Here's a vintage Japanese car you might not have heard of.
Light and agile, the Bellett was sold in Japan from the early '60s until the early 1970s.
This final-year example sports some period-correct modifications.
Today, the average person might only know Isuzu as a manufacturer of trucks and buses. Or, if you're of a certain age, maybe you remember fictional pitchman "Joe Isuzu" exaggerating the facts in a goofy effort to promote the likes of the Trooper. But Isuzu—the company's name means "fifty bells"—has more than a century's worth of history, and some of the passenger cars it built are hidden gems.
Here's one, up for auction on Bring A Trailer—which, like Car and Driver, is part of Hearst Autos. It's a 1973 Isuzu Bellett, complete with some very tasty period-correct modifications. It's like the runty lovechild of a Datsun 510 and a Mazda Cosmo, and if you make the winning bid, you'll have the only one in town.
Before the Bellett, Isuzu built the Hillman Imp under license from the Rootes Group in the UK. The Imp was a rear-engine compact, not totally unlike a contemporary Volkswagen, but the Bellett was surprisingly advanced when it debuted in 1963. It had fully independent suspension, rear-wheel drive, and the peppier GT version got disc brakes up front.
This later-model GT has the 1800cc single-overhead-cam four-cylinder engine that was factory rated at 113 horsepower when new. That's less than a contemporary BMW 2002tii, but the Bellett is also 200 pounds lighter. Besides which, the twin Mikuni sidedraft carburetors and performance exhaust might have given this example a little more pep in its step. The suspension has been lowered, and the wheel choice is chef's kiss perfection: a set of RS Watanabe performance alloys. RS Watanabes are Japan's version of the classic Minilite wheels, and both were the go-to choice in period racing.
The interior of this little car is fantastically businesslike, with a three-spoke wheel and a wooden shift knob for the four-speed transmission. Checkered floor mats complete the look.
Recent work listed includes rebuilding the rear brake cylinders, and replacing the water pump, battery, and spark plugs. True mileage is unknown, and the car is selling with a New Hampshire title.
Roll this Isuzu up to your local car meet and you'll be answering questions about it all morning. The only way someone could upstage for JDM coolness here is with a Toyota 2000GT, and those cost a million dollars these days.
Even if you didn't know about this cool little Isuzu before, here's your chance to be number one with a Bellett. The auction ends on January 31.
You Might Also Like