Amongst Japanese car manufacturers, Honda has a special place. Not just for its unique offerings and approach to car making but also its interesting path through stormy waters of the automotive industry. Started as a motorcycle manufacturer, Honda began producing cars relatively late with tiny Kei Cars which were poorly received outside Japan. However, the introduction of the Civic in 1972 perfectly corresponded with the oil crisis and recession and promoted tiny three-door hatchback into a global bestseller. The rest of the Honda story is well-known, but today we will tell you about something different, we will show you __ rare Hondas you never knew existed!
1. Honda Orthia
Never sold outside Japan, Honda Orthia was compact station wagon based on sixth-generation Civic platform. It was introduced in 1996 and discontinued in 2002. This car wouldn’t be worth mentioning if it weren’t for specific drive train layout and the fact that Honda wanted to make a Subaru Legacy Outback competitor. The Orthia was produced with 1.8 or 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine and had a front-wheel-drive configuration in base-level trim. However, the majority of the customers optioned for four-wheel-drive setup and more powerful engine which transformed an ordinary station wagon into a somewhat capable car for the off-road model. Orthia never was a big seller and was only produced in RHD form.
2. Honda EV Plus
You might think that electric vehicles are 21st-century contraptions, but the truth is that there were such cars long before market heard about Tesla. One of the pioneer attempts into producing urban EV was Honda EV Plus from 1997. It was the first battery-powered electric car, and it was offered through a three-year lease plan and then scrapped. This means no EV Plus was ever actually sold to the public and just 340 were made. Its primary market was the States, and this little Honda had a range of 100 miles and electric engine with 66 HP on tap. Compared to today`s electric cars, Honda EV Plus was primitive and underpowered, but it showed that Honda is an engineering company concentrating on the future.
3. Honda 1300 Coupe
In 1969, Honda presented the 1300 model, which was the biggest and most advanced car up to date. The idea behind 1300 was to present the competitor to Toyota Corolla and Datsun 510, but the higher price, more complicated engineering and production difficulties limited the Honda 1300`s appeal. To be perfectly honest, the standard 1300 Sedan wasn’t so pretty, but the 1300 Coupe was something else. The Coupe version looked totally different, had plush interior, lots of sporty details and decent power from high revving 1.3-liter four-cylinder. With just a bit over 900 kilograms of weight, 94 HP was more than enough for spirited driving. Unfortunately, the global market wasn’t ready for a sports car from Honda, and only about 38,000 were sold, mostly in Asia and Australia.
4. Honda Torneo SiR-T
You all have probably heard about Accord, Honda`s most popular and widely-recognizable sedan. Although it is not sold in Europe anymore, Accord is still in demand elsewhere. But, we bet that you didn’t know about Honda Torneo SiR-T, a sporty and more elegant Accord`s sibling, sold only in Japan. The Torneo SiR-T was based on the sixth-generation Accord but featured numerous unique styling details and components. However, the real treat was under the hood, and 2.0-liter four-cylinder featured various upgrades and high compression engine head to produce 200 HP which was the pretty lofty number for late `90s standards. Unfortunately, the market never responded very well to this car, and only 1,100 cars were made from 1997 till 2000.
5. Honda NSX-R GT
We all know and lust after the original Honda NSX. After all, it was a revolutionary affordable supercar, which is still quite competent and extremely rewarding to drive. Over its 15-year production span, Honda made several interesting limited editions but none more special than NSX-R GT. This mythical model was created in 2002 and just five copies. The NSX-R GT was homologation special for highly competitive Japanese Super GT Championship, and its only task was to win it, which it did but in 2004. The differences between regular NSX and NSX-R GT are numerous, and Honda was always very discrete about releasing any official information and specs of the NSX-R GT model. For example, the engine is the same 3.2-liter V6, but we don’t really know what is the actual power output and is there any significant increase in horsepower.
6. Honda Civic Mugen Si
In production since 1972 and with more than 20 million examples made, Civic is Honda`s main model. However, relatively small numbers of those cars were sporty versions. Among those models, there were even fewer tuned by Mugen, Honda`s performance and aftermarket specialist. Mugen cars have almost mythical status amongst the Honda fans since most of Mugen products are sold only in Japan.
In 2008, Honda decided to offer particular Civic Mugen Si in sedan form to American buyers. The Honda planned to present something more potent and faster than regular Civic Si. Under the bonnet was 2.0-liter Si engine with 197 HP but the suspension, brakes, exterior, and interior were all upgraded which added to the looks, feel and driving dynamics. Honda limited production to only 1000 examples which all were snapped soon, even though each Mugen Si cost about $30,000, which was pretty steep for Civic.