I ran across some very interesting observations regarding Honda in the
comments of a Jalopnik post from several years ago reviewing the late
LJK Setright's final book, and thought they merited reposting here. I'm
sure there are those who may disagree with commenter "Nikola Tesla"'s
assertions, but as someone who's owned an Alfa in addition to more than
a few Hondas, I think he's pinpointed much of the wellspring of Honda's
Top Gear says to be a car guy, you need to own an Alfa; I think Setright
would agree that you need to add a Honda to that list.
Bear in mind, the company Honda as a spirit hasn't existed since the
mid-2000s, and was taken off like support with the S2000 and the 7th-gen
Civic, so any mentions of a current Honda will be dismissed, as they
don't make Hondas anymore.
The reason people fell in love with Hondas was simple; they handled.
Soichiro Honda started his business making transportation on two wheels,
and when you're on two wheels and not building a brand-identity bike,
handling is everything. This thought process, along with the general
psychosis that was Soichiro, translated to his cars when he finally was
able to build them (bear in mind, the Japanese government and the major
automakers were in each others pockets back in the day, and blocked new
After successfully building the S600, the Honda philosophy became clear;
build rev-happy, tight handling cars with solid technology developed
from the motorcycle. Bear in mind, as this was a car designed in 1964,
that the motor featured a DOHC setup, and a carburetor for each
cylinder. 57 Horsepower out of a 606cc was damn good by anybody's
standard; it would take a few liters for any of the US manufacturers to
match that output, and none of those motors revved to nine grand.
Now, I'm not going to tell you that the philosophy stuck forever, but
Hondas were glorious driver's cars between those roaring 60s and up
until the late 90s, depending on who you ask. Me personally, I believe
the heyday was the EF and EK chassis Civic lineup. The fact that every
tuner has at least driven or owned one isn't a coincidence; the chassis
has a huge amount of potential, and the K-series motors have only made
these cars even more impressive.
I won't pretend the Honda community is very good; the majority of Honda
fans aren't terribly smart, and tend to go for modifications that are of
questionable quality and install them in the shoddiest way possible.
That being said, if you're willing to buy quality parts, and put genuine
effort into your car, a hot Honda will not only last twice as long as
any VW, Nissan or Subaru, but you'll still get great mileage,
inexpensive parts and a lot of bang for the buck.
So go ahead, get out there, buy an old Honda. A little refreshing on a
simple chassis makes a great daily, a little more nets you an
autocrosser, and a full build can get you damn near close to a track
car. I know, I've seen it and done it.
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