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Saturday, June 15, 2024

Isuzu 117 Coupe: Japan's Classic '60s Spin on the Fiat Dino

Rare ONES - You might never have thought that the classic Italian car Fiat Dino actually has an overseas cousin made specifically for the Japanese's renowned truck brand under the name Isuzu 117 Coupe. At first glance, many people mistake the Isuzu 117 for an early version of the Fiat Dino. This probably isn't a big surprise as both cars were designed by the same person within two years of each other.
The Fiat Dino Coupe (left) and its overseas cousin, the Isuzu 117 Coupe (right), were both designed by the renowned Italian stylist Giorgetto Giugiaro within two years of each other. (Picture from: Carrozzieri-Italiani)
The Isuzu 117 was one of the first Japanese cars to have a body designed entirely by an Italian stylist – the great Giorgetto Giugiaro when he was design director at Carrozzeria Ghia. Although largely unknown outside of Japan, the Isuzu 117 was an important car for Isuzu and the Japanese automotive industry as a whole. It was the world's first production sports car to be offered with a diesel engine and one of the first to be offered with a double overhead cam (DOHC) engine.
The Isuzu 117 Coupe became a cult classic in Japan, and it is now gaining popularity overseas as interest in vintage Japanese sports cars continues to rise. (Picture from: BelowTheRadar)
The project to build the car that would later the Isuzu 117 began in the mid-1960s. It was clear that a sports car was needed as a halo model to attract people into showrooms – of course, many of them would go with a less luxurious model. Meanwhile, at that time, Japanese cars were starting to become popular in Western countries due to their cheap price and good reliability. Several Japanese manufacturers decided to make sports cars to help improve their image.
The Isuzu 117 Coupe was designed and built based on the Florian sedan platform to expedite construction and reduce costs. (Picture from: Secret-Classics)
Isuzu Motors decided to follow this trend and contacted Giorgetto Giugiaro to design their new car. Rather than starting their sports car project from scratch, Isuzu chose to use the Florian sedan platform. This greatly sped up construction and reduced costs. Giorgetto Giugiaro designed the steel body for the new car, making great use of the Fiat Dino design, but the 117 was its own car in every way despite its resemblance to its older Italian cousin. The 117 debuted as a prototype at the 1966 Geneva Motor Show, and awarded with prizes, where it won prizes and received high praise at the Tokyo Motor Show later that autumn..
Inside the Isuzu 117 Coupe, you'll find seating for four with ample room in the rear seats. It also comes well-equipped with air conditioning, power windows, and an AM/FM cassette player. (Picture from: Secret-Classics)
When it was produced in 1968, the Isuzu 117 Coupe was offered with a 1.8-liter single overhead cam (SOHC) inline four-cylinder engine that sent power through a four-speed manual transmission to the rear wheels. The next model would be offered with a DOHC engine, automatic transmission, a 5-speed manual, and an increased engine capacity to 1.95 liters.
The Isuzu 117 Coupe featured a dual-overhead cam four-cylinder engine with electronic fuel injection, double wishbone suspension up front, and a live axle at the rear. (Picture from: Secret-Classics)
In Japan, the Isuzu 117 Coupe became a cult classic during its lifetime. Its neat combination of Japanese engineering and Italian styling proved successful, and the car was much more affordable than contemporaries such as the Toyota 2000GT. The Isuzu 117 Coupe was produced from 1968 to 1981 with 86,192 units. When they replaced it, they did so with another Giugiaro-designed coupe – the Isuzu Piazza.
The Isuzu 117 Coupe's roof design was elegantly sloped, eliminating the vertical rear window in favor of homologated rear lights, setting it apart from the Fiat Dino. (Picture from: Secret-Classics)
Isuzu's strategy to combine Japanese reliability with Italian design was revolutionary. It showcased how a well-thought-out collaboration could result in a vehicle that resonated with consumers. The Isuzu 117 Coupe was not just a car; it was a statement of innovation and cross-cultural partnership.
The Isuzu 117 Coupe was a standout high-end personal car, combining elegant styling with sporty performance. (Picture from: Secret-Classics)
The legacy of the Isuzu 117 lives on, remembered by car enthusiasts and collectors who appreciate its unique place in automotive history. It stands as a testament to the bold vision of Isuzu and the timeless designs of Giugiaro. Today, the 117 remains a sought-after classic, cherished for its design and engineering.
As we look back on the story of the Isuzu 117 Coupe, it's clear that this car was more than just a vehicle; it was a bridge between cultures and an icon of its era. The Isuzu 117 Coupe will always be remembered as a pioneering effort that brought together the best of Japanese and Italian automotive expertise. This unique blend of cultures and ideas created a car that continues to be celebrated and admired, embodying a timeless appeal that transcends generations. *** [EKA | FROM VARIOUS SOURCES | ISUZU MOTORS | SILODROME | SECRET-CLASSICS | BELOWTHERADAR | ROADANDTRACK | CARROZZIERI-ITALIANI ]
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