This is the Isuzu I-Mark Turbo RS, it’s a little-remembered hot hatch from the golden age of turbo that was designed by Italian great Giorgetto Giugiaro, it had suspension tuned by Lotus, and it was built by Isuzu in Japan.

Perhaps due to its lack of fame relative to hot hatches like the Golf GTI, the Isuzu I-Mark Turbo RS remains relatively affordable – that is when a good example comes up for sale that hasn’t been thrashed to death or modified by a succession of enthusiastic teenagers.

Fast Facts – The Isuzu-I Mark Turbo RS

  • The Isuzu I-Mark Turbo RS first appeared for the 1988 model year and it left production after the 1990 model year, it was in production for just two years and so it remains a rare sight on the road today.
  • The Turbo RS version was based on the second generation Isuzu Gemini, a car that was also marketed in different countries as the Chevrolet Gemini, Pontiac Sunburst, Geo Spectrum, Holden Gemini, Chevrolet Spectrum, Isuzu Gemini, and as the Isuzu I-Mark.
  • General Motors had a major stake in Japanese commercial vehicle and automobile manufacturer Isuzu, GM also owned Lotus at the time of the I-Mark Turbo RS release which is why the car has Lotus tuned suspension.
  • The I-Mark Turbo RS was praised by period reviewers, it offered a fun turbocharged engine, sharp handling, and great styling all in an affordable package.

The Isuzu Gemini

The Isuzu Gemini was a series of compact production cars that were offered over three generations between 1974 and 1993 before it was replaced by a rebadged version of the Honda Domani for an additional two generations until the year 2000.

Above Video: This is the original review of the Isuzu I-Mark Turbo RS by MotorWeek, who sing the praises of the little hot hatch.

The Isuzu-built Geminis would become popular both in Japan and around the world, they were often rebadged (or badge-engineered if you prefer) by other automakers to be sold using more familiar names in the hopes of boosting appeal with buyers.

Versions of the Gemini would be sold in Japan, the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Indonesia, Chile, Argentina, Europe, Central America, South Korea, Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines, and Thailand.

The Isuzu I-Mark Turbo RS

The Isuzu I-Mark Turbo RS was the top of the line model in the second generation Isuzu Gemini model family, a model family that had been initially designed by Giorgetto Giugiaro. After Giugiaro had finalized the styling it was sent to GM for approval, and this is where things began to go awry.

Isuzu I-Mark Turbo RS Ad

Image DescriptionThis is an ad for the Isuzu I-Mark Turbo RS that was published in automotive magazines in the 1980s. It promotes both the fuel economy and performance of the car – targeting the hot hatch fanbase.

GM made a few relatively minor changes to the design but no one at Isuzu or GM ran the changes by Giugiaro, when he learned what had happened he refused to have his name associated with the car and cut all ties with Isuzu. He wouldn’t publicly admit to having designed the car until a decade after it went out of production. As a result, some have called it “the forgotten Giugiaro.”

This hiccup aside, the I-Mark Turbo RS was a remarkable performer by the standards of the time, most of the original Giugiaro styling remained, and Lotus had been hired to fine-tune the suspension. This all resulted in a car with excellent performance, sharp handling, popular styling, and good fuel economy to boot.

The car shared the same basic steel unibody as the standard I-Mark, the suspension had been completely reworked by Lotus with new springs, thicker sway bars, and tuned shock absorbers. Period ads for the car claimed it could achieve .79g on a skid pad, just like a Porsche 944.

In the inline-four cylinder engine has a displacement of 1.5 liters, it has double overhead cams, four valves per cylinder, and electronic fuel injection. In standard trim it produced 125 bhp at 7,800 rpm and it could do the 0-62 mph dash in 8.1 seconds – not a bad time for a hot hatch in the 1980s.

Isuzu I-Mark Turbo RS 12

Image DescriptionThe interior of the I-Mark Turbo RS looks a lot like the standard car, it does have two front Recaro seats and some additional instrumentation however.

Despite the promise offered by the I-Mark Turbo RS it was never a particularly strong seller, and it would only be offered for two years. Today the surviving examples haven’t yet landed on the radar of most Radwood faithful, and so the values haven’t begun the same upward trajectory as its rivals from the era, like the Golf GTI or 205 GTI.

The 1988 Isuzu I-Mark Turbo RS Shown Here

The car you see here is an original survivor from 1988, it has very few modifications from original, in fact the only one I can see is the more recent addition of period correct 14” Enkei alloy wheels.

The car is finished in red with a black interior, the interior is still fitted with the original Recaro seats with their improved bolster support over the seats in the stock car.

This car is now being offered for sale out of Eldersburg, Maryland on Marqued. If you’d like to read more about it or register to bid you can visit the listing here.

Isuzu I-Mark Turbo RS 10 Isuzu I-Mark Turbo RS 11 Isuzu I-Mark Turbo RS 9 Isuzu I-Mark Turbo RS 8 Isuzu I-Mark Turbo RS 7 Isuzu I-Mark Turbo RS 6 Isuzu I-Mark Turbo RS 5 Isuzu I-Mark Turbo RS 4 Isuzu I-Mark Turbo RS 3 Isuzu I-Mark Turbo RS 2

Images courtesy of Marqued.

Published by Ben Branch -