One of the featured marques at this year’s Nostalgic2Days was Isuzu. It’s a brand that usually doesn’t get much love, here or in Japan, so it was a rare opportunity to see some machines from the company’s own collection.
In March 1979 Giorgetto Giugiaro unveiled the Asso di Fiori, Italian for “Ace of Clubs.” That was the design study that would become the beloved, then forgotten, then much lamented Isuzu Piazza, or Impulse. The concept was futuristic, sure, but the surprise was that the production Impulse was almost entirely faithful to concept. Plus, its sleek lines came at a time when giganto safety bumpers protruded everywhere like fire escapes from New York City apartment blocks.
The Asso di Fiori is rarely ever available for public viewing. In all the years JNC has been covering nostalgic car shows in Japan, this is the first time we’ve seen an official Isuzu presence, and it was good to know that a collection of their important vehicles exists somewhere, even if it’s not a museum open to the public.
Even more surprisingly, Isuzu also brought out a classic Elf, conjuring images of a secret warehouse packed with rows of old COE trucks. Of course, vehicles like this is what Isuzu is mainly known for these days, but Elf heritage dates back to 1959. The second-gen example was built from 1968-75, while modern iterations are sold in the States as the Isuzu NPR or rebadged as the GM W-series.
The Isuzu goodness didn’t stop there, either. Isuzu Sports, Japan’s most prominent restoration shop specializing in Isuzus had a strong presence as well, which included a gorgeous hand-built 1969 117 Coupe.
To just see how closely the production version hews to the Asso di Fiori, Isuzu Sports helpfully brought out a Piazza. The headlights had to be more upright and tucked to conform to regulations, and the greenhouse is a bit taller, but few models can claim such a resemblance to their concepts. Even the showerhead wheels made it to production.
The later, mass-produced 117s were no less stunning. To cap off the Isuzu celebration, Nos2Days invited three drivers — Shigeki Asaoka, Tachio Yonemura and Tomohiko Tsutsumi — from the “golden age” of Isuzu’s factory racing program, 1963-73. For more on Isuzu Sports, take a look at Bart Wilkus’ visit back in 2013.
In Part 01, we saw the incredible Nissan MID4 concept, but Nissan also brought the MID4 II, an even more extreme take on the midship sports car. Whereas the original 1985 MID4 housed a VG30DE engine, the second coming was powered by a twin-turbo VG30DETT good for a whopping 330 hp, and this was back in 1987.
From the firewall forward, it’s a flatter Honda NSX, but traces of the facelifted Z31 300ZX can be seen from the rear. Our photographer David Lovett reports that up close, the fit and finish is a bit rough, emblematic of a one-off concept, but the idea of what could’ve been still sets our hearts a-flutter. Sadly, neither MID4 was produced.
Nissan brought an old blue truck of their own, the 1966 A221 Cablight. Powered by a 1.2L OHV four-cylinder, it served as the entry level commercial truck. While the Zama example is a short bed, a long bed, van and even bus versions were offered.
While some of us mourn the rising prices of Japanese classics, there’s a brighter side: Expensive, down-to-bare-metal restorations become financially justifiable. Would it be worth pouring $50,000 into a Cosmo Sport a few years ago when it was worth $80,000? No, they would be left to rust. At a quarter-million, it suddenly makes sense.
Red Megaphone has long been known for their slick, street custom Hakosukas, but this year the took a different approach with a beautifully stock Cherry X1-R. There have been a lot of atomic cockroaches in the news recently. The next blue chip JNC?
There are few things more symbolic of old school Japan than a stock, golden green, Toyoglide-equipped Crown with whitewalls and a parking helper mast. The gleaming, intricate grille says all that needs to be said about its occupants.
Rarely does one see a 510 Bluebird that has not been turned into a street rod. The vinyl roof, hubcaps and lofty suspension height make it an endearing example of an iconic car, and the fact that it’s an SSS is icing on the cake.
Lest we give the impression that Nos2Days is just a museum of old stockers, plenty of racier resto-mods were on hand as well. We saw the Speed Master Komine TA22 recently at the New Year Meeting, but with the hood off and suspension exposed, there was no shortage of onlookers examining what makes the 2TG-powered demon such a force at vintage track days.
The Tea Valley is a modernized Hakosuka, with a 3.2L-stroked L28 sitting inside an engine bay lined with carbon fiber rather than sheetmetal. The suspension has been thoroughly updated as well, and retro-modern Volk TE37Vs are the perfect wheel for this 300-plus horsepower resto-mod.
Beastly as the previous Skyline might be, there’s still something special about a bone stock example. This Kenmeri hasn’t been cloned to a GT-R, still wears its 2000GT badge proudly, and even retains its ride height and original hubcaps. It’s beautifully original in every respect and instantly transports you back in time.
Prices on early GT-Rs have gone way up in the past year, and the S20 engines that are at the heart of them have not escaped the pull. They seemed stratospherically expensive at $30,000; now at least one is being offered at $53,500.
Fairladies of all generations were welcomed, with a Z31 and Z32 2+2 representing the Wangan-blasting Haichmaru Hero contingent.
Younger Fairladies may be faster, but none are as graceful as the Fairlady Z432, which happens to be the cover car featured in the show posters and the April issue of Nostalgic Hero. It will be interesting to see how much the one going up for sale at Ameila Island next week will sell for.
To be continued… And in case you missed it, here’s Part 01 of our 2015 Nostalgic2Days coverage, as well as articles from the 2014 (Parts 01, 02, 03, 04) and 2013 (Parts 01, 02, 03) shows. Also, check out the bonus gallery below.
Is there a story behind that particular shade of blue that the Isuzu ELF is painted in? Isuzu STILL sell them in that colour. And I could be wrong but I think a few other manufacturers do too.
Here in Aus they’re all straight white but everywhere throughout asia they’re that blue.
Easy! The JIS swatch number 1 (Z-8721) includes the standard industrial colors. What I call ‘Air Cleaner Orange’ (Prince / Nissan), ‘Gomi Truck Blue’ (23-ku) ‘Slow Train Beige’ (Kominato-sen), and my fave ‘Power Plant Green’…
In this case, when someone says, ‘Make me a blue truck’. They get a blue truck, and only a blue (#3170B9) truck. The Japan Color Research Institute and the JIS says so. Neko.
The MID4 II seamlessly combines my love for the NSX and the Z31. I’m in heaven, and I don’t want to come back.
Wow! These are the first photos of the Ace of Clubs I have ever seen that aren’t some dated magazine scans or promo photos from back in the day! This is an amazing set of old Zus!
So cool that Isuzu Sports was there to represent as well. Makes me miss my Impulse already! 🙁
The Ace of Clubs concept is truly stunning, as is that white production car.
The best styling genes of the MID4 II were apparently passed on the the Silvia (rear half) and the the 1st gen Infinit Q45 (tail lights).
“That Blue”; It’s one of the most utilitarian colors of the Japanese road. It’s actually one of my favorite colors but hard to replicate here in the U.S. It’s closer to the classic powder blue of the British roadsters.
Once again, thank you for the fascinating coverage!
Probably off topic but why do “they” keep trying metallic reds. There always off the mark. Honda’s deep San Marino Red is a classic. (Unfortunately, also not very durable UV-wise).
Give me dipped in plastic solids like these classics.
Oh and don’t forget Lotus Engineering’s hand in the Isuzu Impulse.
Forget all those cars Ben, here’s your chance to redeem yourself by buying what appears to be the very first Toyota 2000GT
I’ve resisted writing about it until I got more details because I’ve been told by some of the world’s foremost 2000GT experts that serial number one was the Shelby car. It’s definitely interesting!
Well let me know if you’re intersested, I wouldn’t want to bid against you and make the car unaffordable hehe
I adore isuzu almost as much as I do z. I’ve had 5 turbo pulses…. I was trying for 1 of each color! Lol…. Why some girls collect shoes is beyond me when you can COLLECT CAR DESIGNERS!!!! I had 5 italdesign, 17 z, 1 conquest, etc…. Pinniferina, bertone, 🙂
Please isuzu come make cool cars!!!! I’m in desperate need!!! 🙂
Designer cars over designer shoes? Makes sense to me.
Yeah, it sucks that passenger Isuzus are no more here in the USA. In a way though, I am glad. I would hate to see a completely neutered, mall crawler 2015 Trooper, which is definitely what it would be, given today’s lame SUV market.
The Piazza was really a rolling concept, just like the VehiCROSS that came 20 years later. Both of these automobiles are certainly going to be serious classic collector cars in the future. The Impulse is basically already there, but the appreciation level just isn’t as large as it could be. The VehiCROSS is at the point now where bone stock examples are getting harder and harder to find, as this was a vehicle that attracted a niche group of 4×4 fans that love modding….myself included!
As a kid I had all the ’79 Chevy Truck colors. That Blue was one of five you could get the LUV in – the others were red, yellow black and white. There was a similar light blue for the domestic C-10/30 but it was one of twenty-odd choices!
For colors read “brochures”…