Welcome to the sixth part of what David Bowie says is “the only Automotive Brochure related series worth bothering with”.
Staying true to the format established thus far, we’re leaping geographically and chronologically to England in 1985, for the UK issue of a Japanese car that ended up being far more commonly seen overseas.
It’s the Isuzu Piazza.
Whether you know it as Impulse or Piazza (which, apart from for its being Italian, I can think of no reason whatsoever to use the name Piazza; might as well have called it Lasagne), one thing must be established straight away. This was a sharp looking car, especially from the front three quarter profile. Perhaps wisely Isuzu opted to open this 1985 brochure by going into some detail about how this car was developed.
“…Only rarely does a designer earn the chance to see his dream realised in its entirety. But this is what the Piazza did for Giugiaro- the style he called the ‘Ace of Clubs’ now engineered by Isuzu to his specifications.”
Well, it must have been a bit of luck for Isuzu that old Giorgi absolutely insisted that the Piazza be built on the T-body platform that GM built the Chevette on in South America. He could have had wild dreams about tubular backbone chassis and unobtanium alloys; but no. Or maybe, just maybe it was the other way around? Perhaps Isuzu had been granted use of a GM mechanical package, and just needed somebody to create a body that looked half decent?
It didn’t matter, though, either way. The Piazza had an ultra-conventional live-rear-axle chassis, but the body draped over that accommodated plenty of interesting features, including semi-concealed headlamps that would have kept me in a permanent state of arousal had I been on the design team.
“….Isuzu’s enlightened approach to car manufacture- giving a designer complete freedom- has produced a remarkable offspring. The Piazza is not only a coveted car today, but will be a collectors item in twenty years time”.
We’re still waiting, to be honest. They have their following in the UK and overseas (the Australian book “The Search For The Holden Piazza” comes heartily recommended) and good ones are worth, well, more than crappy ones. but they’re a long from of blue chip territory.
“…Giugiaro once said that two classes of car were blending together; that sports cars were coming closer to saloons in comfort. The Piazza can be seen as the “Golden Mean”. At 14ft 3in long, 4ft 4in high and 5ft 5in wide, it combines all the style of a sleek sports coupe with added advantages in space and comfort”.
And what of handling? Can you qualify the sports coupe element of the Piazza? Seems so;
“…The Piazza’s front suspension system uses coil springs and unequal length wishbones – a feature culled from classic rally car design”
….and then later used on that absolute handling hero, the Rover 800. See you on the Pikes Peak!
“…Its rear suspension uses the five link system and coil springs, for optimum axle location – a mechanism which gives you superb handling”.
This handling prowess was somehow lost in translation by the time the reviewers got their hands on the Piazza. It has acquired a reputation that might lead you to believe that it was routinely slated in road tests for the vagueness of its cornering ability and the antiquated nature of its chassis hardware. In reality the press seemed to be surprised how well the Piazza coped when driven with verve. But it was still far more geared towards safety and predictability than excitement; until it rained, whereupon the car would suddenly remember how to oversteer. Later models spent some time at the Lotus Bootcamp for misleadingly styled cars, and came away with “Handling By Lotus” stickers placed in prominent locations. It came out a better car, but the competition was moving on, too, and the Piazza was getting old, fast.
But this is all churlish. Who cares whether the Piazza was actually as good as it makers earnestly believed it to be? It was one of the more interesting cars of the 1980s; a dead end but a fascinating one. And possessed of one of the most bewildering interior layouts short of the Citroen CX or Subaru XT.
“…On each side of the display, just behind the steering wheel, is one of the most remarkable features of the ‘Ace of Clubs’ design; two adjustable ‘satellite’ pods that house the most vital controls”
In principal this was a noble idea, but by the time the original proposal was readied for production, the increased size of the switches meant that one required telescopic fingers and palms like hang-gliders to use the satellites as intended. Good fun, though.
This is a superb publication: glossy; thorough and imaginative. I’ll even forgive the “design sketches” that feature heavily; I’ll bet a zillion squillion Euros that these crude pencil drawings have never been anywhere near an automotive design studio, leave alone come from one. I guess they mean no harm and their heart is in the right place.
Whatever. You can add this car to the looooong list of machines that I’m never likely to own; but at least I have the brochure.
<Disclaimer:- All photos were taken by the author and are of genuine original manufacturer publicity material, resting on the bonnet of a 1998 Audi A4. All copyright rights remain in the possession of the manufacturer, who really needs to come back to the industry and start selling interesting stuff again>