Title: Isuzu 117 Coupé
submitted by: Slade Yuille
A stunning sporty car from a manufacturer few
had ever heard of had jaws dropping at the 1966
Geneva Auto Salon. That car was...the Lamborghini
Miura. But just down the show floor was another
car that had people talking: the Isuzu 117. The
unlikely gran turismo came from an unusual far-eastern
source. Isuzu had been building old Hillmans under
license for years before branching out into its
own cars in the sixties, and even then its cars
were relatively old fashioned and conservative,
save for the Bellett GT.
This was only just a
few months after the Toyota 2000GT broke cover,
so the idea that Japanese car could be this striking
was very radical at the time. The 117 looked ultra-modern,
and its shape came from styling icon Giorgetto
Giugiaro. There was just one problem - Isuzu had
no way to build the car - with no factory space
and no plan to market it. The attractive machine
that drew interest even in the shadow of the Miura
looked destined to remain only a dream.
Giugiaro left Ghia shortly thereafter. He'd done
stints at Bertone and Ghia (where he had worked
unhappily under the mercurial Alejandro DeTomaso)
and opened his own firm, ItalDesign, in 1967.
Modifying the 117 design so that it would be easier
to put into production and pushing Isuzu to commit
to the car were two of his first projects.
finally came up with a plan for the car. The styling
would remain virtually the same but the car would
be built, lock, stock, and barrel, on the platform
of the decidedly un-beautiful Florian sedan. The
car would be the absolute top of Isuzu's range,
a limited production car built virtually by hand
for the sole purpose of generating interest in
Isuzu's more mainstream products.
Thus, in 1968, the 117 coupe finally came to
market. Limited production (about 500 a year)
meant that the car was going to stay in the home
market, with limited (if any) exports. The complicated
build process also kept prices high for those
few who could get them. The car came equipped
with almost every luxury toy that Isuzu could
think to add - a must in the luxury market within
Japan. Mechanically it was a fairly up-to-date
package for the mid-1960's.
Power came from a
1584-cc twin-cam four fed by twin Mikuni carburetors,
mated to a four-speed gearbox - both borrowed
from the Bellett GT. All of the running gear came
purely from the Florian. Even with its peppy
engine, the weight of the 117 held back overall
performance, as did the wildly over assisted power
steering. The 117 were more of a boulevardier
or a long-distance GT than a sports car.
It was Giugiaro's styling, however, that really
launched the 117 into the stratosphere. It looked
great from almost any angle and bore a striking
resemblance to the Ferrari-powered Fiat Dino coupe
- which had also been penned by Giugiaro when
he was at Bertone. In many ways, the 117 are thought
to have been the "first draft" for the
Dino Coupe. Unfortunately, just like the Dino,
the 117 were a rare item in those early days.
Later on, the 117's styling would influence Pininfarina's
Peugeot 504 coupe, the Audi 100S coupe, and British
Leyland's "Princess" wedge.
Everything changed in 1971, when GM purchased
34% of Isuzu (a company it now virtually controls).
This GM investment would see Isuzu’s exported
to the United States under the Buick and Chevrolet
labels, and Isuzu's participation in the design
of the GM T-car, which became the Chevette and
Isuzu/Holden Gemini. More importantly for fans
of the 117, the production of the car was to be
raised to 12,000 units a year and the price was
to be lowered.
GM helped refine the production process and wanted
Isuzu to have a fully filled out lineup. This
meant changes to the car, of course. As the 70's
progressed, the car got square headlights, lost
many of its chrome details, and got huge black
bumpers and even more power accessories. This
meant more weight, so despite the enlargement
of the engine and the addition of all-disc brakes
and a five-speed gearbox (as well as an optional
GM automatic), the car got heavier and performance
flagged. Despite all this, there was frequently
a two to four month waiting list for the 117 even
into its last days.
The 117 ran until 1981 and almost 90,000 of them
were made, though few ever left Japan (and those
that did mostly ended up in Australia or New Zealand).
That year it was replaced by a new car - the futuristic,
aerodynamic Piazza - known in some export markets
as the Impulse. Like the 117 before it, it was
designed by Giugiaro and had evolved from one
of his concept cars, the 1979 Ace of Clubs. The
timeless 117 have yet to fully come into its own
as a classic outside of Japan, but is a revered
classic in its homeland.
Title: My First Love
submitted by: Michelle, Somerville, VIC
I was out searching for my first car
and my boyfriend at the time kept taking me to
car yards for the ‘Blokes” you know
the type I mean. The ones with V8’s supercharged,
blown, lowered etc, well out of my price bracket.
The last one we visited I asked the sales person
if he had any thing around the $1200.00 mark knowing
full well there was nothing under $10,000.00 on
He looked at me and pointed to the vacant block
of land opposite his sales yard and there she
was ‘my Christine’. I had never seen
a Ford XT with trims as she wore. I took my baby
for a test drive and she was mine.
I have only
seen one other car like her and it was in mint
green color. As far as I am aware the trims were
an option that most XT buyers never took up. If
anyone knows the full story on trims it would
be much appreciated.
aka XT Lover