Rare Rides: A Stylish and Tasteful Isuzu 117 Coupé From 1975
Rare Rides has already featured Isuzu’s mass-market successor to the 117, in the boxy and thoroughly Eighties Impulse. Let’s check out what Isuzu offered to its coupe customers a decade prior, when it aimed for a discerning, well-heeled customer.
The 117 was a new type of product from Izuzu. They’d offered subcompact and compact coupes before, but those entries were focused on being simple and economical. The 117 was designed to be stylish grand touring transportation, employing the latest technological innovations and luxury equipment.
In the beginning, 117 was a project code Isuzu used during its development of a trio of cars. A coupe, sedan, and wagon were all part of the 117 project. Eventually all three went on sale; the sedan and wagon were consolidated under the new Florian nameplate, while the 117 remained a standalone. To save some yen, the 117 and Florian models shared a platform, mechanicals, and their steering. All the sharing meant a range of gasoline and diesel engines were available in the 117. All power was in inline-four arragement; gasoline displacement ranged from 1.6- to 2.0-liters, while diesel engines were of 2.0- and 2.2-liter size.
Three different transmissions were offered: four- and five-speeds if manual, and three forward gears for the automatic.
Unlike the Florian sedan and wagon, which were pedestrian in their design, the 117 received its own unique look. Penned in Italy by Giorgetto Giugiaro, the coupe was one of the first Japanese cars designed by an Italian. Its flowing lines debuted in prototype format at the 1966 Geneva Motor Show, but the 117 was slow to market. Isuzu didn’t start production until 1968, and even then the manufacturing process of the 117 was largely by hand. Seldom did more than 50 coupes exit the assembly line each month.
Aside from its Italian styling, the 117 earned other notable mentions. It was among the very first Japanese cars to offer a DOHC engine (the 1.6-liter), and the first to have electronic fuel injection. The Bosch system was available from 1970 onward and earned its own trim level – EC – for Electronic Control. On the luxury front, standard equipment was plentiful in the 117. All examples featured a laurel wood dashboard made from Taiwanese trees, leather seats, and, in an era where they were often not present, headrests.
The 117’s production remained somewhat low-volume through 1972. But in 1973 a decision was made to turn the 117 into a mass-produced vehicle. Perhaps new stakeholder General Motors had some say in the matter. The expensive 117 was a popular model already, and the increased production was a good idea. In 1972 Isuzu shifted 965 examples of their coupe, but in 1974 that figure jumped to 9,506. None were ever sold in North America.
Given its very long production period, Isuzu updated the 117 in 1977 with a refresh, giving it a more modern and Fiat 130-ish appearance. Stylistically, it was sort of ruined. Yet Isuzu kept on making the 117 through 1981, at which point it was immediately replaced by the Impulse seen on these pages previously.
Today’s Rare Ride is for sale in northern Ohio via a well-known collector. In a beautiful emerald green, the 117 asks $19,500.