Rare Hot Hatch: 1989 Isuzu I-Mark RS

Hot hatch alert! While the 1980s are chock-full of entry-level classic imports like the Volkswagen GTI and the Honda Civic, we very rarely see the equally-capable entry from Isuzu known as the i-Mark. This was known as the Gemini overseas, and when Isuzu brought it stateside, they didn’t mess around. A partnership with Lotus gave the humble three-door a welcome injection of handling capabilities while its low curb weight and rev-happy engine made it seem light on its feet. We don’t see them much today, and this 1989 model here on eBay appears to benefit from enthusiast ownership.

Isuzu was an interesting company back in the late 80s and early 90s, seemingly taking more chances than many of its competitors. The partnership with Lotus; liberal use of turbocharging; a deep bench of capable four-wheel-drive products; and an epic front man in Joe Isuzu, this seemed like a company that was going places. You have to love this era of automobiles wherein the manufacturers were seemingly comfortable taking chances, as Isuzu had to know a large part of the buying public wouldn’t understand why there was a Lotus badge on the fender – but that didn’t stop them. The i-Mark RS has a racy interior to further build out the image, with drivers enjoying deeply bolstered sport seats.

The DOHC 16V four-cylinder wasn’t enormously quick but it certainly made the lightweight i-Mark feel as if it could rev for days. The seller has focused much of his energy under the hood as this mill is far from stock: machined head and cams; upgraded fuel pump; honed/decked engine block; 1:1 fuel regulator; full exhaust; and numerous other upgrades courtesy of a local machine shop make this i-Mark extra interesting. The seller notes the engine is also “…drilled and tapped for a turbocharger,” so there’s more work that can be done if you’re looking to build a true pocket rocket.

Of course, most importantly, the Isuzu appears to be rust-free, as sensitive sheetmetal sent plenty of these oddballs to an early grave. The seller notes it still needs a fair amount of paint work along with dents pulled and other cosmetic repairs. The Isuzu does ride on a lowered suspension, so it’s not your eyes deceiving you that there is less gap between the tops of the tires and the fender wells than there used to be. The seller has a Buy-It-Now of $4,500 listed, which still has to be less than what he has into the engine at this point. Have you ever driven one of these Lotus-tuned Isuzus? Do you think the modifications make this one more desirable than a stock i-Mark?


  1. Rick in Oregon Rick in Oregon

    I love mine, and beat it regularly. Even in stock trim, these are very fun cars to drive, handle like they are on rails and the 1.6 DOHC motor has what I can best describe as 2-stroke like performance once into the power band thanks to the dual plane intake manifold with vacuum operated runners. Mine has the additional optional Recaro seats, pop-up sunroof and gauge package. Fun hot hatches and as rare as hens teeth!!

    Like 4
  2. Car Nut Gig Harbor Washington

    Awesome looking hatchback. I’d buy one if it was available with 4 doors, rather than 2 door. But otherwise, it looks perfect.

    Like 1
    • Rick in Oregon Rick in Oregon

      they actually had an RS 4 door version if I’m not mistaken. I just recently sold a 4 door but not the RS….

      Like 2
    • nlpnt

      Like a lot of small cars on the US market in the ’80s you could have a 2-door hatchback or a 4-door sedan but no 4-door hatchback. You could have easy cargo and awkward passenger loading or vice versa.

      The oddity with these is there was no 5-door anywhere in the world.

    • I mark

      this car is still for sale
      I’m currently daily driving it

  3. Stan

    Eye 👁 – suzu is how we pronounced it.

  4. CCFisher

    Don’t unicorns usually have horns?

    Like 1
  5. nlpnt

    At least on the American market there was the NA DOHC 16v or a turbo single-cam 8v, but not the whole package. As far as I know the turbo only came as a 4-door and with Chevy badges.

  6. nate

    this car is still up for sale. my ebay posting ended.
    leave a voicemail 208 tw.0 ten eighty fiver forti.
    I’m currently daily driving this car

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