Here is quite possibly the last Isuzu Statesman DeVille in captivity, freshly photographed in Japan in late April. We can’t confirm exactly how many of these GM-H-built oddities were sold in Japan in the mid 1970s, although the figure 246 pops up regularly on Japanese websites.
The photos are the handiwork of ex-pat Aussie Daniel O’Grady who has worked as an English teacher in the land of the rising sun since 2001. Daniel often goes old-car-spotting in his spare time as he seeks out unusual imports, especially those from his native country.
We recommend checking out Daniel’s many interesting finds via his Wasabi Cars website. Why Wasabi Cars? As he points out, it’s not just the word for Japanese horseradish, but a neat combination of ‘Wa’ (meaning Japan) and ‘sabi’ (meaning rust).
Three years ago, in AMC #62, we published his images of the elusive Mazda Roadpacer AP, the imported and rebadged HJ Holden Premier fitted with a 13B rotary engine. The Roadpacer was Mazda’s attempt to grab a slice of the lucrative diplomatic transport market.
That was the first tick on his personal ‘must see’ and ‘must photograph’ list of Australian cars sold new in the Japanese domestic market. The Isuzu Statesman DeVille was the second.
His quest to see with his own eyes an example of the 5.0-litre V8 HQ-based big car offered by Isuzu intensified when he spotted a photo on a Japanese website. That’s when the detective work began.
He worked out that the modern-day photograph was taken somewhere in southern Kyusha, an overnight drive away from his adopted home, Yayoigaoka. He had a “compass point” at least, but no real lead as such.
Fast forward several months to when Daniel was at a car show.
“I was introduced to some out-of-towners with a particularly well-kept 1973 Toyota Crown. Looking at their licence plate I could see that they came from the very place I believed the elusive Isuzu was lurking. The first question out of my gob was, ‘Would you have happen to have seen a big, black Statesman DeVille?’”
Daniel says this “direct approach is not really cool in Japan”, but it paid dividends on this occasion with the Crown owner’s friend, Yamashita-san, aware of the Statesman and happy to point him towards a large shopping centre, of all places, where he believed it resided.
The ensuing overnight trip was fuelled by “ten cans of those vendingmachine coffees that the Japanese go nuts for” and hope. Eventually, after many wrong turns and much pounding of the pavement, Daniel found his objective.
“I can’t fully express what a treat this was for me. I’d been a fan the HQ Holden since high school. It didn’t matter which body style either. Sedan, stationwagon, ute (either one), panel van, the LWB Statesman, the Monaro; I liked the look of all of them.
“At first glimpse I thought the Midnight Black beast was little different to its Aussie cousins below the equator. But, the more I looked at it, the more I noticed some minor differences. The first thing that jumped out at me was the ‘Isuzu by GMH’ badge on the boot lid and the Kingswood hubcaps.” There was one glaring visual difference. “Fender-mounted side mirrors – the sign of a true JDM! Also, there were the side-facing marker lights, and a pair of reversing lights bolted on under the rear bumper. All tweaks to comply with the local regulations, no doubt.
“In contrast to the grandpa-spec exterior, the cloth on those seats was pretty wild. Those deeply-textured jacquard seats looked like they’d provide near-Bonnie Doon levels of ‘the serenity’. I just wanted to dive it, get comfy and catch up on some sleep. Naturally, I was dreaming.
“According to the original Isuzu sales brochure, this car was ordered with the ‘Ash’ interior and the bench seat. They were about the only options. Coming as standard was the columnshifted Trimatic, electric windows and wood-grain accents; classy but all quite straightforward.”
About that brochure, that is indeed golfer Jack Nicklaus featuring prominently. The Golden Bear wouldn’t have come cheap, but the use of his image does hint strongly to one of the markets Isuzu was targeting with the Statesman. That cavernous boot would have swallowed plenty of