Banzai! Lifting the covers on Honda’s heritage collection

Banzai! Lifting the covers on Honda’s heritage collection

Tucked away on a quiet industrial estate in Bracknell you’ll find Honda UK’s press garage. Here, among the Civics and CR-Vs, is a mouthwatering line-up of perfectly preserved cars from Honda’s past.

The collection stretches from an original Mk1 Civic to a brace of NSXs – with various Type Rs and Mugens in-between. Join us for a guided tour…

Honda Civic (1975)

Honda Civic (1975)

We start with this delightful Mk1 Civic, a 1.2 Deluxe model in a very 1970s shade of ‘Carnaby Yellow’. The advertising slogan for the first Civic was ‘It will get you where you’re going’ – quite a novel concept for drivers more used to British Leyland cars of the time.

This particular Civic, chassis number 003, used to be a press demonstrator, so it came full-circle when Honda bought it back for the heritage fleet. It also featured in UK brochure shots when new.

The Civic is powered by a 50hp 1.2-litre engine mated to a four-speed manual gearbox. Top speed is 90mph and acceleration to 62mph takes a leisurely 15.2 seconds. This Deluxe model features an AM radio and heated rear window. Snazzy.

Honda Civic Type R (2005)

Honda Civic Type R (2005)

Leaping forward into the modern era, this is the second-generation Civic Type R (but the first to be sold in the UK). Known to enthusiasts as the EP3, it has a practical, MPV-style body and a screaming 200hp 2.0-litre VTEC engine. What’s not to like?

Honda originally planned to sell 1,500 Type Rs a year in the UK, but actually managed to quadruple that figure. British-built Type Rs were even exported back to Japan.

Not everyone loved the red Recaro seats (a Type R trademark), but few criticised the driving experience. At the time, Autocar magazine said it was “One of the most exhilarating and satisfying drivetrains of any car on sale, irrespective of price”. High praise indeed.

Honda Civic Type R (2010)

Honda Civic Type R (2010)

In 2007, EP3 gave way to FN2: a hot hatch that’s less universally loved. It had space-age styling and a power boost to 215hp from its 2.0-litre engine – enough for 0-62mph in 6.6 seconds.

This ‘Milano Red’ FN2 is one of the more desirable post-2009 cars, which had a limited-slip differential as standard. Note the split rear window: a styling theme that continues on the current Civic.

The interior of the eighth-generation Civic was pretty futuristic, too. Check out the split-level dashboard with no less than three information panels. It’s also quite red in here…

Honda S2000

Honda S2000

Honda’s rev-happy roadster only ceased production in 2009, but it’s already a modern classic. Thank its 240hp 2.0-litre engine, which is redlined at a motorbike-esque 9,000rpm. Producing an incredible 120hp per litre, it won four Engine of the Year awards.

The S2000 seen here is the last-of-the-line Edition 100 model, boasting 17-inch alloys and Grand Prix white paint. It could hit 62mph in 6.2 seconds and keep going to 150mph.

The plasticky – and rather cramped – interior is where the S2000 shows its age. But it’s still a real treat to drive: an analogue sports car in an increasingly digital age. The Telegraph said: “The S2000 begs to driven hard and the experience of doing so generously lightens the weight of life’s struggle.” Blimey.

Honda NSX (2005)

Honda NSX (2005)

When the Honda NSX was launched in 1990, it was revolutionary – something that is starting to become a theme of this gallery. Its aluminium construction was a first for a mass-produced car, and it boasted a chassis tuned with input from none other than F1 champ Ayrton Senna.

The first-generation model was axed in 2005 as sales declined, making this example on Honda’s heritage fleet one of the very last. Recently subject to a heavy rebuild following an incident involving a wet test track and an over-eager journo, MY05 NSX is showing just 30,000 miles on the clock.

Powered by a 3.2-litre VTEC engine, the NSX produced 280hp and could hit 62mph in 5.7 seconds. Being a later model, it used a slick six-speed manual gearbox and, unfortunately, lost the pop-up lights of the original model.

Honda NSX (1990)

Honda NSX (1990)

And talking of the original… Honda’s got one on its fleet. Designed to be a Ferrari-beater (in terms of performance, usability, reliability and well, everything really), the NSX was originally powered by a 3.0-litre quad-cam 24-valve VTEC V6.

And hasn’t it aged well? Its angular looks with pop-up headlights look as good today as they did 26 years ago – although the lack of a Ferrari badge on the front did put some buyers off.

The inside doesn’t look quite as special, although it does feel it – sitting low down and a long way forward with the engine positioned behind you. It’s a shame this one uses the four-speed ‘F-matic’ automatic gearbox.

Honda Insight

Honda Insight

In 1999, Honda introduced this weird futuristic thing called the Insight. A quirky hybrid-powered car with bold looks and only two seats, the Insight preceded the more mainstream (and more successful) Prius by a few months.

By combining a tiny 67hp 1.0-litre three-cylinder engine with an electric motor, Honda claimed the Insight was quick enough to rival conventional 1.5-litre cars. It was seriously innovative for its time – featuring regenerative braking, stop-start and even electric power steering.

This example in Honda’s heritage collection is in mint condition and was previously owned by a Honda employee. With around 250 officially sold in the UK, it has to be one of the best in the country.

Honda CR-Z

Honda CR-Z

Launched in 2010 as a spiritual successor to the Honda CR-X, the three-door CR-Z coupe featured a hybrid powertrain. This combined a 1.5-litre petrol VTEC engine with an electric motor – but performance was a smidgen disappointing, taking close to 10 seconds to hit 62mph.

With performance not living up to its appearance, and the compact coupe body resulting in poor practicality (and appalling visibility) the CR-Z sold in relatively small numbers in the UK. Its price tag of more than £20,000 probably didn’t help matters either. Not when you could pick up the excellent Ford Fiesta ST for £17,000.

But let’s not be entirely down about the CR-Z. Its hybrid powertrain was genuinely innovative at a time when everyone was buying diesel, and 56.5mpg was excellent for a sporty(ish) car. It also handled brilliantly.

Honda Civic Type R Mugen

Honda Civic Type R Mugen

Aftermarket tuning company Mugen was established in 1973 by Hirotoshi Honda – the son of Honda Motor Company founder Soichiro Honda. Although not owned by Honda, Mugen has worked closely over the years to provide performance variants of its models. One of which is this: the Honda Civic Type R Mugen.

Only 20 of these were ever built, with each one precision engineered in the UK by Mugen Euro and built to customer specifications – with a starting price of more than £40,000. The regular 2.0-litre VTEC engine was tuned to produce 240hp, using bespoke pistons, camshafts and an ECU remap, while the exhaust, wheels, brakes, suspension and gearbox all received the Mugen treatment.

The result was a hot hatch that could hit 62mph in 6.0 seconds flat and was described by Top Gear magazine as “so in tune with your every movement that you don’t so much drive it as simply think it around the track”.

Honda CR-Z Mugen

Honda CR-Z Mugen

Despite its sporty looks, the standard hybrid CR-Z was never a particularly dynamic car to drive. Mugen experimented with a hot interpretation, which supercharged the 1.5-litre petrol engine to produce 200hp (up from a lacklustre 124hp).

Around 50kg was shaved off the CR-Z’s kerb weight, while stiffer springs with adjustable dampers sharpened up the handling – helped, as well, by the addition of a limited-slip diff.

A unique Mugen exhaust means the CR-Z sounds the part, while its bodykit has a look of Max Power about it. This is aided by the lightweight 17-inch alloys and carbonfibre bonnet and doors.

To see more pictures of Honda’s heritage collection, click through our gallery on MSN Cars

Web editor at MotoringResearch.com. Drives a 1983 Austin Metro. Tweet me @MR_AndrewBrady.

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