HomePick of the DayPick of the Day: Giugiaro-designed Isuzu coupe

Pick of the Day: Giugiaro-designed Isuzu coupe

This sporty ’75 117 XE was designed for the Japanese Domestic Market


Although it sold cars in the US market only from 1961 to 1994, Isuzu was known primarily for its Impulse sports coupe and for compact trucks, many sold with Chevrolet badging. But the company founded as Tokyo Ishikawajima Shipbuilding and Engineering dates to the late 19th century and has automotive history from 1918, when it secured a license from British automaker Wolseley. 

Isuzu Motors emerged after World War II. The primary business was producing diesel-powered trucks. It did its first in-house designed car in 1961, the Belle, also diesel powered.

Pick of the Day on ClassicCars.com is a 1975 Isuzu 117 XE coupe being advertised for $36,500 by a dealership in St. Louis, Missouri. 

Isuzu, Pick of the Day: Giugiaro-designed Isuzu coupe, ClassicCars.com Journal

The dealership notes that the 117 coupe was designed by none other than Italian maestro Giorgetto Giugiaro when he was design director at Ghia. 

“For the Isuzu 117, Giugiaro found inspiration from one of his Bertone designs, the Fiat Dino Coupe,” the dealer notes. “With its flowing profile, crisp edges, and graceful fastback roof, the Isuzu 117 was one of the best-looking Japanese cars of its time, and the basic shape remained relevant for the entirety of its 13-year production run. 

“Under the skin, the 117 was offered with a wide variety of four-cylinder engines, including a diesel — and was touted as the world’s first diesel-powered sports car. 

“The chassis was conventional, with a simple yet proven independent front/live axle rear-suspension design. 

“The 117 was continually refined and improved with just one styling refresh coming in 1977. While it is a widely adored and admired classic in Japan, the 117 is virtually unknown on our shores. But its attractive styling and robust underpinnings make it a welcome addition to the stable of a new or seasoned collector of JDM classics.”

The dealer notes that only a handful of these Isuzu coupes found their way to the US and adds, “This superb example is undoubtedly one of the best in the US, having spent several years in an eclectic private collection of rare and unusual vehicles. It has been beautifully maintained and is offered in excellent condition inside and out. 

“The previous owner ensured it remained in top running order and showed it occasionally, including at the inaugural Pebble Beach Japanese Automotive Invitational in 2018. 

“The Giugiaro-penned shape looks superb in the dark metallic green paintwork, highlighted by thin, polished window trims and slimline chrome bumpers. The body lines are crisp and well-defined, with straight panels and factory-appropriate fitment. True to most Japanese cars of the era, the 117 feels well-built and thoughtfully engineered.”

The car has power windows and factory air conditioning, and the “rear seats feature integrated headrests and offer a respectable amount of passenger space for a small coupe.”

The ad reports the car to be “remarkably well-preserved in original condition.”

The engine is a 1.8-liter single-overhead cam and carbureted 4-cylinder linked to a 4-speed manual transmission driving the rear wheels. 

“Interest in JDM classics is on the rise, with many iconic Japanese cars enjoying rising values and increased attention from collectors worldwide,” the dealer points out. “This marvelous Isuzu 117 Coupe…  is a turn-key, highly enjoyable GT car combining the best of Japanese engineering excellence with unmistakably Italian style.”

To view this listing on ClassicCars.com, see Pick of the Day.

Larry Edsall
Larry Edsall
A former daily newspaper sports editor, Larry Edsall spent a dozen years as an editor at AutoWeek magazine before making the transition to writing for the web and becoming the author of more than 15 automotive books. In addition to being founding editor at ClassicCars.com, Larry has written for The New York Times and The Detroit News and was an adjunct honors professor at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.
  1. I really like this car. It’s body lines are beautiful, classic and timeless. If there were a 2021 with lines like this and a left hand drive it would really be a top seller. I haven’t seen a modern style even come close, ugly seems to prevail. The fastback type look is great too. Notice the upholstery…. really nice look too. Why can’t Alfa Romeo for what they charge make something half as pleasing as this cosmetically? This is certainly far better looking than that Giulia lump.


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