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Guilty Pleasure: Isuzu I-Mark Diesel


1981 Isuzu I-Mark Diesel

1981 Isuzu I-Mark Diesel

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When you start looking at the General Motors family tree, things really start getting weird when you get to the part of the diagram that deals with the T-Body platform.

The Chevette is the best-known of the bunch, of course, but what about the variations of the fastback first-gen Isuzu Gemini?

You've got your "Buick Opel," a crypto-Gemini/quasi-Kadett apparently badge-engineered as part of an effort to water down the once-prestigious Buick marque.

The Australians got the Holden Gemini, and the Koreans scored the Saehan Gemini (which later became the beloved Daewoo Maepsy).

We often forget, however, that it was possible to get a fastback T-Body with a diesel engine in the United States: the Isuzu I-Mark Diesel!

I had forgotten about this car as well, though I had a vague awareness that Chevettes (and IHC Scouts) were available with Isuzu diesel engines for a few years. Then, at last weekend's Campaign To Prevent Gingervitis 24 Hours of LeMons race, the Chevette Diesel-racing Zero Budget Racing team had an East Coast team deliver this '81 I-Mark Diesel as a parts car for their Chevette.

They very kindly let me drive the I-Mark Diesel--which had been sitting in a Maryland field for a decade or two and had an interior full of acorn-packed squirrel nests in addition to scary body rust--and I fell in love with this ridiculous little car. Even in such rough condition, the car ran and drove just fine. I'm sure it gets absurdly high fuel economy, and the ride feels very un-Chevette-ish.

Zero Budget Racing decided that they had no choice but to cage this car and race it… and I feel I have no choice but to shop for a better-looking I-Mark Diesel for myself.

1981 Isuzu I-Mark Diesel

1981 Isuzu I-Mark Diesel

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Comments (4)
  1. First gen Isuzu Gemini way better.
     
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  2. That's a good example of "damning with faint praise".
     
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  3. oh my god.....what memories. My mums first car was a beautiful Lime Green 4 door Holden Gemini..haha. funnily enough a very dependable car !
     
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  4. I had one like the white one when living in Honduras around 1988. Subsidized diesel fuel plus good mileage (kilometraje) made me think that the little old thing was up to the sightly rough roads of that Central America paradise. Less that anemic power and 30% plus slope on some roads meant getting stuck at the bottom of the hill. On the positive side, I learned then to turn around and climb in reverse taking advantage of the longer ratio, like the time I oversleep in a motel with a sightly married woman. So when a passerby made the mistake of asking me Cuanto cuesta? was the end of it.
     
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