Curbside Classic: 1992 Geo Storm GSi – Storm Trooper

(note: I’ve amended the text to reflect that Isuzu also sold a version of this in the US, as the gen2 Impulse)  It’s getting harder and harder to find a car that’s never had a proper CC. But a CC virgin has been found, in the form of the Geo Storm. And a GSi, no less. This was a hot little number in 1992, with a 140 hp 16V 1.8 L four to propel its slick little 2,280 lb body. It’s a bit hard to remember Isuzu building passenger cars, never mind anything other than genuine trucks. But during GM’s embrace of all things Japanese under its GEO brand, this was a kick-ass sporty coupe.

The Storm was the US version of the replacement of the Piazza/Impulse, which was one of those rare cars that hardly changed an iota from concept to production. Unfortunately its chassis and drive train were not up to its looks.

The Isuzu version of the Storm, the gen2 Impulse, had a quite different front end, designed to evoke the original. And  it was available with a 160hp intercooled/turbo engine and AWD.

Dave Skinner found one at a car show and wrote it up here.

The US-bound 1990 Storm’s front end was quite different, with an aerodynamic “shovel-nose”, although still with semi-concealed headlights, albeit rather different than the Piazza’s. The base engine was a 95hp 1.6L SOHC four, with the GSi sporting a stouter DOHC version making 130 hp.

Of course what I’d really liked to have found was the quite rare wagonback, a genuine shooting brake. This was something of a hot idea for a couple of years.

Rather than tool up for two different bodies, Nissan just offered the optional Sportbak to convert the Pulsar coupe into a wagon. Let’s see, was there anyone else in this club?

The wagonback was only available in 1991 and 1992. Sales were obviously very modest.

Things get complicated outside of the US, especially in Japan. Here’s the breakdown from a comment left by cjiguy:

Pa Nero coupe and hatch: Essentialy the Storm clone, 1.6 DOHC spec. Includes the semi-hideaway lamps. Also available with the turbo and AWD. Never received the refreshed Geo front end.

Gemini OZ coupe and hatch: 1.6 DOHC spec, Including AWD Irmscher R Turbo models, different front end that was never available in the US.

Piazza Nero coupe: The 1.8 DOHC 4WS model with Lotus tuning, same front as the North Anerican Impusle. No other powertrain option, only model with Lotus suspension tune.

Got it? There will be a test.

In 1992, the Storm got a new front end, with squinty little headlights instead of the partially-hidden ones. I’m not at all a fan. It rather ruins the front end for me, but undoubtedly it was cheaper. It makes it look even more like a Saturn SC2 coupe. The 1992 GSi got the larger 1.8L version of the four.

If you’re seeing some other GM design language in the Storm, you might also look to the 1989 Lotus Elan M100, which was of course conceived and created during GM’s tenure as Lotus’ owner, and used the Isuzu Gemini/Storm’s drivetrain.

Lotus, Isuzu, Saturn, Cavalier, Fiero; lots of GM design and technical DNA being scattered around the globe.

Since the Storm’s owner was sitting in her car, I didn’t get an interior shot, but you’ll be pleased to know she gave me permission to shoot the exterior. So here’s a couple from the web.

This shot shows the distinctive control pods that were quite prominent and somewhat unique in the gen1 Impulse are still here, although drastically toned down. Frankly, the whole interior is quite GM-generic for the period.

I don’t have a vintage review handy, but the impression I have is that the Storm, especially in GSi form, was a brisk and fun coupe, rather tossable, but that its engine was a bit unrefined. Maybe you all have some more impressions to add.

Now if I could just find a wagonback version of the Storm…


Related reading:

1991 Isuzu Impulse Turbo (JDM)   Dave Skinner

1984 Isuzu Piazza  (JDM)   Tatra87

1988 Isuzu Impulse   Eric703