1979 Isuzu 117 XG Coupe

While Isuzu of today is widely recognized for its robust diesel-powered trucks, they have a rich history of producing stylish and innovative passenger cars. The first Isuzu car designed entirely in-house was the Bellel of 1961. The Florian replaced it in 1967, and the line was expanded to include the smaller Bellet and the sporty 117 Coupe. Various diesel and petrol engines powered the new range, with single or twin overhead cams and electronic fuel injection available as early as 1970. The star of the show was the 117 Coupe, boasting a beautiful two-door coupe body designed by the maestro of Italian style, Giorgetto Giugiaro.

The 117 was one of Giugiaro’s first major projects as Styling and Design Director at Ghia. Before his brief tenure at Ghia, he worked for Bertone and Fiat Special Design, building a staggering portfolio that included such legendary machines as the Maserati Ghibli, Alfa Romeo Giulia, Iso Grifo, and De Tomaso Mangusta. He left Ghia to form Italdesign in 1967, where he flourished for the next four decades. Giugiaro’s Italdesign created such iconic cars as the Mk1 Volkswagen Golf, DeLorean, BMW M1, Lancia Delta, and many more. His ability to pen such diverse and universally acclaimed designs earned him the accolade Car Designer of the Century in 1999.

For the Isuzu 117, Giugiaro found inspiration from one of his Bertone designs, the Fiat Dino Coupe. 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.

This handsome 1979 Isuzu 117 XG Coupe is an exceptionally rare sight on American roads, likely among just a handful that found their way to the United States. The Giugiaro-designed silhouette, looks great in the crisp white paintwork, highlighted by slender, polished window trims and chrome bumpers. The car's bodylines are precise and well-defined, featuring straight panels and  factory-appropriate fitment. True to most Japanese cars of the era, the 117 feels well-built and thoughtfully engineered. The lighting elements, lenses, and trim are impeccably maintained, with noteworthy details such as the iconic JDM wing mirrors and striking slotted alloy wheels.

The chic interior showcases black vinyl upholstery accented by black and white grid pattern cloth inserts, a stylish combination that captures the essence of the disco era, the very era in which this car was crafted. The cabin exudes a distinct driver-centric ambiance, with gauges, switches, and controls intuitively placed for easy access. The rear seats, boasting integrated headrests, provide a commendable amount of passenger space for a compact coupe. The interior trim has been meticulously preserved in original condition, though some minor dashboard cracks are evident.

Beneath the forward-hinged bonnet resides the 1.8-liter DOHC inline-four engine, upgraded with twin Weber carburetors and paired with a five-speed manual gearbox. The engine bay presentation is tidy and honest, indicative of proper maintenance and care. The car's performance is crisp and responsive, delivering a satisfying driving experience that matches its elegant aesthetics.

With the increasing interest in JDM classics, a myriad of iconic Japanese vehicles are gaining recognition and value among collectors worldwide. This splendid Isuzu 117 Coupe represents an exceptional opportunity for collectors, combining outstanding value and an ideal entry point into the realm of Japanese engineering excellence, blended seamlessly with the unmistakable allure of Italian design.


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