Honda has always pushed the innovative envelope further forward and by doing this have progressed the industry and tech beyond what we thought possible but sometimes they just make great little cars and this is one of those cars!
The Honda City Turbo ticks all the eighties throwback boxes but most of all its FUN, with its happy little face and un-threating boxy exterior you can’t help but smile at first glance. If you’re reading this thinking I’ve never seen one before fear not you’ve not been living in a pit and have nothing to be ashamed of, most outside of Japan would have never seen one before as it wasn’t sold to the European market it was tucked away and saved for the JDM (Japanese Domestic Market) where they nicknamed it the ‘tall boy’ due to its large cabin and upright design cues. Over the years I’ve realised something, Japan love their cars so much that often the best trim levels and options get reserved for the people who built it but in this case however they kept the whole damn car!
Anyway, whilst were on the whole ‘options/trim’ level stuff id like to bring up quite possibly the best factory fitted option ever supplied with a car purchase…bold statement right? Hear me out though. As I said before it was designed to be a fun car, so with that in mind they made a portable motorbike that fitted neatly in the boot of the car. Seriously? A goddamn fold out sit on motorbike named the ‘motocompo’ how freakin’ awesome is that? It had a 2.5bhp 49cc engine and would be able bang along the road up to 25mph depending on how moderately formed the rider was, sadly it was missing in this example something the current owner Rob wants to find and re-install
Production of the car was left to Soichiro Honda (founder of legendary tuning company Mugen) who worked day and night with one of the youngest teams assembled to transform the fairly boring family car the Honda ‘city’ and turn it into a hot-hatch, something the youth of Japan would aspire to and would want buy when they passed their driving test
So how do you take a boring car and make it fun? Well quite simply you bolt a turbo to it…and focus on keeping it lightweight so although the power was a humble 99bhp from a 4 cylinder 1.2 litre engine it weighed just 700kg so it would take off like a shopping trolley with fireworks strapped to it’s wheels. To say they were proud of the additional ‘Turbo’ was an understatement, they plastered the little thing in decals saying TURBO in big red letters, oh and that bonnet bulge? That’s not all trouser padding but with nothing to show for it, when they up’d the power they had to make some significant design changes to the engine bay, they basically bolted on so much stuff the bonnet no longer shut. Back to the drawing board to re-engineer? Nah just cut out half the bonnet and add a ‘muscle bulge’ genius! They also swapped out the valve cover for a magnesium one and the head was built from lighter materials too such as aluminium and titanium some serious weight saving points
This is the Mk1 and was released in 1981 with demand so strong that after just 2 years of selling them Honda introduced the Mk2 with an added intercooler which meant the power was upped to 110bhp and they also widened the arches and the bonnet bulge would now engulfed the whole bonnet for a meaner ‘widebody’ look. It was quite the head turner
But back to this compact slice of Japanese pie! How did it end up here on British soil? Rob who’s a fan of 80’s cars needed a family car for his well…family so instead of shopping around for the run of the mill boring box on four wheels he was looking for something that was little more ‘retro’ when he then stumbled across an auction listing via Instagram for this very car and with the it being held in storage just 10 minutes from his house he thought well why not have a look? We all know how that ended up however this is where the story takes a fantastic twist though
Robs wife is Japanese and when they took delivery of their new family wagon they discovered the original owners name on some documents so a few clicks and a keyboard tap later and with the power of Facebook she was swapping messages with the old owner who lives in Japan who turned out to be lovely guy named Hajime Seki he’d originally bought the car for his father but when he sadly passed away put the car up for auction and thought that was that and he’d never see it again
Rob and his family then invited him over to meet everyone and more importantly be reunited with his father’s car again, it also just happened to be the very weekend we had organised this shoot for. This meant I was able to not only meet the previous owner but get a photo of the original owner and the current owners the Fitzsimmons family all together, what a cool moment! I love when cars take on a bigger picture and unite families and people across the generations and in this case join people from other sides of the world!
Words and Photos by Nick Simmo Photograper