Vigor: For Men. The Story Of The Strangest Automobile Ad

Derek Kreindler
by Derek Kreindler
vigor for men the story of the strangest automobile ad

Murilee’s piece on the Acura Vigor brought back some fond memories for me involving that car, and an utterly bizarre bit of automotive trivia that was thought to be lost forever – a Japanese-market commercial for the Honda Vigor that features sexual deviancy (panty sniffing, anyone), Italian art house cinematography and the requisite badly-garbled English slogans.

My father’s old job as General Counsel for Honda Canada didn’t preclude him from enjoying some of the fringe benefits of the job; an NSX company car that was passed around to executives, the chance to drive pre-production prototypes and right-hand drive engineering mules, and a steady supply of Japanese language brochures and magazines, most of which would be passed on to me, in an attempt to placate my unrelenting, Aspergers-like obsession with the automobile.

At some point in my early childhood, my Dad got his hands on a copy of a TV commercial for the Japanese-market Honda Vigor, and brought it home for my Mum to watch. In her words, the ad remains “unlike any other car commercial I’ve ever seen. It’s more like a men’s cologne ad.” My father made a VHS copy of the tape, and the ad’s tagline “Vigor: For Men” (yes, much like a fragrance) became an inside joke in my family.

The VHS tape containing the ad was lost for a number of years, until one day, when I searched Youtube on a whim for “Honda Vigor”, in the hopes of finding the theme music used in the ad. Instead, I found not only a series of 30 second spots for the Vigor, but also the original, long-form advertisement. I was floored.

Yes, it really was unlike anything I’d ever seen. The plot seems to revolve around a courtesan who is being chauffeured to an appointment with a wealthy client – who happens to be a woman. This may be blasé in an era of MTV-broadcasted same-sex smooches, but in 1991, it must have been pretty racy. Amidst all the smouldering shots of stocking-clad gams, we see that the working girl’s chariot of choice is the JDM Honda Vigor, or the “FF Midship Straight-5 4-Door Hardtop Speciality” as the title card shows. The video ends with an implied Sapphic rendezvous and the client’s butler inexplicably getting a whiff of the call girl’s undies.

To this day, nobody really has any answers as to the genesis of this ad. My parents likely chalked it up to the ahem…strange predilections that permeate certain regions of Asia. But the biggest question, still unanswered, is “why in God’s name did they let their 3-year-old son watch this ad?” Perhaps it explains a lot.

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  • Brett Woods My 4-Runner had a manual with the 4-cylinder. It was acceptable but not really fun. I have thought before that auto with a six cylinder would have been smoother, more comfortable, and need less maintenance. Ditto my 4 banger manual Japanese pick-up. Nowhere near as nice as a GM with auto and six cylinders that I tried a bit later. Drove with a U.S. buddy who got one of the first C8s. He said he didn't even consider a manual. There was an article about how fewer than ten percent of buyers optioned a manual in the U.S. when they were available. Visited my English cousin who lived in a hilly suburb and she had a manual Range Rover and said she never even considered an automatic. That's culture for you.  Miata, Boxster, Mustang, Corvette and Camaro; I only want manual but I can see both sides of the argument for a Mustang, Camaro or Challenger. Once you get past a certain size and weight, cruising with automatic is a better dynamic. A dual clutch automatic is smoother, faster, probably more reliable, and still allows you to select and hold a gear. When you get these vehicles with a high performance envelope, dual-clutch automatic is what brings home the numbers. 
  • ToolGuy 2019 had better comments than 2023 😉
  • Inside Looking Out In June 1973, Leonid Brezhnev arrived in Washington for his second summit meeting with President Richard Nixon. Knowing of the Soviet leader’s fondness for luxury automobiles, Nixon gave him a shiny Lincoln Continental. Brezhnev was delighted with the present and insisted on taking a spin around Camp David, speeding through turns while the president nervously asked him to slow down.
  • Bobby D'Oppo Great sound and smooth power delivery in a heavier RWD or AWD vehicle is a nice blend, but current V8 pickup trucks deliver an unsophisticated driving experience. I think a modern full-size pickup could be very well suited to a manual transmission.In reality, old school, revvy atmo engines pair best with manual transmissions because it's so rewarding to keep them in the power band on a winding road. Modern turbo engines have flattened the torque curve and often make changing gears feel more like a chore.
  • Chuck Norton For those worried about a complex power train-What vehicle doesn't have one? I drive a twin turbo F-150 (3.5) Talk about complexity.. It seems reliability based on the number of F-150s sold is a non-issue. As with many other makes/models. I mean how many operations are handle by micro today's vehicles?