Big things with little cars
Big things with little cars
Illustration for article titled Samurai Sunday: Honda City Turbo II

Ah the 80s... Box flares, turbo, colour coded bumpers - and a folding motorbike in the boot. Yes, this little Honda had it all. But let’s have a look how it all started.

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Back in 1981, Honda introduced this sub-compact mainly for domestic consumption, but also for export in some markets. This “AA” City (also called Jazz in some markets) featured the novel “tallboy” design, making it just comfortable enough for four adults to sit inside despite being only 3.38m (133in) long. The engine was a 1200cc four-banger - so we are not looking at a “kei” car here, but rather a model slot underneath the Civic. And so, Tomica decided to make a model of it:

Illustration for article titled Samurai Sunday: Honda City Turbo II
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And Tomica decided to also include something that was an optional extra - can you spot it in the back?

Illustration for article titled Samurai Sunday: Honda City Turbo II
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What you see there is a “Motocompo” - a foldable 50cc Scooter designed specially to fit in the back of a small car.

Illustration for article titled Samurai Sunday: Honda City Turbo II
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Meanwhile, Hirotoshi Honda, the son of Honda founder Soichiro, had started his Mugen tuning firm and also wanted to make a faster version of the City. The engine had about 65hp - about normal for a small hatch of the time, but certainly nothing to shout about.

And so Hirotoshi did what everyone in the 80s did - add a Turbo! The early Turbos could be spotted by a small “power bulge” on the left hand side of the bonnet - and of course by the Turbo decals. Power was up to a respectable 100hp - combined with the light weight, that turned it into a proper pocket rocket. A face lift had also given all City models an asymmetrical grill. And so Tomica modified their original casting to follow suit, and brought out a model of the City Turbo...

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Illustration for article titled Samurai Sunday: Honda City Turbo II

But of course. Mugen could not really leave it at that. This was the 80s, so what else do we need? Box flares! Body kit! Colour coded bumpers! An intercooler! And so it happened. In November 1983, the Turbo II came out. The power bulge now covered the full width of the bonnet, the licence plate was moved to the side to enable a larger air intake. And the full 80s body kit was installed, box flares and all. And what did Tomica do? Well, modify the casting further, of course.

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Illustration for article titled Samurai Sunday: Honda City Turbo II

This little car earned the nickname “Bulldog” in Japan - and its 110hp engine gave the performance to back that up. At least in city traffic, but that’s what it was made for after all.

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But it was all over by 1986, and the “City” name is now used only for cars made outside of Japan, and no more Turbo versions were made either.

In 2006, Tomica revived the old casting for one of their “Limited” models. They painted it in pure 80s white, gave it the proper “Turbo II Intercooler” decals, bespoke wheels and overall added lots of detail.

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Illustration for article titled Samurai Sunday: Honda City Turbo II

Even the “Motocompo” in the boot received special attention - which I think is just terrific:

Illustration for article titled Samurai Sunday: Honda City Turbo II
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You may notice a few of the details look a bit hand painted. I’m sure they are. The “Limited” models were only produced for one month, and then discontinued. I am sure Tomica worked out that it was cheaper to get some items painted by hand than tool up for such a short run.

Illustration for article titled Samurai Sunday: Honda City Turbo II

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