Honda is unique among Japanese carmakers in that its first passenger vehicle was a sports car. The S500 roadster was released in October 1963, just months after the commercial T360, a small pickup that was their first four-wheeled offering. Sportiness has always been in their DNA from CRX to NSX, and an army of double-wishboned Civics in between. This year marks Honda’s 75th anniversary as company and its 60th anniversary in crafting cars. To mark the occasion, it has shared some images of a long-buried sports car concept that never made it into production.
You may have heard the story of how Soichiro Honda brutally one-upped General Motors, which in the 1970s claimed that a cat-less clean emissions system like the Civic’s CVCC was fine for “some little toy motorcycle engine” but would never work on a big ol’ American V8. In response, Soichiro Honda bought a Chevy Impala, air-freighted it to Japan, made a pair of CVCC heads for the V8, and shipped it back across the Pacific to the EPA. And whaddaya know, it passed.
Perhaps inspired by those events, Honda in 1973 considered building a full-blown V8-powered sports car with CVCC technology. Two layouts were considered, with the first being a mid-engined, rear-wheel-drive variant. Essentially, it would have been an NSX some 20 years before the real one came out.
A second option would have put the V8 in front while maintaining a rear-wheel-drive layout. Unlike the MR variant, which reached the full-size clay model stage, the only photos of the FR option appear to be as a 1/4-scale clay model. The resulting shape looks somewhat like a Z31 Nissan 300ZX.
Honda’s intent was to sell this V8 sports car in North America. Just imagine how different history would have been if this car had made it into production. This car would be right there alongside the Toyota 2000GT, Mazda Cosmo Sport, and Nissan Fairlady Z432 as a blue chip Japanese classic today. Unfortunately, the oil crisis of 1973 prompted Honda to scrap the project.