Talk about the CC Effect™. Literally a day after I posted the Olds Diesel Deadly Sin article, in which I said GM should have made a V8 out of the highly reliable Isuzu diesel four, I ran into this sitting at the curb nearby. Yes, there’s another one, a coupe, that I’ve been updating here for a decade now. But two I-Mark diesels! And this one in such nice shape.
So if GM had taken my suggestion, there’d be two dozen GM cars with diesels still clattering away, given how many they made compared to the small number of I-Marks imported. More like a hundred! That’s a truly scary thought. Just as well they didn’t.
When I first approached it, I didn’t want to get my hopes up too high, although a gasser would have been a great find too.
I walked to the back…
And sure enough.
The interior looks quite nice still too.
Even a pretty quilt on the back seat. That should have tipped me off as to its owner.
A young woman came out of the house next door just as I was shooting. Your I-Mark? It’s a real gem, which is why I’m shooting it.
She told me she bought it a few years back, and it’s been a great car. It’s probably just barely broken in. Many years of good use yet in it; decades, actually.
She got in, started it up, and to the familiar cacophony of an elderly diesel, she drove off. I should have gotten a video.
You could, of course, get this engine in a Chevette as well which was by far the more popular option away from the west coast – Isuzu dealers were thin on the ground in the VRA years,and many of them sold pickups and Troopers only until that expired. Plus the Chevette had the benefit of a hatchback, although the Isuzu’s interior was nicer.
Brazilian Chevettes were sold with that engine in Uruguay at that time and up to about 1988 as taxis. Uncomfortable as hell, particularly in the back seat, but drivers and owners were amazed at the reliability of the engine. Due to taxes, a private owner Chevette 4 door diesel cost 1.5 times that of the same car with a gas engine, and with a lower trim level. But it was diesel madness, and people thought they could save anyway. In fact, only taxi drivers and traveling salesmen and the like would save with that engine. But it would on rolling for many years. The Isuzu Mark, here called the Gemini, was a Japanese Chevette (or Opel Kadett, or what you will) with what, as imported to Uruguay, had a really upscale interior, with velour (similar to the pictured car), and was available with an 1.6 engine with a no cost automatic transmission and wonder of wonders, A/C. It was in a totally different price legue than the Chevette.
Excellent find! It is in remarkable condition for an almost 40 year old econobox. The nose looked much like the concurrent Escort GT. Though that’s where the 80s exterior styling elements mostly ended, other than the blackout trim. Given it’s 70s roots, I found the sedan body did manage to look more modern than the coupe. With the general resemblance of the coupe to the Vega hatchback, dating its appearance.
I’m particularly impressed by the attractive dash design. It appears one of the best designs of the era. Well laid out, and significantly better looking than the Escort/Lynx, Omni/Horizon, and the J-Car designs IMO.
Nice dash design.
Ah, that Escort brochure features the unicorn that is sheepskin-and-leather upholstery. I’ve never seen this in an actual car, not even online.
A lot of these seemed to be (at least per my recollection) white with the red interior, this one is very nicely kept. A college acquaintance of mine had a one thus flavored in hatch form, it was perfectly competent if obviously slow, however once up to speed did just fine except for climbing the Conejo and Cuesta grades on 101 in CA, where it was relegated to the far, far, right lanes for a long, long time.
Ah, the Holden Gemini Diesel. A workmate used to give me a lift in one years ago, bought for her by her gormless and thoroughly stingy husband, and given her clenched jaw opinions of it and him, it was not a shock to learn that both had soon thereafter been traded in for newer models.
It really was awful, and it’s a brave and slightly polluting person who would chance today’s roads in such a car. The miserable stinker couldn’t cope with the speeds of traffic in the late ’80’s, and that in a flat country. Given that even an average electric wheelchair can get to 60 faster than it today, I wouldn’t be accepting any lifts.
Nice find! These were rare around Michigan at the time, and any that were here likely have completely recycled themselves into iron oxide by now!
I remember how different Japanese cars looked compared to American cars at the time, it was truly like they were from a different world. Now many Japanese and Korean cars are the same vehicles that are sold here.
Isuzu had some great commercials throughout the years.
I remember Chevette and LUV diesels.
They had the “horn delete” option. Didn’t need a horn–we could hear them knocking two blocks away.
Diesel junk, decades before VW. They said the Olds diesel killed the automotive diesel market; but that’s not true. It had plenty of help.
Nice find, I don’t recall ever seeing this gen here in New England.
The worst of the diesel problems was always the bean counters. The solutions were there, common rail or unit injectors for higher fuel injection pressures and for the love of god put a turbocharger on the thing. This was especially obvious to anyone that worked with medium duty trucks in the 70’s and early 80’s. A very popular motor was the Cat 3208 V8 diesel. Ford and GM sold a ton of them. The turbocharged versions were respectable performers but the non-turbo ones were black smoke spewing slugs. The turbos not only reduced the smoke from over-fueling and produced more horsepower but the higher torque that was available at a lower RPM was the real plus of the turbo. The Turbo units usually delivered better fuel mileage because the fuel was actually burned and produced power versus the production of black smoke in the non-turbo motor.
When did common rail diesels become viable for passenger car use? I seem to recall that even before emissions were an issue there was a hold on selling them in the US because the sulfur count of our diesel was too high to work with their injectors, and that was at least a decade after the Oldsmobile diesel fiasco.
You are right that turbocharging diesels was a no brainer, but they were still using indirect injection with mechanical injection pumps everywhere diesel cars were sold until 1995, when the Hino Ranger was offered in Japan with the first commercially offered common rail injection system.
The first diesel car with common rail injection was the 1997 Alfa Romeo 156 JTD (1.9 and 2.4 liter).
The 1995 Hino Ranger was a medium duty truck, so that tracks. It would have been unreasonable to expect GM to figure out how to make a viable common rail diesel car engine in 1978, even if common rail was invented about a decade earlier.
Why does common rail figure into the comment about turbocharging? That’s been done since the 1950s, or earlier.
Common rail made direct injection feasible for passenger cars. HD engines had used direct injection for ever. But it was too noisy for passenger cars; so the indirect combustion chamber was essential to slow down the combustion and make it less jack hammer-like.
Common rail allowed much higher pressures, but the key thing is that it allowed the fuel to be injected in multiple pulses, so as to slow down the combustion and make it less noisy.
But common rail is not in itself correlated to turbocharging. VW made many non-turbo direct injection engines, called SDI, as compared to TDI. But they were never sold in the US.
I was replying to xr7, who said, “The solutions were there, common rail or unit injectors for higher fuel injection pressures and for the love of god put a turbocharger on the thing.”
Wow — the CC Effect really is in full force! I saw this I-Mark diesel yesterday, which is the only one I can ever recall seeing, and a car I thought I’d never find. What are the chances?
Based on this small sample size, I’m wondering if the diesels have a higher survival rate than the gas versions, perhaps due to finding a niche with the biodiesel crowd.
I saw this model in fade color in NJ Turnpike couple times in summer of 2007 when oil prices went up to $120 a barrel. The car was always merging from Garden State Parkway into Turnpike and heading to NYC direction. What a coincident. At first I thought it was gasoline power, and one time I was close enough to see the back with diesel marking. Actually I never knew this model was sold in this country being Isuzu was never popular Japanese import in North America.
I first noticed this model in Canton when China started opening up in late 1970s, there was a fleet of taxi using this diesel model as its vehicles, they proved to be very long lasting small car. Back then the budget Japanese cars were not very common. Before Chinese had very positive experience with Isuzu diesel truck.
CC Effect: found one in Tokyo literally yesterday. Same colour, but probably a couple years younger and non-running. It’ll be in my upcoming June 2020 sightings post.
What amazes me is that this car got remade into the Impulse. Talk about making a silk purse out of a sow’s ear! While this car wasn’t ugly, it certainly was no head turner, and the Impulse had amazing futuristic styling inside and out and an improved chassis. It was also available with a turbo engine and handling by Lotus.
As the only brother with 2 younger sisters, one of my “jobs” while they were going to college and for a few years after was to help them shop for cars once they progressed beyond the “hand me down” ones they got from our parents. Back then it wasn’t a particularly easy job, because they wanted a small car with some particular style, but it had to be automatic (they never learned manual, though that’s all I’ve owned since 1981…never got them interested in learning, though I tried more than once). Back then small cars still were much more common with manuals than automatics. We live in Central Texas, and the small cars seemed to all have mega-miles on them (which probably wouldn’t be bad with a diesel, but I doubt my sisters would have tolerated the stinky fill up and having to hunt down diesel pumps required with ownership). Then they wanted a particular style, a 2 door notchback, which wasn’t particularly common
compared to hatchback in smaller cars (they didn’t care about space efficiency so much as style).
Probably around 1986 or so, we test drove one of these, used of course, even though it didn’t fit the 2 door notchback classification, the family car one sister had been driving was a 4 door, so she tolerated me at least checking it out. It was a gas engine automatic, white with red interior, and I liked how it drove, miles were reasonable, but I’m sure the 4 door quashed the sale to my sister. I remember the “forward” positioning of the shifter, but the car seemed promising to me to last them at least a few years while they got a bit older (and less idealistic maybe with respect to cars?).
Funny thing is I’m not sure why the I Mark stands out in my mind, we looked at tons of cars, spending multiple weekends searching, even going to other nearby cities and out in the rural areas, I’ve surely forgotten many of the cars we looked at…why this one stands out in my mind I’m not sure….maybe I think of it as the car that got away?
Even more funny, I remember looking at used cars for myself (a couple years prior to helping my sisters ship for them) and one car I test drove and rejected was a Datsun (not yet Nissan) 200SX, which turned out to be the very car both my sisters were to buy multiples of….total of 4 of them, all automatics, all notchbacks, one of which my surviving younger sister still owns (my youngest sister died of ovarian cancer at age 37). Lots of people want to buy it off her, she bought it new 23 years ago, and has held onto it all that time. Maybe it makes me doubt my instincts when sizing up a car for ownership (not so much a specific car but a type/model) that a car I rejected turned out working well for my sisters. But of course I’m a different person then they are, I like my manual transmission hatchbacks, though, and even though the I Mark doesn’t fill the bill for me, I could see how it would for someone else (like one of my sisters).
Hola alguien en la actualidad a visto un Isuzu I-Mark?
Donde puedo encontrar repuestos de su interior de un isuzu imark 1982 diésel