Far from crappy, but certainly quirky, the Isuzu Piazza Turbo is unknown even to some of the most well read petrol heads, but it deserves true classic status. With less than 20 still on UK roads, i'm lucky enough to own the holy grail of Piazza's and probably of retro Japanese motoring.
I was a strange child, instead of obsessing over the latest fad, pokemon at the time i recall, there was nothing i liked more than helping my dad find his next car. One of my first memories, from '97 or '98, is trawling through the admag looking for a change from the Lanica Thema, and probably something that actually started in the morning. We had a shortlist, and on this list was an Isuzu Piazza Turbo, we went to view, it as awful, rotten and burning oil, but i knew then i wanted one.
In motion, with the bonnet not secure :/
Fast forward 16 years and i was in a position to buy, and i found one, the holy grail, a handling by lotus, with a manual gearbox and the limited slip diff, i couldn't hand my money over fast enough. In march 2014 i became the proud owner of my 1989 Piazza, and i couldn't be happier. Many bills and head gasket later, i still love it, and intend to keep it forever, it will get restored to factory condition, but i will continue to use it.
That bonnet has been up more times than i would have liked.
Anyway, enough about me, time for a bit of history about the Piazza, and time to bust a few myths.
Isuzu approached Ital Design in the late 70's for a new coupe to replace the aging 117 coupe, Giorgetto Giugiaro was given the job. Released in 1979, the Asso Di Fiori concept car was well received, and unlike what some think, wasn't a rejected design for the VW Scirocco. The futuristic wedge styling stunned crowds at the Geneva motor show, and Isuzu thought they were onto a winner.
Asso Di Fiori
Isuzu brought the car to production 2 years later in 1981, it stayed loyal to the original design, over the next few years, a few different engines where offered from N/A single cam and dual cam offerings to a 2.0 turbocharged unit. The USA got the Piazza before Europe, known as the Isuzu Impulse in America it was an initial success. It wasn't until 1986 we got it in the UK where it was slated for its cluttered instrument layout and its unpredictable handling, sales where slow, partly due to the expensive asking price coming from an unknown manufacturer. Things got better in 1988 when Lotus tuned the suspension and brakes, but it was too late for the Piazza in the UK, with around 1500 sold in 4 years.
The odd interior
Personally speaking, the car drives well, handling isn't bad, and is easily controlled. The engine has huge amounts of torque, with minimal turbo lag, its unlike engines offered by Toyota and Honda at the time. Its also not the same engine used in the 90's Lotus Elan as you may have heard.
Although a bit of a commercial failure, the Piazza is an unknown gem in the world of retro Japanese motoring, if you get the chance, save one, its worth it :)
**SPECIAL THANKS** to Radoslaw Pajor at Shadow Media for photographing the car, you can find his tribe on here called Heavy Metal Customs