A-Z of Marques No. 26 Isuzu

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Indy Lifestyle Online

The marque: Japanese General Motors outpost with a long history

The history: For most of us, the Isuzu name begins and ends with the Trooper 4x4, but we unknowingly see many more of Isuzu's designs every day. A Vauxhall Frontera is based on an Isuzu Rodeo, a Vauxhall Midi van is an Isuzu Fargo, a Vauxhall Brava pick-up is also an Isuzu, all of them UK-built.

It used to work the other way, too. The Isuzu Gemini began as a modified version of the General Motors T-car, also made in Europe as the Vauxhall Chevette and Opel Kadett, and the Aska was a Japanese-market J-car, known to us as the Vauxhall Cavalier. Isuzu ceased to make cars in 1993, and has concentrated on 4x4s, pick-ups and vans since.

General Motors bought into Isuzu in 1971, but the Japanese company began in 1916 when the Tokyo Ishikawajiama Ship Building and Engineering Co merged with the Tokyo Gas and Electric Co to start car production. In 1918, the company did a deal with Britain's Wolseley to make and sell Wolseleys for the Far East, and the first cars appeared in 1922.

Via various name changes the company became Isuzu in 1949, having in 1936 created Japan's first diesel engine. In 1953, Isuzu began to make British Hillmans under licence, but by 1961 it was building its own car designs called Bellel, Bellet and Florian. The Bellel was Japan's first diesel car.

The boxy Trooper, also known as the Rodeo Bighorn, appeared in 1981. Thirteen years later its descendant was briefly marketed by GM here as the Vauxhall Monterey, even while independent importer International Motors continued to sell the Trooper. The conflict was unsustainable and the Vauxhall was dropped. Isuzu engines power India's Hindustan Ambassador (based on a 1950s Morris Oxford) and Contessa (1970s Vauxhall Victor) too.

There is one other memorable Isuzu moment: the Piazza. Giugiaro created a then-beautiful concept car called Ace of Clubs, and Isuzu bought the design. Visually unchanged outside and in, but built on an Opel Manta-derived base, it turned into quite a good car with its turbo engine and Lotus-honed suspension.

Defining model: Piazza, sleek, wedge-shaped and handsome, the only Isuzu with a tangible identity.

They say: And you thought we only made the Trooper.

We say: Trooping the colourless; hail the invisible brand.

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