Nicest One Left? 1981 Isuzu I-Mark

Scotty GilbertsonBy Scotty Gilbertson

This unusual car doesn’t seem to have any real striking, unusual, unique features, other than the sloping rear deck. Isuzu actually has made some beautiful cars, despite what most of us have seen in the form of huge-bumper-ridden four-door 1980s commuter cars. Speaking of the 1980s, this is a 1981 Isuzu I-Mark and from what the photos show it may be the nicest one out there. It’s located at a dealership in Cream Ridge, New Jersey and they have it listed on eBay with a buy-it-now price of $5,500! Whoa.

Isuzu seemed to be almost the baseball player utility man of car makers, they were everywhere, usually as rebadged American or other vehicles. This is really an Isuzu Gemini but was renamed the I-Mark for North America. Buick sold the prior Isuzu Gemini under the name of Buick Isuzu Opel, replacing the German Opel Kadett. That did not go over well with autophiles as the Isuzu didn’t seem to have the same quality feel as the German-built Opels had. But, there’s something about that beautiful, sloping rear quarter view that gets to me. But, then there’s that rear bumper, wow, that’s a monster.

The condition of this car seems to be almost like-new. I see some paint overspray on some areas so has this car been restored or just touched-up maybe? I’m not really sure but I rarely if ever like to see overspray on a vehicle, it’s almost more scary than seeing rust because you don’t know if something has been covered up. This seller always posts a hundred or so photos, so check them out for yourself and see if you spot anything.

Silver over red, or any color over red, for me, is hard to beat. It almost looks like there’s touch-up paint on the steering wheel, even, can that possibly be? The seats look great as does the entire interior, other than the paint on the steering wheel that I now can’t get out of my head. The seat fabric looks a shade lighter than the carpet does, for some reason. I would prefer that it all be the nice red color of the carpet, not a faded pink, but maybe they could be dyed. Overall, it’s a good-looking interior. And, of course, that’s a 5-speed manual there, as the badge on the rear deck also spells out.

This is Isuzu’s G180 1.8L inline-four gas-powered engine. I only emphasize “gas-powered” because most people expect to see a diesel in anything Isuzu-related, even small cars like this I-Mark. This one should have just under 80 hp, much more power than the 51 hp diesel engine had. This car is from Washington state and supposedly doesn’t have any rust and even the underside photos look great. Being a rear-wheel drive car with a 5-speed and 80 hp, it’s probably fairly entertaining to drive, or at least it wouldn’t be as slow as the diesel model would be.

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Comments

  1. Rock On

    I don’t miss these cars, but they had some pretty cool commercials.
    https://youtu.be/f0HX1k9OgVk

    6+
  2. Howard A Member

    Here’s your Asian “Kadett” knockoff if I ever saw one. I’m sure that was the intent. German Opel’s, while incredibly popular for a while, left a bad taste in some folks mouths, especially dealer support ( I heard the Isuzu Opel’s even worse) as Buick never wanted them to begin with and they sucked sales away from Buick’s. Which is a shame, as this car probably was a better car than the German Opel’s. Better mileage, better driveline’s. Didn’t see many of these, and the one’s that did sell, were pretty rusty in a few years. Looks like a nice car.

    1+
  3. Oil Slick

    Looks like a Manta rear with a Chevette front end.

    1+
  4. CJay

    I had one of these in the mid 1980’s. Beat HECK!!! out of it.
    Bought it as an automatic changed it later to 5 speed.
    It was rear-ended while I was stopped at an intersection. I pulled the 1/4 panel straight and drove it until the PA state inspection expired.
    I bolted a car hood under it (for a skid plate) put tire chains on it and went 4 wheeling with friends. After launching it so hard the plastic fan went through the radiator (shearing the blades from the center). We found a piece of plastic pipe attached from the bottom to the top radiator hose.
    Ran it hard for another hour before the head gasket BLEW! Ran it about another 1/2 hour before it shut off.
    Left it cool for about 2 beers. Push started it with a pickup truck. (repeat)
    Maybe not the greatest car, But Great memories!!!

    1+
  5. Mitch Ross

    These were not a knockoff of the Opel Kadett, they were Opel Kadetts built in Japan by Isuzu which was partially owned by GM. It is a facelifted version of the car we knew in the US as the Opel by Isuzu, which was exactly like the European Opel Kadett. It was aT platform car which was available in hatchback form in the Chevrolet and Vauxhall Chevette and Opel Kadett City. It was also available in 4 door sedan as the Isuzu I Mark/Gemini, Opel Kadett, Vauxhall Chavette and Chevrolet Chevette in South America. Also made in Korea as the Daewoo Meapsy-Na. Maybe the first truly world car.

    4+
  6. memikeyounot

    I worked for a VW dealership until about 1984, doing mostly finance/insurance stuff. They took on the Isuzu line about the time it was introduced and they sold all of the Isuzu I-Mark diesels, both sedans and pickups, that they could get. Mostly because they sold for $1000 +- less than the VW diesels.

    Within a couple of years of ownership, it was easy to tell why they were that much cheaper. But for the money, they weren’t bad transportation.

    1+
  7. Murray

    These were known as the Holden Gemini here in Australia and for a while were built here as well. Although clearly based on the Japanese Isuzu they had been tweaked for the Aussie market and drove and steered quite well. We only got the 1.6 from memory but without the heave anti-smog gear the Americans got it was a pretty punchy drive. Sadly we very rarely see any these days inspire of the huge number sold. For years there was a very popular one-make race series for Geminis which took many, many of them to the grave…..

    2+
  8. Bryan

    I owned a 1981 I-Mark diesel LS coupe from 1983 to 1990 (same color as this example with the 5-speed). It was the first and only diesel I’ve ever owned and I loved the reliability and economy….hated the horribly slow performance (thank God it wasn’t an automatic).

    It was a great car for me and I remember it fondly. I put nearly 140k miles on it and NEVER had a failure or repair of any kind!

    P.S. Isuzu started building these as the Buick Opel from 1976 to 1980; they started marketing them in the U.S. as Isuzus beginning in 1981.

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  9. Mark-A

    Suppose that that MASSIVE rear bumper could be used for Tailgating Duties since it seems to protrude a foot or so from the Bodywork! Other option is to try & find some NOS European Opel Kadette Coupé bumpers especially if you paint them Black like the Kadette GTE style but even the Chrome ones would look so much better than those that are fitted at the moment!

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