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Three-Named Survivor: 1976 Buick Opel by Isuzu

And you thought that badge engineering was confusing today, how about during the time of this 1976 Buick Opel by Isuzu? That’s three different names, three different car companies, and three different countries of origin. This nice original triple-decker is listed here on eBay in Richmond, California and there is an unmet opening bid price of $2,500 listed. Frankly, I’m surprised that nobody has clicked on it yet, let’s check it out.

It’s amazing to think of three countries working together hand-in-hand – American, German, and Japanese – all working together as one as the world was meant to be. I may need a moment to compose myself. Ok, I’m back. In the mid-1970s, Opels were no longer being imported by General Motors and at the same time, Buick/Opel dealers wanted and needed a car like this. Enter the Buick Opel by Isuzu. I kid you not, that was the name, and not the model name because there wasn’t one.

They were rebadged cars by Isuzu called the Isuzu Gemini. I have been looking for an Isuzu I-Mark LS diesel for a few years which was the same body style as this Buick/Opel/Isuzu. Yes, these were based on GM’s T-car platform. We had other GM-Isuzu vehicles here in this era, such as the Isuzu Faster pickup which was known as a Chevrolet LUV. Unfortunately, some clowns stole the emblems and side marker lights so the next owner will be tracking down parts right away.

This particular car looks really nice other than some unfortunate and typical rust on the bottoms of the doors and fenders. The seller has provided a couple of underside photos and it looks solid there. The interior looks good both front and back although there appears to be some wear or damage to the side of the driver’s seat. This car has a trunk, it isn’t a hatchback even with that nice sloping back.

The seller says that this car has been parked inside for years but is regularly started and driven and it works great. It has a salvage title which they don’t know anything about but they say that it’ll need tires, hoses, belts, fluids, etc. The usual. The engine is Isuzu’s G180, a 1.8L inline-four with 80 horsepower. At the $2,500 opening bid, this is a great buy, I wonder when someone will realize that and bid on it. Have any of you owned an Opel or, better yet, a Buick Opel by Isuzu?


  1. Bakyrdhero Bakyrdhero Member

    It seems like everytime Scotty posts a write up it’s something really special in a way the vehicle was never intended to be special. Interesting car that I never knew existed. Looks like a mashup of a Chevette, Vega and a Celica. Neat

    Like 14
  2. Adam Clarke Staff

    These were a great little car. They also made their way onto Australian roads as the Holden Gemini. Thanks for the excellent article, Scotty.

    Like 17
  3. alphasud Member

    Good trivia exercise Scotty. What in the heck was Buick thinking. Back in 76 I think it could be said most of your typical American car buyers knew little of Isuzu or Opel. So by selling it with 3 brand names the customer had no idea what they were buying, who was going to work on it, or where to buy parts when needed. I’m sure they just flew out of dealer lots!

    Like 5
  4. Howard A Member

    “Scotty’s Oddballs”, staff? This guy needs his own column called “Scotty’s Oddballs”,,I’ve suggested more than once. Anyone with me? And what’s great, is the author picks subjects he actually knows something about. Generally, at the time, lackluster vehicles, that only the original buyer wanted. Subsequent owners of cars like these, simply got a “beater with a (poor) heater” for $200 bucks and the next stop was usually the junkyard. In 10 years, these were shot, but still ran well. Of the several Asian makes offered, I always thought Isuzu was the best. The major blunder here on GM’s part, was naming it after a car that had limited appeal to begin with, and, I feel, were no match for German Opels quality but poor dealer support kept many away. Still, these were cheap, and stylish and panic stricken Electra 225 owners flocked to the showrooms to get one when gas went over a buck a gallon.( horrors) Anyway, it’s a great find, to be honest, I’m surprised this hasn’t made it’s way into Scotty’s “collection, an oddball find, indeed.

    Like 17
    • Carlos J Guzman

      I love this little car.. its like a time machine.. low miles. and Howard is 100% correct.. Scotty Oddballs. would be a great name of the cars that are obsure. I would love an Opel car.. that car looks like in really decent shape.

      Like 3
  5. ChingaTrailer

    In addition to the Holden connection, these are also part of the Vauxhall and Chevette family.

    Like 3
  6. jerry z

    Too bad it has that typical 70’s era sunroof.

    Like 1
  7. Don

    American car buyers knew the Opel name very will in the mid ’70s. European built Opels were sold here by Buick until 1975 (I had a 1974 Opel 1900 wagon). As they used the Buick brand to make buyers comfortable with the Opel brand, I’m sure they thought buyers would be more comfortable buying a lesser known (to us) Japanese brand if the Buick and Opel brands were associated with it.

    Like 4
    • SubGothius

      Really, they stopped importing German Opels when shifting exchange rates would make their price uncompetitive, but the Isuzu Gemini was basically an Opel Kadett C built under license by Isuzu, hence an “Opel by Isuzu” — as these were originally badged for US sale, then later rebadged as simply the Buick Opel, then yet again later as the Isuzu I-Mark. Calling it a “Buick Opel by Isuzu” is a bit of a misnomer, mashing together the early and later badgings.

      Like 2
  8. man ' war

    If I had to choose between the 78 Mercury Bobcat that I used to own and this 76 Buick Opel by Isuzu, I think I would go back to the Bobcat which had nicer lines on it that gave it more character. Plus, I had the 2.3L engine rebuilt on it. The yellow on this car is a little hard on the eyes. Where my old Bobcat was white on red interior.

  9. Mutt

    WWJIS ?

    What Would Joe Isuzu Say ?

    Like 15
  10. Racer417

    These were really not badged in any way as Buicks. We were Buick dealers from the mid 60’s until 2006. The reason they were imported from Japan was due to the declining dollar at the time, which made the German Opels too expensive to be competitive in the US market. GM felt that Buick needed a gas-sipper to keep their showroom traffic going during the Arab oil embargo of the early 70s. The basic platform was almost identical to the German Opel Kadett, with drivetrain differences for the Isuzu engines. It also underpinned the Chevette.

    Like 4

    thought I as the only one that realized these were all on teh same platform of the Chevette!!

    Like 3
    • nlpnt

      Get a good look at the windshield and doors (front doors only if comparing the 4-door models). They’re apparently interchangeable, at least in theory. I’m not sure about internal door components and whether the hinges and strikers line up, and the Chevette went to a bonded windshield for ’81.

  12. Campbell L Usher

    Holden Gemini in Australia , with a 1600cc 4 cylinder , I liked them , fun car that wasn’t slow by any means

    Like 3
  13. Beyfon

    I once got a -79 Opel Kadett C 2-door Sedan for my little sister when she wanted to upgrade from her Beetle. Slow, but somehow quite nice to drive. Reliable and ultra easy to work on. I liked it.

    I later bought a Wagon to flip. It was quite nice, a low mileage original paint car – but I got it cheap because it was truly filthy inside. The original owner was a pipe smoker so it had a thick film of oily residue on every surface and on top of that he had used it for transporting hay for his horses. After a long week of scrubbing the interior I was satisfied and put an ad out in the paper. The first guy who came to look at it was very happy with it and paid my full asking price and then said “ this was exactly what I was looking for. A small wagon cheap enough for me to transport my pigs in!”

    Like 12
  14. Bakyrdhero Bakyrdhero Member

    Stories like this are the very reason I subscribe to Barn Finds. Thanks for taking the time to type that!

    Like 7
  15. Buickberta

    I had a 1976 Opel yellow with black stripes just like this one! Stick shift, got it in 1977 brand new out the door for just over $3k!

    Like 3

    I did this blog a few years ago as I realized the Chevette Platform was a word car in every sense all based on the same platform

    Like 1
  17. Abi

    The owner must live in a REALLY crappy neighborhood to have to put a steering wheel lock on that car. If I was a pro thief I’d show up with a truck and dolly – if I was a kid looking for a joyride car I’d be worried it wouldn’t start.

    Like 2
  18. Bill W.

    Not really all that odd for the time. I had a Pontiac Asuna, which are re-badged Isuzu Sunfires. Loved that car, but parts were near impossible to find.

  19. Genemak1

    GM’s T-car! Produced and sold around the world at the time. It first showed up as GM’s answer to the Arab oil embargo of 1973 as a 1973 model Opel Kadett C, designed and produced in Europe. Various iterations were found around the world. The Vauxhall Chevette, Brazilian Chevrolet Chevette, USA version Chevrolet Chevette, Australian Holden Gemini, Japan’s Isuzu Gemini, Buick/Opel by Isuzu, etc., etc. All in all, these cars really handled well in corners with their unassisted rack and pinion steering. Today, the European Kadetts are considered very collectible.

  20. JoeNYWF64

    Too bad Opel did not mount side markers the almost theftproof way many other domestic cars mounted them back in the day.
    Stealing the side marker light lenses is about as ridiculous as 1 town i heard of where someone stole the cheap bushes in front of a grease monkey lube place.
    Do these side market lenses fit any other Opel? How many Opels are registered in Calif today or even the whole country?!
    I would think today a DMV search of other registered Opels in say a 100 mile radius there in Calif should reveal the perpetrator.
    aint it?

    Like 1
  21. Scotty Gilbertson Staff

    Auction update: this one sold for $3,005!

    Like 2
    • Joe U

      My brother bought it. We’re in NY. It’s a straight little car!!

      Like 2
  22. Daniel

    I owned one (this model year and color, but all black interior) and a friend of mine had a 1977 model. They were fun cars to drive. I wish I still had mine.

    Like 1
  23. Gerry

    I bought one of these in 1979. It was a yellow 76 like this, black interior, 4-speed manual, no sunroof. I was broke and looking for a cheap little car. I liked it and had it until 1990, when we gave it to a needy guy and bought a 1985 Subaru.

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