I’ve seen my fair share of souped up Skylines with dodgy decals and fart-canned Supras with ridiculous rims. There are many wannabe drifters and boy racers prancing about the streets of the Japanese capital. It’s a popular pastime – a sub-culture, even. Just like it is in most countries, only done the Japanese way, i.e. cranked up to 11 on the attention to detail. Plus, they have an abundance of domestically-sourced material to work with. But as I rounded the corner and saw this Civic, it struck me as being rather different.
For one thing, this was a Honda hatchback – not the usual RWD (or AWD) JDM hooptie material. And the decals looked pretty convincing. Could this be an actual racing Civic Si? Well, how likely would it be to just find a genuine 35-year-old Mugen-kitted Honda in a pristine yet seemingly race-ready state, just parked curbside on a random north Tokyo street? I have no idea. Let’s just take a look and see what we think.
Googling the name on the windshield rendered nothing of interest, but then my linguistic shortcomings are pretty substantial. Photo searches have produced many cars that appear quite similar to this one, down to the specific colour schemes and most decals, so if this is a recreation, it’s a damn good one. But then you’d expect that a Japanese recreation of a mythical beast such as the Civic Si Mugen Motul would be just like the real thing.
The interior also looks very convincing. Honda’s sort-of-independent racing arm Mugen took charge of the Civic Si preparation in 1986, after the car was raced pretty convincingly in the 1985 Japanese Touring Car (JTC) Championship by privateers. The tiny FWD hatchback kicked its RWD rivals’ butt so comprehensively in 1986-87 that they had to switch platforms a bit sooner than expected.
Honda had started the ball rolling with the introduction of the Civic Si in late 1984. The Japanese version of that car, unlike the one sold in the US, featured the new 1.6 litre DOHC all-alloy 16-valve ZC engine that churned out 120hp – enough to enable the Civic to reach 200kph. But in the Mungen Motul version, the significantly lightened car’s ZC was pushed to 180hp, so this was the proverbial pocket rocket.
Quite a few oddities are to be found on this particular car, so I’m assuming it’s at least had a bit of restoration, if it really is what it purports to be. The two biggest “WTF” moments to be found on this car are, interestingly, located on the roof. I’ve not been successful in translating what is written next to this drawing (I did show this to a native speaker, but the writing was deemed illegible), but whoever penned this certainly knows how to draw manga on a rear spoiler… Quite a niche skill!
Next up, we have the old-fashioned Japanese Imperial flag on the sunroof. This does not necessarily have the same connotations in Japan it does in other countries – obviously, display this in China, Korea or the Philippines and you’ll get a decidedly unfavourable reaction. Many Japanese people are justly wary of it as well, seeing as it has a clear militaristic (and hegemonic) overtones, reflecting a philosophy that is no longer widely popular, to say the least.
But the fact remains that this infamous flag is still, to this day, the official Japanese naval ensign. There is a much smaller version of that loaded emblem on the front bumper, too.
The last oddity, which you might have glimpsed on previous photos, are the spooky Jason Voorheesesque hockey masks on the seat backs. Now that gives it a zing! It’s a pity there are so few interesting old Hondas around, but thanks to all those weird touches, this one would have warranted a post no matter the make.
I have no idea why old Hondas are rather rare in their country of birth, but it’s an empirical observation that is backed up by a glance at the posts I’ve written since I moved to Japan in mid-2019: Toyota: 48; Datsun/Nissan: 47; Mitsubishi: 11; Mitsuoka: 9; Isuzu: 6; Mazda: 5; Daihatsu: 5; Subaru: 3; Suzuki: 3. I left out the main protagonist for effect – and to prove my point. So how many Hondas did I find and decided to write up in this time? Five. Same as Daihatsu and Mazda.
Well, this is number six. And there are a couple of others in the pipeline. But still, this is not in proportion to Honda’s current size or their importance from a global (and especially North American) perspective. I should lay off the Mitsuokas, though. That breakdown by marque makes it seem as if there are truckloads of those about, but there aren’t. They just happen to cross my path, like those Mitsubishi Flying Pugs – I found five of those, but not a single first-gen Civic. Go figure.