Okay, no more puns.
Known elsewhere as the Piazza, Isuzu’s new rear-drive coupe debuted as the Impulse in North America for 1983. Impulse was a direct replacement for the Giugiaro-designed luxury 117 Coupe, which started out looking very pretty in 1968, then got a little less so after facelift action in the late 1970s. Isuzu learned a lesson about small-scale production and luxury features with the 117 and didn’t make the same mistake again with the Impulse: The new car was decidedly more downmarket, oriented toward the economic sports driving enthusiast.
Isuzu liked Giugiaro’s work on the 117, so it turned to him again for the new Impulse. In bed with General Motors at the time, Isuzu sent over some Brazilian Chevrolet Chevettes to Italy and said “Have at it!” — leaving Giorgetto to complete the design without interference. Things got really wedgy, and the resulting Ace of Clubs prototype was ready for debut at the 1979 Tokyo Motor Show.
It proved a crowd favorite, so the brass at Isuzu sent it (mostly unchanged) into production shortly thereafter. Factories were churning out shiny new Impulses by 1980, and they were on dealer lots for 1981. Incidentally, that year was the first time Isuzu had dealers with their own branding on North American shores. Previously, the company’s efforts were relegated to Chevrolet dealers with vehicles like the LUV pickup. As it was a new experiment in North America, customers there waited a bit to get hold of their Impulses.
Initially, the Impulse was available with two different inline-four engines, of single- or dual-overhead cam variety. North American customers had only one choice — the single-overhead cam version, producing 90 horsepower. 1985 saw the introduction of a turbocharged engine generating a much more interesting 140 horsepower. The hottest version, the RS, arrived in 1987. It had a 4CZ1 2.0-liter engine boasting an additional 10 horsepower over standard turbo versions. North American Impulse shoppers were subject to a much simpler lineup than other countries: All Impulses had all equipment fitted as standard. Options to the consumer included choice of manual or automatic transmission, naturally aspirated or turbo power, and the color. “Suspension by Lotus” badges arrived (as standard) in 1988.
The first generation Impulse was available around the globe through 1991, but again North America was an exception. Here, the Impulse was finished after 1989. Isuzu replaced it with a new-for-’90 generation — now called the Asuna Sunfire in Canada. The new model was front-drive or four-wheel drive and related to the popular Geo Storm. But Geo’s popularity did not warm customers to the second Impulse, and the model went out of production in 1993 with no replacement.
Today’s Rare Ride is located in suburban Downtown Illinois, a place called Elgin. It has the 2.0-liter engine, paired with a four-speed automatic transmission (the ad incorrectly cites a three-speed). With an overall clean appearance, a bit of rust, and a crazy interior design that’s just not seen nowadays, the Impulse asks $2,600.