The First Prototype Automobile Constructed By Honda Was So Unusual

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It’s odd to consider, however Honda is a relative newcomer to the automotive trade. The corporate began making full bikes (earlier than that they tailored motors to bicycles) in 1949, and didn’t truly begin constructing precise four-wheeled vans and automobiles till 1963. I used to be desirous about this due to the current Jason Drives episode with the Honda Vamos, which set me down a series of curiosity that led me to the belief that I had by no means seen what sort of early prototype automobiles Honda was growing earlier than beginning to construct automobiles. Properly, I have finally seen the car, and, oh boy, is it good.

Early prototypes of automobiles are all the time fascinating as a result of they usually characterize the purest, most authentic type of the basic concept of a given automobile, earlier than the realities of manufacturing constraints and onerous truths realized in testing water the idea down into one thing that may truly be constructed.

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Picture: Citroën

The prototypes of the Citroën 2CV are a superb instance of this; they had been much more primary and austere and Bauhaus-minimalistic than the manufacturing automobile, with a solitary headlamp, flimsier, extra corrugated building, and seats hung by wires from the roof.

Whereas the purity of that authentic 2CV was considerably diluted by the point the manufacturing automobile was completed, you possibly can nonetheless clearly see the important concept carried by; it’s the identical story, simply edited and refined.

What makes the primary Honda car prototype superb is simply how far it was from just about any Honda automobile that will comply with it.

The automobile, known as the XA170, is delightfully bizarre. The purpose was to design a individuals’s automobile for Japan, impressed partially by the Suzuki Suzulight, somewhat FWD two-stroke automobile from 1955 that was based mostly on the Lloyd 400, and match the primary Kei-class laws restrictions.

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Picture: Suzuki

Just like the Suzulight, the XA170, which began growth in 1957 with a minimal crew of eight engineers and designers, was front-engine, front-wheel drive, with an engine that met Kei restrictions, on this case a 360cc air-cooled V-four making 24 horsepower.

The undertaking was stored very secret, with engineers told to wear street clothes as a substitute of uniforms when driving the prototype round so it wouldn’t be related to Honda.

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Picture: Honda Heritage

Photos of the engine present a motorcycle-like design, with outstanding finned cylinders, and what appears to be like like a number of carbs within the valley between the cylinder banks. From the picture I have here, these carbs seem like they’ve these bottle-shaped dashpots like a British SU carb; Hitatchi made SU-like carbs in Japan, so possibly these are these?

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Picture: http://www.automobiles-japonaises.com/

Additionally, that fan! I’m an enormous fan of that massive fan.

The XA170 was a check mule to develop just about all the pieces, so we are able to’t take the deeply unusual wanting physique design as something that will ever have made manufacturing, however we positive can get pleasure from its weirdness now.

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The purpose was to make a four-seat automobile about 9 toes lengthy—not a straightforward activity—and it was meant to be a basic household automobile. A minimum of two of the XA170 prototypes had been constructed, however, in 1958, when Subaru launched the Subaru 360, the primary actually profitable Kei automobile, Soichiro Honda determined to let set up gamers like Subaru have the small household automobile market, and Honda ought to give attention to one thing extra area of interest.

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Picture: Subaru

This image should be from proper round this era in 1958:

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Picture: http://www.automobiles-japonaises.com/

In it, we see lined up, from left to proper, a Subaru 360, a Lloyd 400, and the Honda prototype. Was this image taken from some comparability checks that helped Honda resolve to strive a distinct path?

What Honda determined to do was make a sports activities automobile as a substitute, and this was the trail that will result in Honda’s first manufacturing passenger automobile, the sporty little roadster generally known as the S500.

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Fiberglass and metal variations had been constructed and examined, and whereas these prototypes don’t actually look very like the eventual S360 (and later S500, S600, and S800), they no less than comply with the overall small, sporty roadster archetype.

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Picture: Honda

Improvement then turned to the business market, changing into the Honda T360 truck. Neither the S360 roadster with its entrance engine/rear-wheel drive (by chain, at first!) structure or the T360 truck’s mid-engine/rear drive structure was just like the XA170 prototype, however finally Honda would circle again to the fundamental XA170 structure after they determined to strive once more with the small household automobile market with the N360 in 1967.

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Picture: Honda

I feel most individuals form of assume that Honda simply cribbed the fundamental BMC Mini design for the N360, however, actually, the basic structure and packaging growth was underneath means a strong decade earlier, with the XA170.

Certain, the XA170 appears to be like nothing just like the N360 or, nicely, just about something, however Honda’s first mass-market household automobile positively grew from that first, very odd prototype.