Isuzu are not a company you would usually associate with sleek Supercars. However for at least one brief moment this was the world they played in. At the 1969 Tokyo Motor Show Isuzu presented the first of three concept cars, the Bellett MX1600. The cars were designed by Tom Tjaarda, who worked for Ghia at that time.
The car had a mid mounted 1.6 litre engine from the GT-R version of the Bellett powering the rear wheels. Inside the car was a two seat sports affair, and being Japanese it was right hand drive. However, this isn’t quite the car the in question here. For in 1970, Isuzu produced another car along the same lines - the MX1600-II,
The car was now white, and featured dual front lights instead of the previous pop-up lights. Blinkers were now in their place. And there were distinctive gills behind the doors. The reasons for the change remain unclear, but it is believed that the dual front lights were meant to provide a visual link to the Bellett GT-R.
And this is the model you see here, made by Diapet in 1/40. And what a mighty fine model it is, in the best Diapet tradition. It was a contemporary release, so it features all the good things from diecast of that era. Heavy metal, cast in details, and opening everything.
The frunk opens, as do both doors. And the back cover has a neat party trick. In otder to open it, you need to pull it upwards first...
...and then pull it back to reveal the engine, which is a separate chromed plastic piece buried deep inside.
Of course, the whole thing works extremely smoothly. The weakest point of this model are probably the wheels, as they chose to put fat wheels on rather narrow rims, which looks a bit awkward from some angles. But I can easily forgive that.
Isuzu had no intention of putting these cars into production, it was all show to promote their GT-R powerplants. But that’s not the end of it. Some of you might have noticed that this car bears a striking resemblance to another 1970s Supercar. Because - at that very time - another company was looking for a design for a mid-engined sports car. That company also turned to Ghia, who were only too happy to give them a rather similar design. And that design became the DeTomaso Pantera:
Maybe all that Isuzu needed was a V8 and a girl in hot pants?
But wait, there’s more... For Isuzu launched a third (and last) Tjaarda design in 1971 -the Isuzu Bellett Sport Wagon:
That one really wasn’t one of Tjaarda’s better efforts - and remains thankfully forgotten these days. (Though, if someone made a diecast model, I’d probably want it...).
And that folks really is the end of it now. Enjoy your Sundays everyone.