Italo-Design by way of Japan: 1985 Isuzu Impulse

I really like these cars.

I don't like the ad for this one, however.

Let's start with the car.

You're looking at a 1985 Isuzu Impulse.

The Impulse nameplate was used by Isuzu from 1980-1993 for two generations of compact two-door hatchbacks. It was known as the Piazza outside the U.S.

This is a first generation Impulse, which was produced from 1980-1990. It was sold in the U.S. from '83-'89 model years.

The design is striking. The front hood looks disproportionally long, but when viewed from the side, the generous greenhouse glass and gently rounded hatchback end fill out the rear perfectly, balancing the whole car. There is one man to thank for all this: legendary Italian car designer Giorgetto Giugiaro. Giugiaro styled dozens of iconic cars from the late 20th century, such as the Volkswagen Rabbit, Lotus Esprit S1 and Delorean DMC-12. I would call him a pioneer of the '70s "wedge" shape for the masses. He took the wedge and perfected it, translating it into a language the public immediately embraced.

The Impulse therefore is a classic Giugiaro design. Sharp clean lines, flat-planes, narrow squinty-eyed front end and slanted hatchback rear with grid-grooved taillights. The front is reminiscent of the Delorean, with the long hood tapering to a small horizontal grille and quad square headlamps.


Interestingly, as excellent a designer as Giugiaro was, the cars that bore his touch often weren't big sellers, which of course had nothing to do with him, and instead made his designs even more rarefied.

Such is the case with the Impulse.

As is the fate of a lot of Japanese cars from the early '80s, the Impulse wasn't a big seller, and what was sold was gradually traded in or scrapped over the years, resulting in very, very few left, especially east of the Grand Canyon, where fewer were sold before they fell victim to rust from water and salt. Wikipedia estimates there are only around 2,300 registered as of 2010, so probably less were in use and even less exist by now.

Fortunately, they do pop up still, mostly as forgotten derelicts like this ad.

Condition wise the vehicle appears poor. The paint and rubber molding is all faded. There appears to be no visible rust or accident damage, but the passenger side is not pictured.

The seller states this is the Turbo model, which is a plus. The first-generation Impulse had rear-wheel drive. Combined with the turbocharged engine and tight Japanese construction I'm sure this was one solid ride in its day. Unfortunately this is also an automatic transmission, cutting back on the fun factor.

The seller also says this is an abandoned vehicle that was last running before it was left. They make no indication of how or why it was left where it is now. Worse, they say they have no title. This turns the ad sour for me and raises red flags. If the seller has no title and they aren't the registered owner, they have no legal authority to profit from the vehicle, as it would still be on the books under someone else's name. Even if the vehicle is on their property, they still must have a local sheriff take it away. If the seller is the registered owner and just lost the title, that's an entirely different and much less difficult scenario.

On top of that, they want $1,000 for it.

In conclusion, cool car, very poor ad, would not recommend. There could be a legitimate explanation for everything, but you need the whole story first.

Find it here on craigslist in Washington.

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