If you've never heard of an Isuzu Bellel, don't worry you're in good company. Although these little Isuzus were the first diesel car in Japan and sport one of the coolest set of taillights we've ever laid eyes on, they were never officially imported to the US. Accordingly not many people have ever seen or heard of the handful of Bellels that made it over here back in the 1960s.
Even fewer of the cars that originally made it over here have survived several decades later, which is exactly why this Bellel caught our eye when we came across it last week. Some cars are interesting because of their history or design while other cars are interesting because they have been built into amazing custom creations—this Bellel is interesting just because it is so incredibly rare in this country.
Although the Bellel is sometimes confused with the smaller and better known Bellet, it's not a typo but an entirely different car. 37,206 Bellels were produced between 1961 and 1966. As the car was the first Isuzu independent design it was named by putting together the English word Bell and the Roman numeral for 50 to represent a translation of Isuzu's meaning in Japanese—"50 Bells".
This particular Bellel has project car hell written all over it. The car doesn't run, has some rust (less than you would expect) and has clearly suffered the cosmetic effects of sitting idle underneath the hot sun for years. Of the Bellels originally produced we can only guess how many survived to serve as parts cars and where they are. Luckily the seller is happy to point out the 2.0 liter diesel sitting underneath the hood of the Bellel can be found in forklifts and other industrial applications.
With this in mind we can only wonder what future awaits this Bellel. The decision to restore the car would be an act of pure lunacy, financial disaster and true project car hell—not that we don't support it. Perhaps more likely is someone attempting to get this car back to driving status and willing to trade having an ultra rare car for the lack of any domestic parts availability to speak of.
Currently the bidding on the Bellel is at $500 with less than a day left so at least the entry price to project car hell will likely be affordable. Whether this car ends up as a parts car, weird daily driver, restoration project or even returns to funky lawn ornament status when the auction ends the car will have a new owner. We would love to know exactly what they plan to do with this ultra rare Isuzu Bellel project.