The cars we loved.
The 117 was a first for Japanese cars. First to use an Italian designer (Giorgetto Giugiaro) and the first to use a DOHC engine in a time when most engines would be pushrods well into the Eighties. The cars sleek European design was unlike anything in Isuzu’s line of homely looking trucks and small commuter cars.
First seen as a prototype in the 1966 Geneva Motor Show, the 117 went into small scale production in 1968. Initially being hand-built with no more than 50 cars produced a month. The first engine was a 1.6 L DOHC inline 4. In 1970, a Bosch electronic fuel injection system was added. The 117 was technically far ahead of its time considering that it later went into mas production in a partnership with GM, while maintaining options such as leather seats, wood trim and it’s advanced engine in the top model. A less luxurious version called the 1800N was added in 1971 with a simpler 1.8 SOHC 4 cylinder carburetted engine.
The 117 was popular during it’s run and today is a sought after collectors car. Over 85,000 units were built during It’s unusually long life-cycle. Working examples are rare and command top prices, mostly because the 117 offered the best of Japanese reliability and Italian design. Unlike many of the Italian/American hybrids of the era, the 117 limited its European influences to cosmetics. The car received small refinements throughout it’s life, mostly confined to engine options that evolved to a 2 liter DOHC and a 2.2 liter diesel. Visually, the changes were more subtle, with quad square headlights being offered in the late 70’s and revised tail lights. The 117 Coupe was replaced by another Giugiaro designed car called the Impulse or Piazza in Japan.