The PR91 Bellett GT type R Option
Bellett GT/R is the loud version of the original design and was released in late 1969 based upon a revised and update model. Six years after the first Japanese GT car was announced, this most radical of revisions was launched and immediately garnered a cult following in Japan. Apart from a few private exports and some dealer arranged purchases, the GT/R was not exported from Japan.
Building upon the race track success of both the PR90 and the PR91 GTX the GT/R was fitted with the Isuzu DOHC engine that had been developed for Isuzu’s exotic Giugiaro designed Ghia 117 Coupe along with a number of the race Team Isuzu competition sport kit components. The lighter pressing and panels plus improved box bracing as part of the model update in late 1969 meant that extra weight of the DOHC 1584cc engine was not felt and the performance delivered was at the upper end with 200kph top end and standing quarter in the 16 second bracket.
Design and layout are as per the previous Bellett GT’s but beefed up. This is the Yokohama City factory café racer Bellett GT with colour choices of gaudy bright orange and black with racing stripes and blacked out bonnet with air vents. Colours also included blue, forest green, white, yellow, silver and red. Split front bumpers, lower ride height and induction noise from the twin side draft induction signal a Bellett GT/R but there are now probably more than were ever factory built so care is required when seeking a good or genuine example to either drive or restore.
You need to remember that all Bellett GTs have a sequential chassis numbering system, regardless of the model variation. In the Fujisawa plant the production line assembled cars in sequence and the parts and finish were to build to order rather than to a production schedule. Thus you would see PR91 GTs being assembled alongside PR91W and PR95’s to build sheets all in a single conveyor row. Production Bellett GT/R’s started from chassis number PR91 4209488 and were interspersed with other PR91/95 builds until the end of production in early 1973. There were around 40 updates and mods over a standard car to complete a GT/R in 1969 and most of these were subsequently incorporated into the following year general model builds.
Buying a GT/R as a classic car requires just a few running and visual checks if it drives and stops ok. The DOHC early engines eventually wear the timing chain tensioner and may have duplex chain rattle on overrun, but it’s a simple repair. High mileage cars have a tendency to burn some oil and repairs can be relatively expensive. The majority of early PR91 GT/R cars had blacked out door tops rather than stainless steel although this was replaced after several months and many variations could be ordered. Instruments were updated for the DOHC engine with brake piping and wheel cylinders modified with other specific requirements for a GT/R included a larger fuel tank (same as all 1971 onwards) seats, gauges, head lining (same as all from mid 1970), LSD and unique steering wheel. One point to watch out for is the ammeter earthing fault in the later dash layout. This arises from the plastic insulator gradually creeping under spring washer pressure, allowing the positive to contact the instrument light earth return. Needs a 10 yen fibre insulator and most have been fixed.
As this model Bellett GT is mostly Japanese sourced there is the same minor rust issues that applies to the early models but there is an added issue of potential corrosion/rust from severe winter and storms and poor local repairs in Japan. There are cars available in Japan and an amazing array of agents who can facilitate export and transport.
Due to the cult status you will need to be able to determine real from built up cars so look for the unique brake master cylinder and piping, brake booster and proper G161-100 xxx series engine. Isuzu production stated to the FIA that 1,332 GT/Rs were made from August 1969 to March 1973 with the records spanning over 3,000 DOHC engine numbers which also included the 117 engines as supplied for the 117 coupe production. Chassis and engine numbers are unrelated due to homologation builds and continued model refinements. The GT/R stopped production when the new low emission laws came into force in 1973.
Driving a GT/R is very rewarding and it goes as well as it looks and turns heads even over 50 years on from its release. Make sure the original air cleaner box is intact otherwise you will soon tire of the induction roar of ram tubes when touring. The GT/R turns in and handles well with a hint of understeer as it approaches the limit, unlike the standard Bellett GT that heads towards oversteer as it approaches it’s dynamic limit.
Prices are moderate to high for reasonable for good cars (3M Yen +) with shipping and import costs adding to that purchase price. Prices were steady for a few years but lately have been rising as this cult classic is starting to be appreciated in more markets for its leading edge design, different look and fine execution.
Restoring Isuzu cars requires access to parts but Isuzu runs an Isuzu Life or equivalent parts program which manufactures the more common parts on a semi regular basis and there are a number of Clubs in Japan and around the world who are sources of knowledge and information.