At $18,900, is This 1978 Isuzu 117 Coupé an Import With Import?

Nice Price or No Dice 1978 Isuzu 117 Coupé

Today’s Nice Price or No Dice Isuzu is one of the best-looking cars ever to come out of Japan, which makes it a shame for it to have never been officially offered here in America. Let’s see if the price on this privately-imported example is equally as handsome.

These days, being a smoker in public can make you kind of a pariah. And that’s not just for people, but also for cars. It’s especially the case in California where for decades the state has been trying to give air pollution a Triple H-style smackdown. Last Friday’s 1991 Mitsubishi Mighty Max 4X4 suffered from a bad smoking habit and that prevented its owner from getting its registration renewed. Needing something as major as an engine overhaul, particularly ona 30-year-old truck from a minor player, is never going to be cheap or easy and the Max’s $2,500 asking price reflected that reality. Most of you agreed with the seller’s assessment, giving the Mighty Mitsu a commanding 61 percent Nice Price win.

Like many of its car-making peers, Mitsubishi no longer sellers compact pickups in the US Indeed, the company’s dealers here in the States have been saddled with one of the most parsimonious product lines imaginable. But hey, at least Mitsubishi hasn’t rolled up the carpet yet.

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The same can’t be said for a number of car makers who took a big gamble on the US market and lost. Those include the likes of major manufacturers such as Peugeot and Renault, as well as little guys like Daihatsu and Suzuki. One of the most notable US import failures was the Japanese company Isuzu. It eventually went belly up here, despite having launched with one of the best brand campaigns in the business, and the prescience of an early jump onto the lucrative SUV bandwagon.

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Maybe if Isuzu had sold more sporty cars here, it would have done better. Nah, those came here too, both in Isuzu badged and GM re-badged versions. Good as they were, those couldn’t save the company’s fortunes either.

Today’s 1978 Isuzu 117 Coupé XC is one model that America never officially saw, and in fact, went out of production in 1981, the very same year that Isuzu started selling cars in the US under its own name.

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That’s too bad since the Giugiaro-styled 117 is a painfully pretty car, with its Italianate lines draping some comparatively simple and easy-to-maintain mechanicals. Many of those mechanicals were shared with Isuzu’s upright and stodgy Florian sedan, and by a weird extension, the Chevy LUV pickup. The model debuted as Isuzu’s halo car in 1968 and carried through until its demise in 1981 when it was replaced by the also-Giugiaro-penned Piazza.

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On this 117, power comes from a fuel-injected 1.8 liter SOHC four. This was the first Japanese production car to feature electronically-controlled fuel injection, and as equipped the engine managed 80 horsepower and 95 lb-ft of torque. The ad claims that is backed up by a five-speed manual, but according to the Internet, that was reserved for models with larger displacement engines which means this should be a four-speed. However, I’m not going to argue the point with the owner who has obviously actually rowed through those gears and counted them.

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There’s not much of a description of how those mechanicals have faired over the years, but if they are anything like the rest of the car, they should be in a fine fettle. That’s because everything else looks to be in amazing shape, and all complete. The bodywork shows no signs of dents or dings and remarkably still wears its model-specific mud flaps and JDM wing mirrors. Below all that, it carries on with the original details with factory model-branded alloys wrapped in Bridgestone tires. The whole ball of wax has done a mere 74,000 kilometers. That works out to just about 45,000 miles to us Stars and Stripes types.

Image for article titled At $18,900, is This 1978 Isuzu 117 Coupé an Import With Importance?

Showing not even evidence of those few kilometers is the interior. It presents in the ad in almost as-new condition. The only evidence to the car’s age is in some wear on the silver trim paint around the glove box door and instruments, perhaps from time in the sun. Of course, being a Japanese home-market car, this Isuzu does dress to the right. That’s something any new owner would obviously need to get used to for US roads and drive-thrus. Before getting comfortable with the driving position, though, that potential buyer is going to need to get used to the car’s $18,900 asking price. Let’s see if we can help.

What’s your take on this neat Isuzu and that $18,900 asking? Does that feel like a deal for so rare and well-kept a car? Or, does that seem an ugly price no matter how pretty the model?

You decide!

Hartford, Florida, Craigslistor go here if the ad disappears.

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