Classics Revisited: Honda 1300 Coupe 9

03/03/2016 16:30

Classics Revisited: Honda 1300 Coupe 9

Classics Revisited: Honda 1300 Coupe 9

In the late 60’s, Honda’s team of engineers put the finishing touches to a new car, and rolled it gleaming off the production line. It was sporty, yet exuded class. It was brawny and bold. It was sleek, eye catching, and original. It was a rare sight in its heyday, and today is so elusive it makes the dodo look like a London pigeon. Ladies and gentlemen, the 1300 Coupe 9.

Under the bonnet

On paper, the Coupe 9 doesn’t sound like much. The engine only puts out 116bhp, which seems unimpressive, until you factor in that the engine was a 1.3 litre, at 7200 rpm, which means this thing was producing 88bhp per litre. To put that in perspective, American muscle cars at the time were managing somewhere around the 60bhp/litre mark. The bonkers little Coupe 9’s engine boasted 4 carburettors, hemispherical combustion chambers, was air cooled and dry sumped - innovation and engineering that only Honda could dream up.

Tech talk

The air cooled engine is a stroke of Japanese genius. Despite the trend for water cooled engines, Mr Soichiro Honda himself was fixated on the supposedly superior air cooling method. However, air cooled engines were horrifically noisy. Never one to shy away from a challenge, Mr Honda and his band of merry engineers figured out that the noise came from vibrations of the cooling fins, and redesigned them to be shorter. It worked, and the engine purred even quieter than most water cooled competitors.

How’d it handle?

The car was front wheel drive but famously handled exactly like a rear wheel drive, with several test drivers unable to tell the difference until looking under the bonnet. Honda employed a variety of cheeky engineering tactics in order to achieve the vehicles dream-like handling. The engine was dropped in a sub-frame, rather than the more common unibody format, and was extended towards the rear of the car. They also did all sort of devilishly complicated things to the swing axles, ultimately building a vehicle that stuck low to the road and could swing around corners effortlessly.

What makes it a classic?

The Coupe 9 was the car that made Honda great. It was the biggest car they had built at the time, and is regarded as the manufacturers’ first real car. It may not have sold in the millions (only 8,000 were ever built), and barely any actually made it over to Europe, with the majority staying in Japan, and the few that sneaked out winding up in Australia. What makes the Coupe 9 a classic is the ingenuity of its design, and the obstacles that were overcome to make a car that fitted exactly to Honda’s vision.

If you’re still not convinced, consider this. The side panels of the car were initially supposed to be soldered. Soichiro was informed that the fumes from the solder were potentially dangerous to his workforce, and promptly ditched the method, instead creating a ‘Mohican structure’ of bodywork, which was ultimately stronger and more efficient to produce. The technique featured stamped sheets, a method which is still used today in production of body panels all across the globe. Not bad going, ey?

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