You’ll Need the Patience of a Hunter to Find This Honda
Design by committee, engineering by consensus; to inspire no-one, ask everyone. In the automotive world, sometimes a tyrant is required to forge greatness: Enzo’s Ferrari F40, Hank the Deuce and the GT40, Soichiro Honda and the Coupe 1300.
The Coupe 1300, sometimes called simply the Coupe 7 or Coupe 9 dependent on power output, nearly drove the employees of the young Honda Motor Company mad. A permanent desk was even set up to deal with the constant requests of the manic, brilliant Soichiro, who demanded nothing less than perfection. The result—delays, a frequently reversed production line every time an inspiration sparked the old man’s synapses, cost overruns—nearly bankrupted Honda.
The result, however, was something very special. While it would be the later Honda Civic that would establish both sales success and a toe-hold in North America, the Coupe 1300 is perhaps the purest four-wheeled expression of Honda’s ideal.
#1: It’s a handshake with a master
As the last car personally overseen by Soichiro himself, the 1300 is filled with signature touches. It’s endlessly weird, from its air-cooled engine to its odd rear suspension setup: a rear swing axle that ties each suspension arm to the opposite side of the car.
Everything about the car is something that Honda came up with, and you can imagine him leaping from his bed in the middle of the night, scribbling a eureka down on a scrap of paper, and rushing to the factory early in the morning to make his engineers’ lives miserable.
#2: The engineering is delightfully weird
The Coupe 1300 was heavily influenced by everything from Honda’s early motorcycling efforts to his passion for racing. The Civic that would supersede it seems conventional to modern eyes, but the Coupe 7 and Coupe 9 are the epitome of quirky.
The engine is an air-cooled 1300cc all-aluminium SOHC affair, which has twin fans designed to force air through passages in the manner of a water-cooled engine. Honda called this unusual system Duo Dyna Air Cooling, and there’s a lever to be pulled that harvests warm air to heat the cabin up nearly instantly on cold days.
Power output was 96 bhp for the standard single-carb car, and an impressive 116 bhp at 7300rpm for the quad-carburetted Coupe 9. This engine revved to 8000rpm, and combined with the independent suspension made the car a natural entry into club racing at Bathurst in Australia.
#3: It’s extremely rare
A best guess is that there are three Coupe 1300s in North America at present, two in Ohio and one in the interior of British Columbia, in Canada. This is the latter, a ’72 Coupe 7 that belongs to Lindsay Thachuck who, amazingly, has owned the car since new. He bought it in Australia, and shipped it home with him when he returned to Canada.
#4: The collectability outweighs the cost
Japanese cars are just beginning to creep up in terms of value to collectors—we’ve seen Toyota 2000GT prices skyrocket, and the original Mazda Cosmo soon followed suit. Datsun/Nissan 240Zs will likely be the next classic to shoot up in cost, like the BMW 2002tii, but the Coupe 1300 is still an unknown machine. The tricky part is finding one—a hunter’s patience is key here, moreso than deep pockets.
#5: It’s relatively bulletproof
Unfortunately, if anything major breaks on a Coupe 1300, you’re pretty much sunk. Parts for the car are extremely difficult to find, though there are owners’ clubs in Australia and Japan that may be of some help. Happily, the car doesn’t really break. Despite being stuffed with innovations, the 1300 is durable and simple, just like an old Honda motorcycle. As a result, the ones that are still around are probably still also regularly driven.
#6: It’s effervescent to drive
When Honda was a small boy, he saw a car driving though his village, and chased after it, amazed and astounded at the speed and sound. To drive a 1300 is to become that small boy, a laughing, shouting, brilliant experience. The 1300 is light and fizzy and bubbling with joy. It’s incredibly easy to drive, and the driver is filled with the youthful joy of a headlong rush down a hill. It’s utterly wonderful.
In some ways, it’s the classic equivalent to the Honda Integra Type-R, the company’s buzzy front-drive sports car. In other ways, it’s like a classic Honda Prelude; a sort of small, technologically-advanced front-drive grand touring car.
When behind the wheel, it’s easy to see how Honda’s legacy only strengthened in the following years.