The Isuzu Florian represented a sweeping change that other Japanese manufacturers were soon to follow. Simply put, it was undoubtedly one of the most rugged and durable Japanese cars ever built up to that time, and it offered very respectable performance for its class and price.
Under the bonnet was a detuned Bellett GT
engine, equipped with a single carburetor (dual barrel down draft) which still managed to push out
84 bhp at 5200 rpm, and 89.7 ft./lb. of torque at 2600 rpm. This made best use of the Bellett engine's better characteristics by providing good pulling power low down in every range, while still retaining a good power delivery at high revs.
The result was that the Florian was one
of the most tractable cars around: second gear starts were often easier than first gear starts (downhill situations, etc.) and even third gear starts were possible! Fourth gear could be used down to the point where the speedo needle almost started to disappear off the dial.
But if you then jumped on the throttle, even if travelling at a sluggish 20mph/32 km/h, the Florian would not vibrate or shake down the transmission line. Gear maximums could be pushed to 28 mph / 45 km/h (1st), 48 mph / 77 km/h (2nd) and 75 mph / 121 km/h (3rd), which helped the Florian take care of most traffic conditions and allow efortless open road overtaking.
And best of all the engine was responsive; the gearbox matched perfectly (all synchromesh, of course).
Under test conditions the speedo proved accurate to 70 mph; times were registered of under 10 seconds for 0-50 mph and under 15 seconds for 0-60 mph. Best top speeds had been up to 95 mph, and best standing quarters of an even 19 seconds.
At Oran Park race circuit the little car was punted
around for the best of 67.1 seconds and averaged regular 67.5 second laps without alarm; overall fuel consumption for this test came out
at 26 mpg. On a small tank-to-tank restricted test, drivers turned over 32 mpg in around town by driving.
The Florian retained the Bellett's brake layout, but not its brake design. It was an all-drum system, and yet it rivaled the disc brake systems fitted to any small car of the day. The tiny, compact power-assist system (called Mastervac) provided smooth progressive feel at the pedal and in fact has none of the sensations of normal power assisted systems. Lining area is 109 sq. in. and the front brakes are twin leading shoes.
The Florian, like many Japanese cars before it, was a good handler and, given the additional power to make it more competitive with cars built without restrictions like import duties, "could" have been a Bathurst class winner, yet none were entered. It was inspiring to drive, because it was one of the few totally neutral handling cars on the road.
During the Oran Park test 46 p.s.i. was put in the tires all round, and it was expected that some adjustments would be necessary to get ideal handling. But this was not required. Diversions from neutral steer virtually had to be induced, and even under hard braking into a tight corner the car remained completely stable. On full power entry to the Esses righthander in third, the best indication of oversteer was a feeling of "lightness" in the tail and a noticeable increase in body roll.
From the viewpoint of the average road user, the Florian did not give as many indications of impending lack of control as most cars. It is predictable to drive in
the wet, where understeer would show for the first time in tight situations. The ride was firm but comfortable, with spongy dampers allowing heavy roll
at speed, and the seat springs were carefully phased to the suspension movements to take the pitch out of rough surfaces.
The Florian could not be much better equipped in interior and comforts. The basic interior layout was a front-bucket, floor-shift set up. Standard kit included heater/ demister with multiple position variable ram-fan, electric wipers and dual electric horns, cigar lighter, clock (with sweep second hand), pushbutton radio (automatic aerial), lockable glove box, fresh air ventilation, lap seat-belts, camping body laybacks, fully tinted glass, childproof
safety locks, full carpeting (even the boot), all black trim with other additional equipment like mudguard mirrors (amazingly, they were quite effective) and a full kit of tools right down to touch-up paint.
Styling was almost a love it or hate it affair, but nobody would deny that it was different. The body moulds were straight and clean and, apart from one waist-high full length blending mould that integrated the front and rear treatments, the flanks were straight. There was the usual abundance of chrome (right down to sill strips, full wheel trims, etc.), but even this was kept in the dress-up items, and the grill remained tastefully refined and smooth with neat oblong headlamps (these too gave a good spread of light, low, intense and white, with a flattopped continental cut-off appearance to the beam pattern).
The interior was similarly appointed, but still tasteful, simple, functional and quite elegant.
Isuzu claimed many safety features for the car - and quite rightly - since the Florian was one of the few cars to
be modified for immediate acceptance under the stringent American safety legislation demands of the late 1960's. The safety kit included such items as a bump-break interior mirror, safety belts, door reflectors, child-proof locks, recessed door handles and switchgear.