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Rare Wedge: 1984 Isuzu Impulse ES

As some of you know, I have a bit of a “thing” for old Isuzus. I’ve owned three first-generation Troopers in my lifetime (I held onto one of them), so there’s definitely an affinity for the brand. Growing up, I was obsessed with two very similar cars: The Volkswagen Scirocco and its distant sibling, the Isuzu Impulse. I have always wanted to own the top-shelf Impulse Turbo but it hasn’t happened (yet), so this naturally-aspirated 1984 Impulse coupe listed here on eBay is somewhat tempting – especially with the option to submit a best offer against the $7,500 asking price.

What’s always held me back from taking the proverbial plunge on this gorgeous two-door is the scarcity of available parts cars. I know of a handful in some old timer junkyards that keep the interesting inventory around, but none of them are nearby. The Impulse is powered in non-turbo form by a 2.3 liter engine good for about 110 horsepower, a wheezy engine when it was new and certainly nothing all that compelling today. To me, you buy an Impulse for the styling, which was penned by none other than Giorgetto Giugiaro at Italdesign.

There’s some confusion out there as to whether this was a Scirocco wearing Isuzu badges or some combination of badge engineering, but in reality, Giugiaro simply created a design that he sold to Isuzu after Volkswagen rejected it. The Impulse never caught on in the U.S. market but it was sold in multiple countries overseas as the Piazza, often with a variety of other options that made it a more compelling performer than the NA U.S. car.

Still, U.S. models benefitted from a close relationship with Lotus, which developed a racier suspension setup consisting of bigger sway bars, stiffer shocks, and different spring rates. Combined with the later turbocharged offering, the Impulse become a more compelling performed but still didn’t break into the white-hot 198os sport compact scene. Today, there are many “Radwood” fans who treasure this forgotten slice of 80s awesomeness, and this example is likely one of the few that will come up for sale this year.


  1. TheOldRanger

    Seeing this car (nice, by the way) reminds me of those old Joe Isuzu commercials.

    Like 12
    • OldsMan

      Joe Isuzu is my favorite advertising character of all times! Thankfully the old Isuzu commercials are available on line.

      Like 7
  2. Bruce

    This design was originally called I believe the Ace of Hearts and was a replacement design for the Alfa Romeo Alfetta. I have driven the Lotus suspensioned and turbo version and it compares very favorably with the Porsche 944 of the day and is close to the 944 turbo. Parts are the critical feature and according to some the Windshield Wiper Motor are a weak point and almost impossible to obtain. If your can not be rebuilt you are in trouble.

    There are very few cars I would say this about but this is a car that with the right maker could go into production with only very minor changes today. I would love to see one made from graphic fiber technology that would be much lighter and totally rot resistant. I would change the dash a bit and simplify the seats especially the rears but overall an amazing design and it is almost the high point of restrained elegance in automotive design. I would scoop this up in a New York Minute if I did not have a couple of restorations going right now.

    Like 6
    • wjtinfwb

      A co-worker’s husband worked for Isuzu parts Dist. In Atlanta so she drove Isuzu’s, as did he. Being a Motorhead, I always checked to see if it was something interesting. She had a couple of Impulses over the few years they were available and I drove each of them. The early cars were borderline awful, the underpinnings derived from the Chevette came through clearly. Later cars were much nicer with the final run of cars with the Lotus tuned suspension being pretty solid. But… the 944 was in a different league altogether as you’d expect given the price difference. The 944 remains to this day one of the best balanced and neutral cars out there with sublime steering and brakes. The Isuzu was… a decently refined Chevette. They looked great, the Turbo cars had a bit of oomph the natural aspiration cars lacked but the comparison ended there.

      Like 3
    • SubGothius

      Giugiaro’s original concept/prototype proposal for this design was called the Asso di Fiori (“Ace of Clubs”). He also did prior Picce/Spades and Quadri/Diamonds concepts, and meant to do Cuori/Hearts but never got around to it.

      This one he called his fifth “Copernican Revolution”, a term he used for concepts that incorporated multiple innovations from prior concepts into a single, mass-production-ready design — in this case, clamshell (rather than traditional inset) doors, hatch and hood integrated with the body contours, flush-mounted glass, and roof drip rails concealed by the clamshell door frames — all of which were later soon adopted across the industry worldwide.

      I hadn’t heard of any Alfetta-successor connection before, but as the article suggests, there’s long been some conjecture around the (entirely unrelated) VW Scirocco. Seems he may have initially started working on a proposal to replace his Mk1 Scirocco design before discovering VW already had their own Mk2 Scirocco design in the works, so he moved the design-in-progress under his Isuzu contract to replace their 117 Coupe (also his prior design) and continued developing it with their GM T-platform (Gemini/Kadett/Chevette) in mind as the underpinnings. The Asso di Fiori prototype first unveiled at Geneva in ’79 caused such a sensation that Isuzu immediately approved and fast-tracked it into production with minimal changes.

      Like 1
      • nlpnt

        2.3L and 110hp is more motor than I’d always thought the nonturbo had, being that these were well known to be a Chevette in an Italian suit.

        Like 0
    • SubGothius

      Seems Lotus was involved in suspension work for these on two different occasions: first, as an optional upgrade package with different springs, shocks, and sway bars (alongside an even stiffer option package by Irmscher), then later for the ’88 update, they re-engineered the stock suspension more comprehensively, most notably converting the original 3-link rear suspension to a more precise 5-link setup with better geometry to reduce dive/squat.

      Like 1
  3. Paul Root

    I bought an ’88 Impulse Turbo with the Lotus suspension new. I was in upstate New York at the time. I made it until February before I had to get snow tires.
    It was a pretty fun car, and seemed to be fast, until I drove my brothers Eagle Talon turbo.
    It suffered from bad GM paint, both side mirrors peeled completely. I drove it without the snow tires in the ’91 Halloween blizzard in Minnesota. One of the scariest experiences in my driving life.
    Sold it for less than I owed on it in 92 but just couldn’t face another winter with it. And the family was growing at the time.
    Still, it was fun to drive in nice weather.

    Like 4
  4. Big Len

    I bought a new 1985.5 Turbo from Fred Beans Isuzu on PA in this color when they first came out. Not the greatest car mechanically, had some tranny issues, but damn, it was beautiful with a fighter jet like cockpit.

    Like 2
  5. Laurence Loffredo

    its hard to believe that a car this new is now considered an antique,,,

    Like 4
  6. Richard Brown

    I thought the 84-87 first gen non-turbo Impulses were powered by the 1.9 liter engine, then in 85 the turbo got the 2.0. But not until the refresh in 88 did the non-turbo get the 2.3.

    Like 1
  7. Phipps

    A girl I dated in High School had one of these. This was 1996/97 too haha. Was a pretty cool car

    Like 1
  8. Cam Usher

    Holden Piazza in Australia , never really got popular & haven’t seen one for a very long time

    Like 2
    • Bruce Ironmonger

      There is one currently available on Car Sales for $17,000. It looks in pretty good nick.

      Like 2
  9. angliagt angliagt

    I always thought these were really nice looking,
    and this is the best color for one.
    I was going to go to the local dealer,& buy a couple
    of those “HANDLING BY LOTUS” badges,but never got
    around to it.

    Like 1
  10. Dale L

    I was having two Jensen speakers installed in the front doors of my Ford econobox. There was another young customer there who owned a black Impulse, and was having work done on it. I was jealous of the car he drove until I noticed the huge custom speakers taking up the entire rear hatch of his car. I just shook my head, and thought of the saying regarding money, and class.

    Like 1
    • Richard Brown

      Love your memory! Sounds like me, in 1986 my first new car was a black Turbo Impulse, and I had my local stereo shop put an outrageous stereo in it. The rear hatch area had 2 15′ sub-woofers that took up most of the cargo area.

      Like 2
      • Dale L

        Was this stereo shop in Minneapolis?

        Like 0

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