Low Mileage Survivor: 1984 Isuzu Impulse

For years, I coveted an Isuzu Impulse. The sexy lines, the covered headlamps, the flat-faced wheels with that crazy checkerboard pattern – oh yeah, I wanted one. In some ways, I think this explains my current fascination with old Isuzu trucks, as I eventually was scared away from the Impulse due to non-existent parts supply and my inability to find the model I really wanted: the 1987 Turbo RS Special Edition. This 1984 model here on craigslist is a typical base model, and even has the optional automatic transmission, making it a total commuter car – albeit one with a body designed by Giugiaro. Thanks to Barn Finds reader Roger for the find. 

The seller is asking $3,950 for the Impulse, which is located in the San Gabriel Valley. It looks like it retains its old-school California blue plates, which reinforces the Impulse’s high state of preservation as being no accident. This obscure Japanese coupe has under 40,000 original miles, so it was clearly used sparingly in its time on the road. When the Impulse was introduced, there wasn’t much variety to the equipment offerings, with the transmission being one of the few choices buyers had to make. Later cars are the ones enthusiasts truly covet, with turbocharged engines and suspension systems designed by Lotus.

The interior remains in excellent condition, with acres of blue plastic and cloth. The automatic transmission is a bummer, but given the modest performance on hand from the naturally aspirate Impulses, drivers aren’t missing out on too much with the absence of three pedals. The early Impulses have a few different design tweaks to distinguish them from later models, including the fuzzy carpeting on the upper portions of the door panels, which seemed to be a standard Japanese car feature in the early part of the 80s. The seller notes the A/C still works, but may be losing some of its chill factor.

Body panels look laser straight, and the seller notes it comes with a clean title. No word on whether the paint is original or if there are any accidents in its past, but the good news is the Impulse appears to be rust-free. The original antenna still proudly extends from the A-pillar with no sign of it being bent by a low-hanging parking garage sign, and while it’s not the desirable turbocharged model, this clean survivor will still get plenty of thumbs up at the local Radwood show or cars and coffee gathering – assuming we’re ever allowed to attend one of those again!

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  1. Kevin Barr Staff

    I’m a big fan of these Isuzus. Shame about the automatic transmission, but this is priced pretty fairly for being in such good shape.

    Like 4
  2. Brent

    I had a 1989 non-turbo with the 5 speed. It was a fun car with “Handling by Lotus” and rear wheel drive.

    Like 2
  3. Shaun Dymond

    Here in the UK they were known as the Piazza, and I’ve only ever seen two over the years. Both in silver, and also both Turbo models. Rare as hen’s teeth, and really rather attractive cars too.

    Like 3
    • Graham Clayton

      Known in Australia as the Holden Piazza – only 200 were sold, and I have never seen one on the road.

  4. Bob B

    “Faster than a speeding, well you know”

    Like 2
  5. P Wentzell

    I am having flashbacks. I had a non Turbo, 5 speed model. To all who knew me, I drove an “Implode”. At its worst, it had a quirky CPU unit, some parts, ordered for me by the Oldsmobile dealer in Atlanta from Japan, were incorrect. At best, it rode/drove well, and had the best tilt/telescopic wheel feature in any car I’ve ever owned. There was a lever where the wheel could be tilted up and out of the way for entry/exit, and simply pulled back down, locked into place by your pre-set preference. The “pods” on either side of the instrument binnacle could be adjusted, and the “paddle” turn indicator on the left “pod” was quite ingenious. Would I own another? No. This low mile example deserves to be enjoyed and preserved. Best of luck to the parties involved.

    Like 2
  6. Miguel

    I test drove one of these in 1987 but it was a turbo model.

    When I accelerated it didn’t go anywhere.

    My thought process was that if I am going to pay more for insurance for a turbo car, I want to be able to feel the turbo when I smash the gas.

    I ended up with a Sunbird SE coupe. I loved that little car.

  7. Paul Root

    I had an ’88 Turbo w/Lotus in ‘Arrest me Red’. Pulled over a couple times in upstate NY, talked my way out of one ticket, but not the other.

    I’d assume this isn’t original paint. The paint on my car was garbage. Sold it after 1 winter in Minnesota (even with 4 Blizzaks)

  8. gaijinshogun

    The annual Japanese Classic Car Show in Long Beach California is always a good place for an Isuzu Impulse sightings. Last year, two Turbo models were in attendance, including a 1987 only RS Turbo.


  9. Bryan

    I almost bought brand new silver 1986 Impulse in Kennewick Washington. I was 22 and really couldn’t afford it but I fell in love with the modern style of the car! Hard to believe it was based off the Chevette. The innovative instrument panel and single wiper blade (like a Ferrari) impressed me at the time.

    I didn’t buy it because it (surprisingly) didn’t have air conditioning. Since it was winter the salesman said it was nothing to worry about. Months later the salesman contacted me and advised me the car was still available and that the dealer had installed A/C. I passed.

    These are rare nowadays! Parts must be scarce too! My neighbor recently had real problems finding engine parts for a 1992 Geo Storm (an Isuzu gas engine). He had to have four 30-over pistons made because no parts store could get them. Ultimately he could not find new main bearings…anywhere! He ended up junking the car.

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