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Rare Japanese Classic: 1979 Isuzu 117 XG

With styling that flowed from the pen of the legendary Giorgetto Giugiaro, the Isuzu 117 first surfaced as a prototype in 1966 at the Geneva Motor Show. It went into limited production in 1968, and into full-scale production for the Japanese domestic market in 1973. This 1979 model left the shores of Japan in 2013 and has found its way to Washington, Michigan. The great little Isuzu is listed for sale here on eBay, with the opening bid set at $1,000. There has been no action to this point, but there are already five people who are watching the listing.

The styling of the 117 is interesting for a couple of reasons. The first is that from a ¾ front view (as in the 1st photo), its lines evoke the Fiat 124 Sport. However, when you look at it from other angles, the look of the car changes completely. The other notable aspect of the styling is that the 117 remained in production from 1968 through until 1981 with only a single facelift, which took place in 1977. Even without this fact, the lines and appearance of the car have held up quite well since the 1960s. This example appears to be quite solid and is known to have received a repaint at some point in its life. The only rust of any note is a small spot on the decklid around the lock, but it should be pretty easy to address. The car has recently had its factory alloy wheels refinished, and they have cleaned up very nicely. The original factory glass all looks to be in good condition, as does the external trim and chrome.

The interior of the 117 remains original and is remarkably well preserved. The dash pad has three cracks in it, and these are really interesting. I went on a very quick search for a replacement pad to ascertain what one would cost but had no luck (I stress that it was a very quick look). However, I found a number of interior photos of other similar cars, and of those with cracked dash pads, they had all cracked in exactly the same spots. Locating a replacement pad may be difficult because, during the entire 13-year production run, only 86,192 cars rolled out of the Isuzu factory. The rest of the interior appears to be in really nice condition, and as befits a car with sporty pretensions, the driver is provided with a nice array of gauges to monitor the car’s health and well-being. The upholstery on the seats and door trims appears to be in great condition, as does the headliner, carpet, and center console. As well as the gauges, the Isuzu comes with the original factory Clarion radio and 8-track player, and air conditioning. The owner states that the A/C system is complete, but it will need a service before it will blow cold air again.

Powering the Isuzu is the 1,871cc DOHC G180W 4-cylinder engine, which produces 109hp. It sends this to the rear wheels via a 5-speed manual transmission. While power outputs were hamstrung a bit by tougher emission laws, the Isuzu was still a pretty reasonable performer, which was not only aided by the twin-cam configuration of the engine but by the fitting of electronic fuel injection to the 117, beginning in 1970. This Bosch-licensed system helped enormously in extracting reasonable performance from a small engine, while still meeting legislative requirements. This engine has recently had a compression test, and it indicates that it is in good health. Apart from a modern electronic ignition and a more sporty exhaust, the car remains completely standard. The owner says that it runs and drives really well, the transmission shifts smoothly and cleanly, and the suspension and steering feel nice and tight.

With features like the twin-cam engine and EFI, the Isuzu 117 was quite an advanced car when it was new. Today they are becoming harder to find, and they rarely come onto the market in the US. The few that have appeared on the market in the past few years have generally sold anywhere between $9,000 and $16,500. The owner reveals that he purchased the car for $11,500, but that his reserve is below that price. If you are the sort of person who likes the idea of owning an interesting little Japanese classic that promises an enjoyable driving experience, then this is definitely a car worth considering.


  1. Gerry Member

    They are rare even here in Japan
    It is one of my bucket list cars though

    Like 4
  2. Car Nut Tacoma

    Lovely looking car. I’ve heard of the Isuzu 117, and I’ve seen pics of the car. But I’ve never seen one in person. For some reason, it was never offered in the USA, at least I’ve never seen one. Given its condition and its rarity, I think $2,000 is a good price for the car.

    • mallthus

      The 117 was discontinued in 1981, which was also the first year Isuzu branded vehicles were sold in the US. Prior to 1981, US bound Isuzus were branded as Opels (Buick Opel by Isuzu) and Chevrolets (Luv pickup).

      Like 2
      • RayT Member

        Are you sure? The dealership where my father bought his Austin-Healey (in 1960) had a couple of Isuzus — a Bellel and a Bellett as I recall — circa 1963 or so.

        Isuzu wasn’t really pushing these cars, but I seem to remember seeing a few ads, too.

    • Superdessucke

      Man, too bad a young Joe Isuzu couldn’t have peddled this little gem over here.

      Like 2
    • Rx-7 TurboII

      $2000? Lol.

      You can’t buy anything remotely resembling a rare classic car in this good of shape for 2k! While I think the car is not worth the 10k reserve, thinking it’s worth only 2k is just plain ludicrous….😂😂😂😂
      Come on now…2k?

      Like 11
  3. JoeNYWF64

    I know a neighborhood where those fender mirrors would be vandalized or stolen for SURE! Heck, vandals there even stole some of the small shrubs in front of the Grease Monkey quick lube place. lmao
    I’m guessing either that’s why they did not catch on in the states, or maybe because they get in your way while working under the hood.

  4. Danh

    Hmm..that engine is very Fiat 124/Alfa looking. Wonder what the connection is?
    Oh yeah, forgot about google! 🙄

    Like 1

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