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R.A-S.H: The Isuzu Piazza

Piazza1

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.

Piazza2

“…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.

Piazza3

“….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”.

Piazza4

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.

Piazza5

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>

Currently there are "47 comments" on this Article:

  1. fede6882 says:

    great post and great series, but i have to ask, what does R.A-S.H mean?

  2. Devin says:

    People who want to do resto-mods! The Piazza is perfect. The mechanical package is crap, the body is sex, so you could make something truly special if you throw out all the rubbish under the body and shove cool stuff in there. I'll even let you do the odd shiny electric one. More people should be making the Piazza into the car it looks like it is.

  3. Tanshanomi says:

    You say "ultra-conventional live-rear-axle chassis" as if that's a bad thing.

  4. JayP2112 says:

    Why is it I have a sudden impulse to search CL for a Piazza?

  5. Alff says:

    "Whether you know it as Impulse or Piazza"

    I know it as the "Wimpulse", a friend's nickname for his.

  6. LTDScott says:

    I have always been a nerd for trying to identify the source of automotive lights used on motorhomes.

    Back in the mid '90s, my family briefly lived in Nacogdoches, Texas, home of Foretravel motorhomes, and at the time, some of their coaches used Isuzu Impulse (Piazza) tail lights. Gotta be one of the weirder choices I can think of.

    <img src="http://www.emeraldrv.com/images/93foretravel_002.JPG&quot; width="700">

  7. seguin says:

    Alfa Spiders seems to handle well enough with live rear axles.

  8. vroomsocko says:

    I always liked these, I now love them… that dash is awesome! The newfangled touch screens can suck it.

  9. Xehpuk says:

    Is this the car inspector Gadget drove in the cartoons?

  10. vroomsocko says:

    Also, it's really fast… just ask Joe.
    [youtube Ic0UejzZDZ8 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ic0UejzZDZ8 youtube]

  11. Slow_Joe_Crow says:

    The brochure is nice but the car looks like a slightly more angular Mk II Scirocco with a Citroen dashboard.

  12. James says:

    I'm pretty sure a rover 800 Vitesse held the *car* lap record at the Isle of Man for quite a while. Just saying.

  13. BlackIce_GTS says:

    Oh Lotus Bootcamp for misleadingly styled cars, please make this car as interesting as it looks;
    <img src="http://imagenesdecarros.net/sites/imagenesdecarros.net/files/u1077/kia-optima-hybrid-2012_04.jpg&quot; width=500>
    and maybe some wheels that don't look like they should be emitting cucumber slices?

  14. Van_Sarockin says:

    Beautiful design. Horrendous brochure. Fair warning to auto purchasers.

  15. TheOtherMacLeod says:

    Reading this on the mobile site, the picture all appear to be upside down (except for the ones that are sideways). Haven't compared it to the typical site though, maybe I'm missing something?

  16. wisc47 says:

    Rear wheel drive? Check. Styling by Giorgetto Giugiaro? Check. Handling by Lotus? Check. Japanese designed? Check. Sounds like the perfect car to me.

  17. Number_Six says:

    Seat design really peaked in the eighties. The Pizza's seats are quite similar visually to the ass-cuppers in my '86 Dodge Colt Turbo, and those ones were just fantastic in that car.

  18. Maxichamp says:

    The first gen Impulse was my first car. The dash and controls were insanely cool. I had the Special Edition. Power everything. Gold rims. The ad for it said: Rarer than a Ferrari. I miss it.

  19. Burns says:

    I think this design was meant to be the Sirocco 2. When VW passed it became an Isuzu.

  20. 5keptic says:

    why all the lamenting about only looking the part. what about the impulse RS? not that i have ever seen one in person.

    any one know where to get one?

  21. mallthus says:

    Actually, the later ones with Lotus tuned suspension were a nice drive. My biggest recollection from my friend's example was that the plastic would creak and groan miserably in the winter. Tight as a drum in summer though.

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