Rare Survivor: 1989 Isuzu I-Mark RS

The seller is correct in referring to this 1989 Isuzu I-Mark RS as a hen’s tooth, as in being about as rare and/or extinct as choppers on a chicken. This red rocket can be found here on craigslist in St. Paul, Oregon. The seller is asking $8,000 for this example.

The Isuzu Gemini was known as the I-Mark in North America and the RS was the hot hatch version for 1988 and 1989 for the second-generation cars. Jeff showed us one a couple of years ago here and it was a bit of a project car unlike the car for sale here. Project car or a jump-in driver, they’re few and far between, sort of like teeth on a hen. They do have the original wheels, by the way, which is great to hear.

The look is pretty similar to a lot of 1980s hatchback boy-racer-type cars. My 1987 Renault GTA even looks somewhat similar with acres of plastic body cladding and a look that could have been created by a 24 x 16 Stanley model 45-500 carpenter’s square. If this car would have been half this price, which it most likely would have been a year or two ago, it may very well be headed for a spot next to said Renault GTA to be coddled and never driven in the winter and kept on a velvet pillow and a trickle charger. I’m guessing that this one will be for sale for quite a while at that price. For that money, I’m getting a Mazda GTX. That being said, I would love to have this car.

As with the exterior, the interior looks about as close to new as any that I have seen since the early-1990s. The Recaro seats were a part of the RS, as was the famous Lotus-tuned suspension. I don’t have a Lotus-tuned suspension in the Renault but I love the seats in the GTA, they’re by far the most comfortable seats of any car I own other than maybe the Audi TT. Actually, they may be more comfortable than those. I can imagine that these I-Mark RS seats are comfortable and will help when the next owner tosses it around corners like this car was meant to do.

The gold hen’s tooth in this road-burner is Isuzu’s fantastic 4XE1-W, a 1.6L double-overhead-cam inline-four with around 125 hp. That’s not a lot of power in 2019 but 30 years ago in a 2,200-pound car, it was decent and this car has to be very fun to drive. And by “drive” I don’t mean in a straight line from stoplight-to-stoplight, I mean drive, as in on a curvy road. Have any of you owned a 1980s hot-hatch? If so, what was it?


  1. GMoparman

    That is an XS Model with the optional Recaro Pkg. The RS was a (less powerful) turbo. I sold these when new, even had one as a demo. Fun car!

    Like 3
    • CCFisher

      According to the decal on the side window, it’s an RS.

      Like 4
    • Ty'Eira Marie Morrison

      …I-Mark trims from ’86-’89 included base and LS, RS was added in ’88 and ’89 with the ’88 RS being offered with the 1.5 SOHC 4ZC1-Turbo and ’89 RS being offered with the 1.6 DOHC 4XE1-UW.

      The Impulse XS took over for ’90 with the same UW, and that respective RS was AWD with the 1.6 DOHC 4XE1-WT (same engine AND platform as the Lotus Élan M100).

      Source: own a Flash Yellow ’91 Geo Storm GSI, which was also basically the same thing as the second Impulse iteration.

      Like 3
      • Dave B

        Not quite the same chassis, M100 uses a Lotus backbone chassis with all fiberglass body on it; not structural! As well as my 3 x ’89 I-Mark RS’s I’ve got an M100 in my collection. And as of a week ago, the St. Paul car was still for sale – down to only $7,000! And he still keeps putting miles on it – pretty sure he doesn’t really want to sell it!

    • T. Collin Hampton-Kelley

      That’s a 1989 model. This year only came with a DOHC 16V no Turbo’s this year. I know because I owned a 1988.5 White one.

      Like 1
      • Marcus

        That’s my dad’s car. i can’t believe he’s selling it, I told him if he ever decided to sell it I wanted first dibs. To be honest I never thought the day would come but there it is.

    • 1988.5 RS Turbo

      You are incorrect the 1988.5 was the Turbo model non 16V and came standard with the Recaro seats. I purchased a new 1988.5 2 door white coupe. The 16V showed up for the 1989 only engine choice for the RS and the Recaro seats became a $ 3,500.00 option. One of the best cars I have ever owned handling wise and reliability. It would have been nice to have had the 89 16V engine Turbo charged, that would have put the HP near 200. They would have definitely been a sleeper.

  2. grant

    St. Paul is a flyspecks between Newberg and Salem; if literally has one stoplight and it’s only for one direction. Seriously. The population is maybe 400, except during the 4th of July rodeo, when it’s 20k. Scotty, his ask is 8k but he’s also had for sale for a while now. I’ll bet 6 would buy it.

    Like 4
  3. Miguel


    Lets see. The rims are missing the center caps. That shows the car was not well cared for.

    The car has close to 200,000 miles on it.

    There are very few people that know what this is so that means there are few people that would even consider this.

    This was a cheap econobox when it was new and I don’t think it has gone up in value.

    Like 11
  4. Rock On

    Nice find Scotty. Joe would be proud if you.

    Like 8

      love it

      Like 3
  5. Mikey K

    That price is way out of line, no matter how uncommon these cars are today. I’m a huge Isuzu fan but this price is sure to get no takers.

    Like 5
  6. Rick in Oregon Richard

    Maybe he is just not too interested in selling it? Oh, the the caps are included for the XS wheels…..also includes a new factory short block, head and a bunch of other stuff…

    Like 1
  7. Paul T Root

    This is what I wanted to buy new when I bought the Impulse Turbo. There were none in Kansas City. Then I moved to upstate New York. None there at all.

  8. T. Collin Hampton-Kelley

    That’s a 1989 model. This year only came with a DOHC 16V no Turbo’s this year. I know because I owned a 1988.5 White one. This was a fun car to drive and handled better than my SCCA RX-7 GSL-SE. I took it to the drag strip several times, I raced I-Roc Z’s and one several of those races. No one new what it was, I didnt win against the Turbo Supras but the NA”s I did. I wouldn’t mind having one again, I even have the original Recaro seats out of my car.
    This price he is asking is way to much and there are way to many items that need to be replaced that are made of plastic and rubber that are brittle with age.

    Like 1
  9. Dave B

    Somewhat rare, but not all that rare at least around Oregon! I’ve run into 4 of the ’89 RS’s at wrecking yards, aside from my first one that also came from a yard as a rebuilder for $400; same yard a year later also found me a 4 door parts car for $200. That was about 15 years ago – bought my newest one 5 years ago from the original owner for $3,000; and she’d had it for sale for quite a while. Also encountered two others for sale nearby in the last year with less miles on them than this one, but both 4 doors & under $1,500. I’ve visited the owner of this one, he doesn’t really want to sell; just posting to make someone happy I think! I’m in the middle of doing a valve job on my low mileage one (113,000 now, other has 476,000!) due to bad hydraulic valve lifters.

    Like 1

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