At a time, Isuzu imported Bellett and Florian passenger cars into the Netherlands. This started back in 1963 when the Dutch company Seinen in the Hague started importing the Isuzu Bellel and Bellett. In fact, Isuzu was the first Japanese car company to set foot on Dutch soil. The Bellel (with diesel engine) was mainly sold to taxi operators because what better way to prove reliability than running it as a taxi. Naturally, this also backfired when they proved to be far less reliable than their European counterparts. Toyota repeated the same strategy with the Crown and was successful as the Crown proved to be a reliable car. You could argue Isuzu was a pioneer and Toyota followed and succeeded.
Near the end of the decade, the Bellel was replaced by the Florian. By 1972, the Bellett was replaced in Japan by the Isuzu Gemini. The Gemini is an Opel Kadett C built in license through General Motors. Opel has a very strong foothold in the Netherlands and therefore the Gemini couldn’t be sold in the Netherlands.
Isuzu sold the Florian until the late 1970s and after that, stopped selling passenger cars (with the exception of their offroad/truck/SUV offerings) altogether. I wonder how many of those Isuzu passenger cars sold within those two decades are left in the Netherlands? Today I will dive into how many are left and what specifics I can find about them.
I knew Isuzu imported the four-door and two-door Belletts into the Netherlands. I kind of figured those would be just the run-of-the-mill cars where nothing special noteworthy I can mention. However, looking into how many are left made me realize some of them were actually kind of special!
From the data I extract a total of five Belletts, of which three have two doors and the other two (obviously) four. All three two-door Belletts are either 1600 Sport or a 1800 GT. Both four-door Belletts are 1500 models, so they feature the 1.5 litre G150 engine with an output of 71 hp. There was also a 1.8 litre diesel variant with a whopping 50 hp, but none of them survived.
According to Wikipedia, the 1600 Sport (in some markets sold as the 1600GT) was introduced in 1968 and featured the G161 SOHC engine. Even though named Sport, it only had an output of 87 hp but later this increased to 93 hp. That’s respectable for a 1.6 litre engine. The 1800 GT is even more exciting as it features the G180SS engine that outputs, thanks to a set of dual carbs, a respectable 114 hp. The fact that these two survive is mind-boggling!
After the success of the Bellel in the Netherlands, the new Florian replaced it in 1968. The Florian was designed as the four-door Isuzu 117 by Ghia. The 117 coupé and Floria share the floorpan and drivetrain. Why Isuzu decided to split the 117 into the separate models Florian and 117 coupé is unknown. The Florian received a mild facelift in 1970 and another one in 1977. The export models to the Netherlands skipped the minor facelift, but we did receive the 1977 facelift.
I found a total of three Florians registered in the Netherlands. All three Florians are pre-1977-facelift models and sold in in 1969, 1971 and 1972 respectively. I put the Florians in the same graph as the Belletts and you can see they basically all were sold during roughly the same timeframe:
Isuzu Piazza bonus
While the 117 sedan was designed by Ghia, the 117 coupé was designed by Guigiaro. Naturally, Isuzu returned to Guigiaro for its successor. As a replacement of the Isuzu 117 coupé it was a well-designed and developed car. It’s a shame the Isuzu Piazza was never sold in the Netherlands.
However, I did find a red 1985 Piazza registered as the Piazza XL. From what I was able to find, the Piazza was sold in the US as the Impulse and everywhere else (outside Japan) as the Piazza XL. The Piazza I found has been imported into the Netherlands in 1988. This means the Piazza was only three years old when it was imported.
In my journey, I also searched for Belletts, Florians and Piazzas in the Netherlands searching on their license plate. I was able to find some of them and even a forum post by the daughter of the owner. What interested me most is that this owner actually owns (at least) four of the nine Isuzu classics that I found! This definitely deserves a follow-up post!
I’m happy I was able to find nine (!) classic Isuzu cars in the Netherlands. It’s interesting to see the majority that survive are all from the same time period. Strangely enough, there are no survivors of the Bellel, any of the earlier Belletts nor any of the later Florians. Maybe the earlier cars just weren’t worth saving when they became old? And as the number of sales dwindled, the number of Florians that could survive was just too low.
I can’t tell how many of these are still road-worthy as eight of them are more than 50 years old today. This is significant because when a car is 50 years or older, in the Netherlands this car is exempted from APK (MOT) and therefore not registered when its MOT expires. Naturally, the Piazza isn’t older than 50 years and its MOT expired in 2003. I know all four cars owned by the Isuzu enthusiasts are still roadworthy, so that’s at least something.