It’s hard enough to track down an AE86 in any sort of condition these days but a few years ago, contributing writer Dejan found one. We’d never seen him so happy and that was understandable as the Toyota (aka Hachiroku) was one of the most iconic Eighties drift machines from Japan. It was a sweet find but there was something built during the same time, from the same country and very similar to the Corolla — but which would probably prove almost impossible to come across today. It was the first-generation Isuzu Piazza Turbo.
The hatchback with its edgy Giugiaro styling, turbocharged four-pot mated to a four-speed manual and Lotus-tuned handling was at the top of every enthusiast’s wish list. Also known as the Impulse, the two-door — with a long bonnet and quad headlights — was one of the most interesting cars Isuzu ever made. Some would go as far as to say it was the company’s best. It was certainly its coolest and the prototype even had a catchy nickname; Giorgetto called it the Ace of Clubs and the successor to the 117 Coupé went down rather well when it made its debut in 1980. Just as pleasing as its wedgy looks was the way it drove; with a modified rear-wheel-drive GM T-Body platform and a variety of engines to choose from (including two 2.0-litre four-cylinders; one had a single overhead cam and the other a double overhead cam producing 120 and 135 horsepower respectively), it proved very popular but five years later things got really serious; Isuzu offered a new 2.0-litre turbo four with 140 horses and 225Nm of torque and blew the Celica right out of the water.
The Italian designed, British tuned and Japanese produced Piazza had it all in its locker but automotive trends were changing in the Eighties and front-wheel drive hot hatches were becoming more popular than their rear-wheel counterparts. Also, due to Isuzu’s tiny dealer network, the coupé struggled to compete against its rivals. It soldiered on until 1990, and then the second gen came — and went by ’92.
You’ll be very lucky to find a Piazza Turbo today but if you do prepare yourself for a shock; it shouldn’t cost you more than Dh25,000.