Remember the Vigor? Probably not. Nobody remembers the Vigor. This car dates from about the time that Honda really got serious about its decline from former untouchable greatness, which may or may not have had something to do with the death of founder Soichiro Honda in 1991.
There was the Del Sol, which replaced the much-beloved-by-young-men CRX in 1992. Goodbye to that entire demographic chunk of car buyers, possibly forever! There was the Civic, which started getting bigger and fatter in every model year starting in 1996. There was the lack of a real minivan, which Honda remedied by slapping Honda Passport badges on an Isuzu product. There was the entire Acura line, which lacked both rear-wheel-drive and a V8 engine and got beat like a cheap gong by Infiniti and Lexus in the showrooms. There was the debilitating series of dealer-kickback lawsuits, over longstanding abuses going back to the 1970s, that threatened to plunge Honda America into a lawyer-populated Lake of Fire for eternity (more on that later). And, of course, there was the Vigor.
The Vigor sold in North America was actually a pretty good car, with a powerful inline-five engine, all manner of luxury touches, and top-notch Honda build quality. The only problem was that nobody had any reason to buy one.
You rarely see Vigors anywhere these days, on the street or pending consumption by The Crusher. I found this much-battered example a couple weeks back in a Northern California self-service junkyard.
Honda never stopped making good cars, but the North American stumbles of the early 1990s haunt the company to this day. It’s a good thing that Honda motorcycles and scooters (as I saw demonstrated with dramatic effect during my recent trip to Vietnam) have remained such a gigantic cash cow for the company.