pounds on this car and those ran really well. This is the first time I have seen one of these. Nice piece of history and I hope it finds itself in good hands. Hey Jay Leno! You need this car in your collection.

    Like 7
  4. angliagt angliagt Member

    I’m sure that someone will post a link to the video of
    Izuzus being raced somewhere on the Oregon Coast.
    Newport?,& I think Pete Brock was behind the team.

    Like 2
  5. Chris Cornetto

    I put this in the same column as the Renault Caravelle I had. A very neat car that nothing exists for. A conversation piece in the corner of your building.

    Like 6
  6. Bullethead

    Worthy of restoration effort… if you missed getting a Nissan GTR when they were inexpensive, here’s your chance for something comparable, and more rare. The engine is a jewel, the Alfa comparison is appropriate.

    Wrong coast or I’d already have this.

    Like 0
  7. Derek

    I’ve only ever seen Bellets in Finland, and none of them were twinks.

    A JDM car, I suspect, being RHD.

    Like 1
    • Rick

      The Bellet was sold in Canada and that’s the only place I ever saw any.

      Like 1
  8. That AMC guy

    If the deal had not fallen through these could have been sold in the U.S. and Canada as Studebakers.

    https://www.hemmings.com/stories/article/the-studebaker-bellet

    Like 1
  9. Redbeard45

    Isuzu originally started car production with license built Wolseleyʻs after WW1 and then built Hillman Minx under license through the 1950s. We had the Isuzu Bellet, even a convertible or two, here in NZ and they were well built cars.

    Like 4
  10. Jonathan Q Higgins

    My fathers ‘86 trooper only had 96 hp. This thing is over 10 years older and had more hp?!

    Like 1
  11. Gerard Frederick

    I fail to see the connection between this and any Alfa.

    Like 1
  12. Jason

    Japanese Alfa? More like Wal-Mart alfa

    Like 0
  13. Richard

    I worked in Saudi Arabia for 5 years I’m the 1990’s, and I owned a 1984 Isuzu Aska. It was Isuzu’s version of GM’s “J” car, and was fairly reliable. That model was never imported to the USA. It was built in Australia as the Holden Chimera.

    Like 1
  14. Jerald741

    A friend saw this car in person, listed a few months ago by the original owner, the current seller is a flipper. Engine and brakes are seized and parts are extremely hard to find. Like someone said, it’s a conversation piece in the corner of your building. It’s also missing the title which will cause some hurdles, whoever buys this car will need a good source for parts. On a good day, it’s a $3000 car. There is rare, then there is too rare.

    Like 4

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