If you google “Piazza”, you’ll learn it’s an online learning app for students to discuss their homework and stuff with each other. It’s also Italian for square, as in the open squares typically found in the middle of small towns where the locals come together to do business, celebrate, and whatnot.
Fitting, then, it would also be the name of an Isuzu car very close to many of our hearts. Here in the USDM, we knew this machine as the Isuzu Impulse. The reality, though, is that Isuzu called it the Piazza. It was a front engined, RWD sports car, with a variety of Tuned by Lotus bits bolted up at the factory.
I’m reminded of the classic Joe Isuzu commercial where Joe races a speeding bullet in an Impulse Turbo. He’s in the desert. And the thought of an Italian, spaghetti western version of that commercial makes me smile.
Something else that makes me smile is how Matt’s used his car projects as therapy. The world is big and crazy and sometimes it’s all just too much. We’ve all got good days and bad days, right? How fortunate are we to be able to pop the hood (or bonnet) and tend to tangible things that actually make sense?
I got a FEVER! And the only prescription is MORE PIAZZA.
It’s an amazing machine!
[tgp] Introductions: Okay, so we chatted on Instagram and you have an Isuzu Piazza Turbo, aka; Impulse. Tell us a little bit about it—and yourself. Anything else you’d like to mention?
[ma] I’m a 28 year old electrical engineer, I’ve always been into cars and brought up around them, always been an interest and fascination of mine. The car as you’ve said is an Isuzu Piazza Turbo, or Impulse in the US, it’s got 65k miles, lowered by probably about 5 inches, on a set of 15×8 J wheels; just tasteful little modifications here and there really.
On the Piazza Turbo…
[tgp] Did you really lower the car five inches? That sounds a bit extreme. Does the Piazza sit that high in stock trim? Is this for handling or style?
[ma] Yes I really did! It was horrendously high when I got the car. My intention wasn’t to lower it that much, but it happened and it looked great. It’s purely for styling. I don’t use the car every day. I just wanted it to look good, which I think I’ve achieved.
[tgp] The most important automotive opinions are those of real, actual owners. As an Isuzu Piazza/Impulse owner, could you share a little unvarnished truth with the rest of us? What do you love about them? What do you not love about them?
[ma] They’re a weird, wonderful and confusing car, these. Generally, I’ve had no real issues with mine aside from age related concerns. I love the little quirks it has, like the “eyelids” and the proper 80s interior. It’s like nothing i’ve ever seen. Honestly, there’s not really anything I don’t love about them, although in my opinion they look a bit naff in standard form, but many will disagree.
[tgp] How did you end up with this car? Why this one in particular?
[ma] I was actually offered a different one at first which turned out to be too much of a project, then was put on to this one. I wanted a project, as in 2019 I was diagnosed with depression, anxiety and ADHD, so I wanted something to distract myself from my own head. The Piazza has done that. This particular one had been sat in a barn for approximately 16 years, so was a perfect distraction for me to get back on the road and modify.
[tgp] I love that you included mental health in the equation. I’m very much fighting an uphill battle with people who fail to see the parallels between “self-help” and “DIY”. Rather than asking the audience to read between the lines and make assumptions, could you maybe speak to how, specifically, “playing with cars” has helped you? (Not asking you to bare your soul. I just want more people to connect the dots and see that it’s legitimately therapeutic.)
[ma] Honestly, it’s one of the best things I’ve done. Getting a project, it distracts your mind from “real life”. It’s something where you can go and complete some jobs, fix some things, and just forget about the stresses of day to day life. Whenever I’m having a bad day with my mental health, I’ll go outside, put a bit of music on, and just work on the car. Whether it’s a big job or just a small little 5-minute job, it all helps to get your head straight.
The Piazza Community
[tgp] How’s the Piazza community doing these days? Where do y’all hangout, share tech, and whatnot?
[ma] Surprisingly, considering how few there are nowadays, it’s a brilliant, tight community. The IPTOC (Isuzu Piazza Turbo Owners Club) run by Clive has a huge wealth of knowledge on these cars. That, along with the Facebook groups ,we all pitch in and help each other keep these going.
[tgp] I’m always fascinated by the global car community. What’s your experience been like with the Isuzu Piazza/Impulse community beyond your own borders?
[ma] It’s brilliant. Last year, for example, I wanted to do the quad headlight swap, which is something we didn’t get here in the UK. After discussing this on Facebook, one of the owners sent me a set of the brackets so I could do this. Everyone is full of ideas and help for each other.
This Gearhead Life
[tgp] When you think about automotive culture in general, what stands out as being the biggest issue we should be working on together? What’s your biggest concern and what should we be doing about it?
[ma] The biggest issue for me is the friendliness of the culture. It seems more and more than there’s “cliques” or groups nowadays that don’t like or won’t help others. Yeah, not everything’s going to be to your taste, but we’re all into the same thing—we all love cars. We should just be more accepting and more friendly to each other.
[tgp] Who’s made the biggest difference in your life with cars? How so?
[ma] There’s been a few recently, the Driven Escape group run by Connor Ellis on Facebook is brilliant, he runs a non-profit, charity mental health group which is aimed at car enthusiasts. My own family for always supporting my obsession with cars and anything with wheels. The Whyatt family for helping put my dumb ideas in to reality. And my partner Holly for always pushing me to get stuff done and generally being my rock.
Hip to be Square
This is what it’s all about, isn’t it? We’re all big on DIY. We take older, often neglected machines, and we turn them into shiny jewels that out-perform their original designs. It’s an intentional thing we do. You might think that turning wrenches and playing with cars is just something silly you do for fun—but for some of us, DIY takes on a whole new meaning.
I didn’t reach out to Matt looking for a story about how turning wrenches helps with mental health—but I’m so glad he shared that with us. It makes a lot of sense. Our machines are tangible things. We understand how they work and what makes them tick. And the more time we spend thinking about our relationships with our cars and trucks and bikes and boats and planes and so on, the more we see the impacts they have on our lives.
What’s the difference between DIY and self-help? Either way, you’re doing things or helping yourself do things that matter. What we know about cars applies to our lives well beyond the driveway
If working on your car has made a difference in your life, please get in touch.