Friday, October 25, 2013

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1988 Isuzu Impulse

Rounding out my week of 1980s products from orphan brands is a car from a company that is still in business, but which no longer builds cars. It's a 1988 Isuzu Impulse.

The Impulse has always been an interesting animal. Called the Piazza overseas, it was designed by Giugiaro and offered suspension engineering by Lotus, and a normally aspirated or turbocharged four-cylinder engine hooked up to a 5-speed stick or 4-speed automatic transmission. I always found the Impulse intriguing since I was a kid; my swim instructor's neighbor had one and at the time it confused me to see not only a car made by Isuzu, but one with a "Handling By Lotus" badge on it as well. The name also amused me, as every customer who bought one was an Impulse buyer. Usually an 'impulse purchase' is something one does on a whim without thinking first, like a tabloid magazine or pack of gum at the supermarket. Wikipedia (as reputable a source as it is) claims the Impulse had a very limited production despite being built for ten years in its first generation. It estimates only a little over 13,000 Impulses were made. I'm not sure if that number includes the second-generation Impulse that also became the Geo Storm and Canadian Asuna Sunfire.

In 1988 the Impulse grew up somewhat. It received a refresh that gave it a larger engine, Lotus-tuned suspension standard, and virtually everything else standard except the turbo. The car also lost its pop-up headlight covers but gained a bigger rear spoiler. This one has lost all its Lotus badges, probably popped off and stolen by some miscreant. It appears to be a non-turbo model judging by the standard wheels (Turbos had a more interesting 5-spoke snowflake wheel design). Note the redundant badging on the front end; there is an Isuzu grille badge and an equally sized Isuzu logo debossed into the front bumper. These were pretty much the last rear-wheel-drive Isuzus that didn't have to wear a truck body. This one is a little beat up but still looks like it has a lot of life left in it.

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