By on June 17, 2013

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Two weeks ago, Honda kind enough to throw open the doors of their museum in Torrance, California, which houses a collection of significant vehicles sold by the company. There’s something for everyone here, from the smallest N600 to the NSX, along with all sorts of detritus located in a secret corner of the warehouse space. Allow us to take you on a virtual tour below the jump.

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The N600 – one of Honda’s first efforts in North America, and a striking doppleganger for the original Mini, no? It wouldn’t surprise me if Honda was “inspired” by Sir Alec’s creation.

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The funkier looking Z600.

LosAngelesJune6th 046Speaking as someone who was born long after these cars had oxidized, I was amazed at how thin the door panels were compared to modern cars.

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In the corner were some wheels and tires for a 1973 Civic. They don’t look much bigger than my go-kart tires.

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A 1973 Civic. That same year, one of my Grandfather’s congregants approached him and said “Rabbi, I am selling a new car, from Japan. It’s called the Honda Civic.” My grandfather was a die-hard Detroit guy up until then, but he took a chance on Mr. Reddinger’s new car. People laughed at him…until winter came, and he had no problems with traction. Or filling up the gas tank. My grandparents drove the car until it literally fell apart. My grandfather’s last car was a 1991 Accord that he purchased off my Dad.

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A Civic wagon.

LosAngelesJune6th 058The interior is, as Bring-A-Trailer would say, “period correct”. I haven’t seen red/burgundy upholstery since the early 1990′s Chevrolet Lumina.

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Hang on to your hands, B&B. A brown wagon with a manual transmission. This one has 68 original miles.

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I am digging the houndstooth fabric seat covers. It looks like one of my father’s old sport coats.

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A Civic Si hatch.

LosAngelesJune6th 067These EF sedans were a staple of my childhood. Every year, my mother would get a new one, always in white.

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Sadly, this car is automatic.

LosAngelesJune6th 070Inside the museum is a replica of the first American Honda store at 4077 West Pico in Los Angeles. Outside sit an N600 and something on two wheels.

LosAngelesJune6th 072Inside is a veritable treasure trove of Honda goodies…

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All those 10 Best awards for the Accord? They have to go somewhere.

LosAngelesJune6th 076Badges of all kinds.

LosAngelesJune6th 074An oil painting of Senna during the McLaren years

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Old brochures

LosAngelesJune6th 079And even this diorama. I suppose that’s Asimo about to dock a spacecraft with a Ridgeline.

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Across from the Civics was a row dedicated to the Accord. What a metamorphosis it’s gone through, from hatchback

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To brown sedan

LosAngelesJune6th 093To tan sedan (with flip-up lights)

LosAngelesJune6th 096To station wagon (another relic of the Kreindler family. My brother and I threw up in the back of countless examples of these)

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To coupe. And they all had 4-cylinder engines.

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Acura wasn’t forgotten either.

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Nor were Honda’s greener efforts.

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But this is what I was really here to see.

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Next to the Insights and fuel cell concepts sat a 1991 NSX with 80,000+ miles on it. Almost like a middle finger to the green cars. The outside looked pretty, but the inside was actually fairly worn and ratty.

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Not that it matters. Honda has this 78-mile 2004 example as well.

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And what might be the last unmolested Integra Type-R.

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The iconic RealTime Racing cars were in attendance

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As well as a more dubious example of a “race car”

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This, however, is the real deal.

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A beautiful example of a CRX Si.

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Alongside it, an earlier Si as well as a real-life Mugen version.

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Behind them, an original ad for the U.S. built Accord coupe, which was exported to Japan briefly.

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I asked the curator if I could drive an NSX during my visit. Unfortunately, they didn’t have enough time to prepare one, but they did have this kicking around. So, you’ll have to excuse me.

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Arigato gozaimasu, Honda-san

Thank you to American Honda and Brad Long for opening their doors to TTAC!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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41 Comments on “A Trip To The Honda Museum...”


  • avatar
    wsn

    Waiting for the first “Honda lost its way” comment …

    • 0 avatar
      vent-L-8

      those Acura Legends IMHO look so much better than the plastic beak modern offerings. Long, low, big windows, available 5-speed = happy.

      • 0 avatar
        NoGoYo

        It’s amazing how well the Legend’s styling has held up. such a well-crafted automobile.

        Unfortunately, finding a Legend now without rust damage and/or a bajillion miles seems quite hard.

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    Is this just a car museum? Honda could do a whole other showcase for motorcycles, another one for lawn and garden equipment, another for generators, etc.

    • 0 avatar
      wumpus

      It looks like there are a bunch of them on a raised platform behind one of the civics. Probably not enough to do just the cub justice (assuming that was one in front of the Honda Store), but they have them. Not sure about the other stuff (do they have room to hang a Hondajet from the ceiling)?

  • avatar
    200k-min

    Do they have late model Accords, Ridgelines, Odyssey’s there? Might have to build a bigger museum.

  • avatar
    cwallace

    My second car was an ’81 Accord hatch, just like that silver one. Cool little car.

  • avatar
    CelticPete

    “Do they have late model Accords, Ridgelines, Odyssey’s there? Might have to build a bigger museum.”

    Nah. That’s just catering to the american market. All they need is the CRX, S2000 and the NSX.

  • avatar
    -Nate

    SWEET ! .

    That two wheeled thing ‘ was the 50 C.C. Honda Cub Motocycle , yes it’s a real Motocycle not a Mo-ped and it remains in the biggest production Motocycle in the world .

    Those were _plaid_ seats ~ Houndstooth is vastly different ~ take a look inside my daily driver 1959 Metropolitan nash FHC sometime , it took me a while to find the correct color / weave Houndstooth when I had the seat re upholstered last Summer .

    I’d love to see that museum ! .

    -Nate

  • avatar
    ant

    the one with “houndstooth fabric seat covers”…..

    My dad bought one with 130k on it for me to drive in 1990. It was an 84 model in light blue, and I was 16 years old.

    Oh. My. God. did that car get beat.

    I totaled it about a year later, but that was the car that made me a hondafanboy.

  • avatar
    Sammy B

    Cool. Would love to get a closer look at those 1990s Champ Cars. Looks like a Franchitti/Tracy car and perhaps Mark Blundell’s? Maybe Parker Johnstones?

    If I ever make it out to Torrance, this and the Toyota Museum are on my must-see list! And In n Out Burger. That’s pretty much it :)

    • 0 avatar
      Highway27

      Looks like Franchitti’s 27 and Parker Johnstone’s 49. Also, Gil de Ferran’s #2 Penske. You’re probably not interested in the IRL car on the bottom underneath Johnstone’s tho. I know I’m not.

  • avatar
    JMII

    The Civic Si hatch brought a tear to my eye as owned the S1500 model for several years. But where are the Preludes? I owned a ’89 Si after the Civic. And I’m sorry but that CRX Si is all wrong… white/silver? Everyone knows this car must be red or yellow.

    • 0 avatar
      jco

      in that top photo, there are at least 3 preludes, positioned behind the NSX and ITR.

      were there any S600/800? a friend imported one about 10 years ago. impossibly tiny. if you look through Jay Leno’s Garage videos, he does a test drive on one his garage restored. kind of fascinating the tech that went into that car at the time.

      I’ve lost count of how many Hondas our family has owned, but we currently have a 86 Civic Si hatch (same as the red one sitting next to the brown wagon). My personal favorite was the EF (89) Si hatchback.

  • avatar

    Thanks, Derek – It is almost unimaginable today that Honda did not build car 1 until the late 60′s. And as one who looked at the early new N600′s with amazement as they came to the U.S. market, I found it astonishing that in 1974 Honda was telling the EPA that the 1975 emission regs could be met with CVCC cylinder heads. GM claimed that Honda could do it with “those small four-cylinders” but that it would not work on American V8′s. As I recall, Honda bought a Chevy 350 and retrofitted it with CVCC cylinder heads. While they’ve done little to advance the exterior design of the modern car, they’ve contributed a great deal on the engineering side.

  • avatar
    threeer

    Oh, to be given the keys to even that nicely done Gen 1 CRX Si…something about the late 80s-early 90s Hondas were just “right” somehow for me. My sister owned a 1989 CRX Si that we still regret no longer having in the family. Cousin had a 1988 Civic sedan…try finding a car today with the same outward visibility as that car. And the Accord with flip up lights (especially in coupe form) looked clean and uncluttered to me. Of course, finding a really good example of any of the above that could be used for anything beyond a weekend toy is pretty hard to do. Oh, but the memories of taking that Si down to the Cheatham County Dam in Middle TN…nirvana…

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    I know for a fact that General Motors kept making those colored interiors–including the burgundy/red ones–until, and possibly past, the end of the nineties. A relative of mine has a white 1997 Chevrolet Lumina with a red interior. But by then, of course, GM was in fact behind the times…

    Seriously, though, this is a beautiful testament to Honda. May this inspire the powers-that-be at Honda to produce the kinds of cars worthy of this museum. The 2013 Accord is wonderful; let’s build off of that.

    • 0 avatar
      sgeffe

      This is seriously true!! My 2013 Accord Touring is a fantastic car! Couple little cost-cutting niggles here and there, such as the removal of the trunk pass-through from previous generations, as well as the glovebox light and somewhat chintzy-feeling interior surfaces which feel like they’ll scratch easily. (As long as they DO stay new-looking and don’t rattle or squeak, I’m good with it.) Honda is supposed to be moving more R&D resources over here from JP, which could free up some resources to bring the interiors back to snuff and re-introduce some of the cost-cut features.

  • avatar
    brettc

    That silver Civic wagon looks exactly like the car my parents owned for about 10 years, except theirs was dark brown on the outside and light brown/tan vinyl on the inside. And it had a 5-speed. They paid around $6000 Canadian for that car in 1981 and it served our family well until it rusted apart and they got rid of it in 1991. My brother and I used to sleep in the back with the seats folded down on our family trips from Ontario to Florida. I love that teal Accord wagon as well.

    Very interesting to see old Hondas, you know, back before they lost their way. ;) (there you go, wsn)

  • avatar
    jconli1

    Any time I see an N600, I immediately think of Rosey Grier’s cameo in an early CHiPs episode. First he’s seen driving the 600, which was amusing enough on its own, then he completely obliterates it by hand after being pulled over.

    Not sure if someone on the writing staff (or one of the automakers sponsoring the show) had anything to do with that, but it definitely seemed to have a strong anti-import undertone… not that I cared when I was 6.

    http://chips-tv.com/wiki/File:RosieGreer.jpg

    http://chips-tv.com/wiki/File:RosieGrier2.jpg

  • avatar
    Jacob

    The 20 year old NSX doesn’t look dated a bit.

  • avatar
    Richard

    In 1967 while I was stationed on Okinawa I bought a new Honda S600 convertible 4 speed 4cyl 600cc, 11000 rpm redline. I drove it around the island for about a year and really enjoyed it. I remember when I went to pick it up there was a small dent in the drivers door so I told the salesman to get it fixed before I took delivery. It took them about 5 minutes to switch the door and from another car and I was on my way. When I found out I was being transferred bac
    k to the states I had the opportunity to ship the car back for free, I hesitated because I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to get parts for it and also @ 60mph it was doing 6000 rpm so I thought it would blow up. The speed limit on the island was only 30mph.What a mistake. Jay Leno restored one, it’s a great video. The car was only $1200 new, and when I left a year later the dealer bought it back from me for $1100. Those were the days.

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    The “something on two wheels” in the picture appears to be a Honda 50 motorcycle. I’m glad it’s in there. In the U.S. at least, the first Hondas were on two wheels. In a market dominated by Harley hogs and all of the cultural baggage that came with them (none of it very nice), Honda revolutionized the motor cycle scene with light, small displacement (50, 90 cc) motorbikes that provide cheap, fun local transportation and were perfectly suited to benign climates like that of Southern California. When the biggest displacement Honda motorcycle was 250 cc’s in the late 1960s, even the European bikes of the era were at 500 and 600 cc; and, of course, the Harley’s were twice that. Moreover, a lot of Honda’s engine technology showed up in its motorcycles and then expanded to larger engines for its early cars.

    Honda made its reputation in the U.S. market first as a supplier of reliable, fun-to-drive and economical motorcycles . . . which paved the way for the introduction of its automobiles.

    I believe this makes them unique among all foreign automakers that entered the U.S. auto market.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    My wife had a 77 Accord hatch just like the one in your picture. She bought it new and we drove it for over 17 years. Great car, I still miss it.

  • avatar
    ajla

    The museum has the most exhibits per liter of any automotive display in the world.

  • avatar
    marjanmm

    N600 looks more like Autobianci a112 to me, another ground breaking car.

  • avatar
    5ivegearsinreverse

    The mention of Alec Issigonis drove me to dig out the 1967 Geneva Show issue of ‘Motor’, which featured a photo of the man himself stretched out in the floor of the Honda stand examining the rear suspension of an N500 (Honda found another 100cc before it went into production…)

    Issigonis may have felt over-complacent on encountering the dead beam axle on semi elliptic leaf springs, but he shouldn’t have been. March 1967 was less than four years after Honda put their first four wheeler on sale. Only eleven and a half years after that N500 was shown at Geneva, British Leyland under Michael Edwardes went to Honda pleading for the opportunity build one of their cars – any car – to fill a massive gap in their product development programme.

    The rest is history. So, unfortunately, is the mass-market car producing component of the former BMC / British Leyland, MINI excepted.

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      Didn’t the S500 and S600 have a unique independent trailing arm rear suspension with chains contained in trailing arms? The last of the S800s had beam axles, but they were mounted on four trailing links and a panhard rod. The Austin Healey Sprite and MG Midget that the S800 was meant to compete with had quarter elliptic leaf springs.

      Honda’s first ‘big’ car, the 1969 1300 was FWD with a long swing axles and leaf springs in the rear. I’m not sure what Issigonis would have made of that. It would have been interesting to get his views on the air cooled, four cylinder, four carburetor engine with 115 hp. It was much more performance oriented than the Triumph Acclaim that followed.

  • avatar
    Summicron

    Ah, sweet sweetness…. there’s my ’82 Civic Wagon with the red interior!

    The car that turned me Japanese. Used to just sit and play with the incredibly perfect switchgear…. so light & springy. But it was the rustbelt and my floor jack soon added a ventral porthole.

  • avatar
    oldguy

    In 2006 I was fortunate to visit Motegi, home of the Honda Museum in Japan which has a more diverse display. Of particular note was R. Bucknam’s F-1 car, as well as a huge display of motorcycles of many makes. One that stood out was the 1966 RC166, a 6cyl 250cc racer, same as the M. Hailwood Isle of Mann winner. Peak power is developed at 18K RPM, and I was beyond words when they wheeled it out of their “rebuild shop” to an outside area where techs fired it up. Forever memories.

  • avatar
    tbp0701

    Thanks for this. It almost brings a tear to see an unmolested Integra Type R still exists.

  • avatar
    juror58

    I bought my first Civic in 1973 and subsequently owned a 1977 five speed (back when five speeds were considered “sporty”), an 1984 wagon, and a 1989 wagon.

    My 1984 wagon was just like the one pictured, tan with tan interior. It was the first car I ever put 100,000 miles on. That car had a lot of neat features not seen any other iteration such as a pullout storage tray under the front passenger seat, split rear seats that could be individually folded, and IIRC, removed. It also had that pop-up vent on the dashboard. If you had air conditioning and popped up the vent and aimed it at your face you could end up with frostbite.

    My 1989 was the first car I ever put 200,000 miles on, and when I finally got rid of it, it still started and ran as well as it did on the first day I bought it. It burned absolutely no oil and still got over 30 miles to the gallon. I was disappointed, however, that some of the clever features of the 84, such as the under seat storage tray, didn’t make the cut on the redesign.

    Alas, they dropped the Civic wagon on the next redesign and I have not bought a Civic (or a Honda) since. IMO, the CRV was not a replacement for the Civic wagon, even though the salesman tried hard to convince me it was. The Mercury Tracer wagon that replaced it was a nice car and fun to drive, but nowhere near as mechanically reliable.

    Thanks for the memories.

  • avatar
    HarryWiggs

    Concerning the SCCA Honda Civic, #43: I had the pleasure of knowing the man, Bob Boileau, who built that car and raced it: it never saw a street mile, but was built from a race car from the git-go! It was magnificently-driven and another late friend of mine, David Miller, drove an equally-fierce Datsun 1200, and it was a delight watching Miller and Boileau go at it, hammer and tongs, then afterwards, always buy each other a beer and laugh about the race!


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