While people joke about the Curbside Classic “Effect,” I assure you it’s a tangible force of nature, like the tide or atmospheric pressure. Thanks to the effect, readers of Curbside Classic encounter the cars they’ve seen in this blog in their everyday life, no matter how unusual or obscure the car may be. Here’s an official definition of the CC Effect, provided by Tom Klockau in a posting on the CC Effect:
The CC Effect occurs when a rarely-seen Curbside Classic is posted to the site, and then, mere days later, a CC reader, writer or editor stumbles upon the very same make and model.
In my case, the CC Effect does not always deliver the exact twin of a Curbside Classic. Take my experience from yesterday morning- I woke up and read Paul’s write up on a rare Isuzu with an unusual engine. From there, I headed to our local Saturday morning car show and found myself standing in front of different rare Isuzu with an unusual engine. You see? The CC Effect is real, and it took a mere forty minutes to kick in.
Here’s the unusual engine bay of our rare 1991 Isuzu Impulse RS. This platform itself isn’t exactly uncommon in the US, since Geo also sold quite a few of them using the nameplate “Storm.” However, the Isuzu version sold in much smaller numbers, and I don’t recall this performance version at all.
Wikipedia tells me the engine was offered exclusively in 1991. Turbocharged and intercooled, the motor produced 160 HP, and powered all four wheels.
If you squint, you can make out black text listing the technology details below the model name. This seems more familiar, if only because it’s typical for Japanese performance cars of that era.
I’ll be reporting on other cars at the show later this week, but in the meantime, Long Live the Curbside Classic Effect!
Wasn’t this the same but modified engine and transmission used in the Lotus Elan? The two manufacturers had some form of alliance back then. I believe there was a nameplate on the Isuzu suggesting suspension modifications by Lotus? I’m going by memory and that was a long time ago.
Same engine with different map. The Elan is FWD only. Transmission would be roughly the same sans centre diff and transfer case
I once owned an Elan with this motor and thought of the RS as a parts cars but never needed one as the motor is bulletproof. (sorry RS enthusiasts)
Lotus Engineering developed the motor and used the atmo version initially in Europe only and then Turbo for everyone. I’ve also heard that the mapping is different but am a bit skeptical that there was any difference as it seems everytime a motor gets used by a different manufacturer, the ECM is ‘different’.
The were also rumours that the Elan was originally setup for this AWD system which is plausible as the Elan’s backbone chassis provided a great unobtrusive spot for the driveshaft. GM owned Lotus at the time of the Elan and I think this was the reason for the Elan being 300# heavier than a true Lotus should be.
I think I have both maps somewhere in my portable/backup hard drive. Someone from Lotus-Elan Central put them in an Excel file.
The ECU on the RS was a normal GM MEM-CAL type of the era.
Hi, do you still have the ecu map for the Impulse RS saved?
I’ve often daydreamed “What if” Kia had kept the Elan alive here in the US after buying the tooling. It would be cool to see what the spiritual ancestor of that car would look like today. Possibly a very viable Miata-killer. . .
I had one of those. Beautiful to drive. Few remaining.
I wish I could have one of those here, as weekend car.
Did you talk to the owner?
Yeah, he was surprised I took a picture of it, as few people recogognize it as something unique.
I told him I’d be posting his car here, perhaps he’ll be checking in.
The CC Effect works in other things as well. I was looking up the misuse of lowercase “L” and capital “i” , one of my pet peeves and found out that it’s know as “frequency illusion” or Badder-Mienhof phenomenon. Link about here:
Yes it even works with the CC Effect it self as I was thinking about how many times I have heard about it here so came over thinking I would have to wait for someone to post about it in comments when you have an article about it! Weird man.
Oh mannnn… I always knew these existed on paper, but I’ve never seen one. I’m sure our older readers will find this car dorky as shit, but block letters spelling “ALL WHEEL DRIVE / INTERCOOLED TURBO” are to my eyes what a 427 TURBO JET badge was 30 years earlier. I never loved the styling of this generation Impulse/Geo Storm, but it’s grown on me over the years in a “period piece” sort of way, and those semi-hidden headlamps are totally sweet. If only Isuzu had put this drivetrain in the Stylus… but that’s only so relevant, since the real beauty is under the hood! I’m thinking this must be the first car sold in the US that did 1hp/CC, does anyone know if that’s correct?
I actually think this is way cooler than the FWD Elan and I’d rather have one of these as well, despite being a pretty big Lotus fan and not considering FWD sacrilege. If I’m remembering correctly, these were fairly inexpensive cars – even in the higher trim levels – so I’m sure the few that were sold here mostly got used and abused. Props to the owner for taking it out to car shows and keeping it looking great, it’s so much more interesting than a midlife crisis ’65 Mustang.
Hear hear! I’d love to have one of these with a set of Blizzaks to do some serious winter hoonage with.
One Hp per cc, lets see that would be about 1600hp right:-) I think you meant 1 for ever 10 cc or a hundred hp per liter. If so Dodge put out the 2.2T2 turbo engine in 91-92 in the Spirit and Daytona with 224hp on tap I don’t know how much the older Dodge turbo put out but I had a 1987 Shadow for a short time that had nothing from idle till about 2500rpm when all hell would break loose. The reason for this and it’s short life was the waste gate was froze, but as I didn’t have much in it I didn’t fix it. Till it threw a rod it was ridiculously fast, 5.5 0-60 and 13sec in the 1/4 mile. Being an older feller I liked the big blocks and V8’s but there’s nothing wrong with a hot smaller car.
Ha! Yeah, my brain kinda softened out over how awesome this car is – 100hp per liter is what I was going for.
I loved the Mopar FWD turbo cars, too. I always wanted to get one to screw around with when they were still plentiful and cheap. Off the top of my head, I believe the ’87 Shadow would have still been a Turbo I car, so 146HP stock – but I know that engine turns into a monster when the boost is cranked up, plus they were very light.
What a cool Isuzu and thanks for taking some photos. I assume the headlights pop up right? If you see the owner again you should ask them about the license plates since they predate the vehicle by several years and I would love to know their story. Now someone has to find a Geo Storm Shooting-brake.
I can explain the blue and yellow license plates without the owner’s input-
California was the first state with a personalized (vanity) plate program (in 1970), so long time residents have vanity plates with the blue and yellow color scheme.
As a personalized plate, the owner moves it to their next car, rather than leaving them on the old car. At this point, there aren’t a lot of blue and yellow personalized plates, but you do see them from time to time.
The eyelids pop up, the little motor is right behing the Isuzu logo.
Back in Venezuela I loved to flash the highs in the traffic, specially when there were small kids around. Many many smiles.
I remember when these and the Geo version came out. I actually like the 90-91 Storms a little better because the front ends look better(to me) on the 1990-91 Storm then the Impulse.
Apparently despite GM owning close to half the stock in Isuzu at the time and the Geo Storm selling very well for GM. GM could not persuade Isuzu to continue making the Storm when the Impulse was killed off so the Storm was discontinued(In a case where due to the unpopular version a car not selling and being discontinued, the successful version was killed off also)
It was estimated that less then 50,000 of the Storms are still around and it was a strong seller so god knows how many of the Impulses are still left.
I came across a red Impulse Turbo on a small car lot in the north end of Columbus in 2004. It may have been the only one I ever saw in person, and I took it for a test drive. Seems like it had about 87K miles, with an asking price of $2995. Had no obvious rust, damage or wear and tear; must have been babied. It was very tempting, but I didn’t have the need or room for another car. It’s a shame I didn’t have a camera to snap a few pictures, because it was nice.
I love that you found this car AND that it’s being appreciated and preserved by someone. I can’t believe Isuzu didn’t bother marketing it for at least one more year. Car and Driver was very unkind and harsh when reviewing that car, placing it last in a test against much more tame machinery.
Who cares if it’s a bit buzzy and rough around the edges??
In the day, there were a bazillion Geo Storms, but very few of these out and about. I’m not sure about the reliability of either/or; I had an ’86 I-Mark as a commuter that around the 85K mark, started sucking oil into the air cleaner getting into the carb and causing the engine (understandably) to run rough and/or miss. This car was my first exposure to a timing belt as opposed to a timing chain. In 1988, it was a $695.00 job to replace (engine removal).
I remember maybe 10 years ago there would be some of these at the end of our street there was 3 different cars usually 2 would be there sometimes one and a rarely all 3 were there. one was dark red, another was light blue and the 3rd was dark blue all sports car or maybe the correct word is coupe versions? but I thought they were really cool looking cars. just Today I saw one at the wreckers yard not one of the ones I use to see this time it was the wagon or hatch back version. which I should add is a version I did not know existed.
I miss my Impluses. I had two of the 91 RS and they were great cars. Sadly finding parts were impossible and both eventually went. Sadly I have both motors still run like champs but making their way to the scrap pile due to the rarity.