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Wheels Magazine April 1970 - Honda 1300 Coupe - First Drive

HONDA 1300 JAPAN'S ANSWER TO THE FAMILY CAR - Wheels Magazine August 1969

HAPPINESS IS A HONDA 1300 - Wheels Magazine March 1971

HONDA-SAN'S SPORTY 1300 COUPE - Sports Car World June 1971

HONDA'S GROUND-BREAKING COUPES

List of Magazines featuring the 1300 / 1300 Coupe


This article published in August 1969 is used with permission of Wheels Magazine in Australia.
Note: This is a review of the original sedan - see below for a 1300 Coupe review




HONDA 1300
JAPAN'S ANSWER TO THE FAMILY CAR

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Our Japanese Correspondent, Jock Yamoguchi gives a technical analysis of the brilliant Honda 1300 and his first driving impressions. At earliest, the 1300 will arrive in Australia late 1969.

MR SOICHIRO HONDA's order was indeed a tall one. He wanted a popularly priced, family sedan powered by an aircooled 1.3-litre engine, which combines interior dimensions of the average 1.5-litre Japanese sedan, performance of a modern 2-litre engine and economy of a 1-litre small ear. And its air-cooled engine should maintain a noise level comparable with a water-cooled four.

No member of Mr Honda's army of enthusiastic engineers shrugged his shoulders or quietly immigrated to the new world, for the Honda Research and Development Centre immediately went into high gear on the Project 1300. By October 1968, a fleet of prototype cars was completed and shown to the press.

Although no press member was allowed to drive the car, the engine of one stationary car was fired up and revved to Valhalla. That it didn't break the tranquility of a peaceful garden of the former residence of a royal prince where the ear was shown should endorse Mr Honda's choice comment that "our new car" was far quieter than a certain well-known German rear-englned automobile.

In late February this year, Honda sent out a brief press release informing that the price announcement of the 1300 would be slightly behind schedule. There was a footnote in the release, however, advising that if any press member should be interested in trying the "existing" prototype, he would be welcome to visit their test track near Tokyo. As several bus loads of eager motoring and non-motoring journalists swarmed into the track, each could be allocated with only one lap of the two kilometre course. I pretended my name wasn't Yamaguchi, and managed two extra laps. The six kilometre drive proved to me that the Honda 1300 was an exceptionally fast car for its engine size, and it was very, very quiet considering its cooling system by Mother Nature. The prototype, however, displayed rather pronounced understeering characteristics and very strong castor action. It was as if a naughty green giant was hiding behind the steering gear, stubbornly trying to keep the car running in a straight line.

On April 15, the final production versions as well as prices were released. On the following day, the press corps was boarded on the famous Bullet Express which swiftly transported us to the city of Nagoya, thence another train ride to the home of Honda Formula One car, the Suzuka Racing Circuit, where we were let loose in several 1300s.



The round eyed 99 version of Honda's 1300 is no
small mover with 115 ponies to prod its front wheels.




Ingenious overhead cam engine is air-cooled - hence heavy finning.
Four Keihin carbs are the 99's story.


Before going into driving impressions of the 1300, a technical analysis of this unique piece of engineering must be due. Most obvious feature of the engine is its cooling system. Both the die-cast aluminium, alloy cylinder head and block have integral cast-in cooling shrouds. The outer surface of the "shroud" is horizontally finned, and that of the "inner" block is. vertically finned. The fins are shallow and sturdy enough to eliminate high frequency vibration, or ringing as they call it, which is a major source of noise in an air-cooled engine, A multi-blade cooling blower is mounted on, one end of the crankshaft, and turns at engine speed. The crankcase surface is also extensively finned. Engine lubricant also plays an important role in cooling effect. The engine features dry sump lubrication by twin gear type pumps and an aluminium tank which holds 7 pints of lubricant. The tank is also finned and acts as an oil cooler. The cylinder block is of die-cast aluminium alloy, and cast iron liners are pressed in. Bore and stroke are 74 x 75.5 mm for a total displacement of 1298 cc. The long stroke helps to keep the engine compact, and presents no problem in smooth running in the designed rpm range. After all, the 1300 unit produces peak power at a modest 7200 rpm.

The cylinder head is also of one piece die-cast aluminium, and features cross-flow ports and hemispherical combustion chambers. A single overhead camshaft is supported by three plain bearings, and is driven by single-stage, single row Morse Hivo silent chain. It acts on two valves per cylinder disposed at a 56 degree angle, via. rockers. Valve diameters are 37 and 33mm for intake and exhaust respectively.

The 1300 engine is the first Honda car engine which does not feature a built-up, roller bearing supported crankshaft. The 1300 crank is forged in one piece and supported by five aluminium alloy plain bearings. It comes in two stages of tune: Series 77 which is fitted with a modest 36 mm Keihin variable venturi sidedraught carburettor, producing 100 hp at 7200 rpm (four more horses than the prototype's 96 hp) and putting out a maximum torque of 79.2 lb-ft at 4500 rpm, and Series 99 high performance version which sports four 36mm Keihins and puts out 115 hp at 7500 rpm and a maximum torque of 87.1 lb-ft.



Dash of 77 is an exercise in good ergonomics and simplicity.



Engine of 77 has only one Keihin side draft carb for 100 bhp.




TRANSMISSION:
A conventional single dry plate clutch of 180 mm diameter is mounted on the nearside end of the engine. Power is transmitted by Morse Hivo silent chain (1 in. wide) to the Honda four-speed all syncro gearbox. Primary reduction ratio between the engine and the gearbox is 1.2400:1, and gearbox internal ratios are 3.4462, 2.0140, 1.3675 and 1.0000, combined to the final ratio of 3.5000:1. Gearbox ratios are wider spaced than those of the prototype's very close box. Constant velocity joints are used on both ends of the drive shaft, and a sliding spline is incorporated at mid-length. Transmission has its own wet sump with a trochoid pump. The single carburettor 77 power unit including transmission and lubricant tank weighs 179 kg.



Yamaguchi tries 77 version of Honda 1300 on Suzuki circuit



Side view of slower 77 version shows extractor vents at rear



More powerfull 99 'S' Version

BODY AND CHASSIS:
The body shell is an all-steel welded integral unit, with a front sub-frame for engine and suspension mounting. The production model is lengthened by 45 mm in the rear section to make the boot roomier and also to relieve some of the boxy look.

For the sleek shape Honda had promised, we would have to wait until a sportier coupe version is released in autumn. The front suspension is by MacPherson struts and wide-based lower arms. Rear suspension is another interesting feature of the 1300. Twin, welded tubular arms extend almost the full width of the chassis. One end of the arm is pivoted at the outer edge of the chassis, and the rear wheel is mounted on the other end, so it is a swing axle system with geometry similar to that obtained with many modern semi-trailing layouts. Conventional semi-elliptic springs are used.









A clever floating joint is devised to locate the axle on the semi-elliptic, so that no torsional load is exerted on the latter. De Carbon type shock absorbers are used on all four corners, in which compressed nitrogen gas is sealed.

Brakes are Girling disc brakes at the front and leading-trailing shoe drums at the rear. Vacuum servo assistance and pressure limiting valve are standard equipment on the 1300, except the basic model which comes sans vacuum servo.

Steering is by rack and pinion system with a gear ratio of 19.6:1. Two Joints are incorporated in the steering linkage, which collapse on impact. Tyres are now Otsu ultra low profile cross-ply 6.20S-13 on 4J rims. Radials may be specified on the faster 99 model.

The 1300 measures 12 ft 8.9 in. long on an 88.6 in. wheelbase, 4 ft 9 in. wide with 59.0/48.0in. tracks, and 4ft 5 in. tall. So it is about the size of the VW Beetle. It has gained some 220 lb over the prototype, and the 77 De Luxe now scales 17.4 cwt

HOW GOOD IS THE 1300?
Everyone present at the February jaunt at the Research and Development Centre test track was impressed by the tremendous straight line performance of the 1300. Honda claimed a top speed of 110 mph and a standing quarter mile time of 17.2 sec. We all felt the "prototype" 1300 was capable of achieving these figures.

The production 77 gained 4 hp over the proto, but also put on some extra weight. It also comes with a gearbox with wider spaced ratios. Although Honda did not take any chances in allowing those mad journalists to really step on the gas pedal (a stop at the "control" station in the middle of Suzuka's long straight was mandatory) in the wet, I saw 140 kph (90 mph) on the back stretch and the engine was pulling quite strongly.

And it was no noisier than a comparable watercooled four. It revved up smoothly without fuss and fury. The gearbox was one of the best found in Japanese cars with strong syncromesh action and really usable intermediate ratios. When called for, third would take it close to 75 mph.

Handling of the production 1300 was far better than I had anticipated. Gone was that strong self-centring action, though understeering was still there. Steering ratio was lowered from the proto's 17.6:1 (3.2 turns lock to lock) to 19.6:1 which calls for four turns of the simulated woodrim wheel.

It was fairly light even in tight manoeuvring. Brakes proved to be up to the performance of this hot Honda. Pedal pressure was reasonable and the brakes were progressive in action.

We found the body shell of the Honda 1300 was quite acceptable in dimensions. But westerners may think it was a bit on the smaller size, especially for a car with four doors. The interior was quite well appointed. Various controls were in the right locations and front seats held occupants well, indicating Honda did have engineering staff who liked to drive. And one of the faster Honda men is undoubtedly the Old Man himself. I witnessed Mr Honda doing a most violent manoeuvre snaking at absurdly high speed. And the 1300 didn't seem to mind its Master's rough handling.

The Honda 1300 is almost un-Japanese in performance and handling, and is certainly equal to the best of European small cars, I had a firm personal belief that I wouldn't need a personal transport which was dearer than half a million Yen (approx $A1250) but I have since raised the limit by $A180. Yes, I am now eagerly awaiting the delivery of my personal Honda 1300.



Luxury - sporting note for 99 interior - console and leather wheel.



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This article published in March 1971 is used with permission of Wheels Magazine in Australia.


HAPPINESS IS A HONDA 1300
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THE NICEST thing about driving the Honda 1300 Coupe is that you'd never know it was front wheel drive unless you'd peeped under the bonnet first.

One driver - one of the most senior men in the Australian motor industry - took the car for a quick squirt around a test circuit. He was screwing it through some devilish bends when we casually remarked: "Handles well doesn't it- especially for an fwd machine ..."

He was astounded. In fact, he didn't really believe us until he'd whipped open the bonnet and saw, yes, a neat little four-pot sitting smugly east-west. And air-cooled to boot.

He wasn't the first, and certainly won't be the last, to be surprised by this superb and incredible Japanese Coupe.

Right from the word go with the 1300 Mr Honda thumbed his nose at convention. He used principles that had been tried and rejected by other manufacturers. Determined that they would work, Mr Honda just nodded quietly and worked on relentlessly to prove his point.

He has certainly done that. The 1300 uses front wheel drive with spectacular success, air cooling with efficiency that embarrasses even the best water-cooled systems and other advanced techniques that many others shy away from.

There are two models of the 1300 Coupe on sale in Australia: the "9" and its baby brother, the "7".

The cars are identical in body and trim specification and share the 1300 engine capacity. But the 9 has 9.3 to 1 compression instead of the 7's 9.0 to 1, timing set 10 degrees earlier . . . and four of those delightful little Keihin carbies, instead of the 7's one. Thus the 9 has 116 bhp at 7300 rpm and the 7 100 bhp at 7000 rpm.

Bennett-Honda, the NSW distributors, invited us to have exclusive first drive of a 9 just before the Coupes were released here.

We drove it into the city after it had been immaculately prepared by Brian Vinson at Bennett-Honda's Banksia showroom and our first impression, the one that was to remain dominant throughout the test, was its stunning lack of fwd characteristics. This, of course, warranted investigation:

The 1300cc mill is mounted firmly to a special sub-frame that in turn bolts up extremely firmly to the car's body. There is an extension of the sub-frame jutting rearward, not only to house the remote control gear shift, but to provide extra rigidity. The motor/sub-frame is exceptionally well-located just slightly in front of the wheels.

The suspension itself is delightfully simple: Front A-arms rubber-mounted to the sub-frame and McPherson struts. At the rear Honda has used (brilliantly, too) a system unique to road cars. Each rear wheel is on a swing axle that pivots on the opposite side of the chassis, and is therefore almost as long as the track is wide.

The axles are sprung and located longitudinally by semi-elliptics with a floating connection to prevent the leaves twisting as the axle rises and falls. The advantages of this system include much lower roll centres, reduced camber change and less susceptibility to undesirable jacking effects than with shorter swing axles. These long cross beams are only used elsewhere on the U2 sports-racers and at the front of Ford F-100/250/350 series commercials.

We tested the Honda on the greatest variety of roads we could find and we say it's suspension is one of the best-sorted of any car, regardless of size or configuration.

As our friend discovered, the Coupe tears into corners flat and just a shade on the understeer side of neutrally. It feels like a very well set-up front-engined, rear-drive car. It is so well set up that pouring on the power at the apex of some tight bends brings the front, in tighter, just as rear-drive does - and that is not an fwd characteristic at all. Backing off in a tight bend brings only a very mild and pleasant transition to oversteer.


Our lovely Asian model Yvonne loved the Honda: she was impressed by the comfort, control layout and superb attention to detail, even in the boot. Rob Luck shot these pictures of her and the Coupe 9 in Sydney's Cahill Expressway tunnel.



Pounding over dirt, we found the Honda quite ready to travel much faster than we would have believed comfortable for such a small car. Despite shocking surfaces, it rarely moved off line, and when it did, only minute correction was necessary to bring it immediately back where it should be. The ride was so smooth and comfortable over bad dirt that I was able to write road test notes with ease.

At one stage I wrote that you heard the bumps more than felt them; that the passengers were carried firmly and comfortably in their seats, with the impression that somewhere underneath was a real suspension deftly coping with whatever came along.

But the 9's ride is not without fault. It is far too pitchy on rough bitumen, a result of the short wheelbase.

We also found when we later drove a 7 for photography that its suspension is set considerably softer than the 9. For town use, the 7's ride is more comfortable than the pokier car, but it does not handle corners or dirt nearly as well. It shows definite fwd traits when hard pushed.

With the brilliant little motor, Honda has proved once and for all that it has overcome all the problems previously associated with air-cooling.

The engineers devised a system called Duo Dyna Air Cooling. The head and block have "airways" - passages just like the water channels of liquid-cooled engines - that are cast with short, thick vertical fins. A multi-bladed impeller mounted directly to one end of the crankshaft pumps air through the passages, providing the main cooling. It is assisted by more fins on the exterior of the motor.

Because Honda has made the fins thick and stubby, they do not ring with high-frequency vibrations - a major problem with previous air-cooled engines. So the motor is in fact far quieter than many small water-cooled jobs.

The lubrication system - and its beautiful-looking dry sump - also helps the cooling. There are two oil pumps: one feeding the oil from the dry sump tank mounted high up inside the right-hand mudguard to the motor, and the other pumping it back from the crankcase to the tank. The tank, like the rest of the engine, has the stubby cooling fins.

The 1298 cc engine with its OHC hemispherical-chamber, cross-flow head is all alloy, considerably reducing weight. This is a major reason the car is so well balanced.

The four Keihin side-draught carbies have just one air cleaner and are carted slightly on their inlet manifolds. At the other side of the head, there's a beautifully cast extractor that flows down in front of the engine into two pipes, then one.



Four Keihin carbies feed the 116 bhp engine of the Coupe 9 for mid-17 quarters and 116 mph performance. Motor is finned inside and out.


The engine's performance is incredible: it knocks out 116 bhp (88 bhp per litre!) and 75.9 Ib/ft of torque.

As we pointed out in our "Just Cars" column last month, the fact that the 116 bhp is developed at 7300 rpm raises many sceptical eyebrows. But you'd look a long way to find a motor that is smoother, less peaky and more willing than this one.

Second gear will pull strongly from as low as 700-800 rpm and wind out to its maximum 54 very rapidly. Third and top performance is just as impressive, letting the driver potter down to 1000 rpm if he likes. There's no hint of complaint from the motor, just smooth, silent power. And because the motor/gearbox/remote control is so well-mounted, there is absolutely no vibration as the little motor lugs away from 1000 rpm.

On the open road we stirred the engine along in the 5000-7500 rev range in third and top to clock incredibly swift times over one of our test routes. Third gear runs out to 79 mph, so it is spot-on for overtaking and fast cornering. Once again, the motor's smoothness and quietness are impressive as you back off, line up the bend and squeeze on the power going through. One of our drivers remarked as we wound out of yet another bend: "It's not raw power like say a V8 or a hot six - just smooth pull that makes the whole process so damned nice".

At the Hardie-Ferodo strip we found the Honda pulled 17.9 second quarter miles and hit 80 in a brilliant 20.8 seconds. The 0-60 figure was 11.7.

Unfortunately we didn't have enough road to record a top speed: the most we saw was 108 mph on the clock for a genuine 100 mph. We were pulling that up a hill and it was no trouble for the car: in fact it was winding out with great gusto, so we have no hesitation in saying Honda's claim of a genuine 116 mph at 7000 rpm should be accurate.

Over the test, we returned 24.5 mpg. You could expect 30 mpg or more with quiet driving.

The brakes are just as good as the performance: they drag the car down from 60 mph in a very, very good 3 seconds.

But I wasn't happy with their pedal feel during the touring tests:'the rest of the driver's scene is so good that you come to expect an extremely high standard, and despite power boosting the brakes need a decent shove. They're also not as progressive as I'd like to complete an otherwise fabulous touring set-up for the driver.


All controls are well within drivers' reach, gauges simple and unobstructed. Location of high-beam flasher (presstip of indicator stalk) blends perfectly with horn for efficient highway/multi-lane traffic work.


The steering wheel is mounted abnormally high, but you adapt to it instantly for a particularly good all-round position. The 7500 rpm red-lined tacho, speedo and fuel gauge are straight in front of you, with oil and amp gauges to the left, in a section of the dash board that wraps around towards the driver. The right-hand end curls back towards him too, giving an aircraft-like effect and making the entire gauge/control layout among the best of any car. With such scrupulous attention to detail, the dash alone is a significant contribution to driver relaxation, and thereby, safety.

The pedals are well-placed, but perhaps should be a little further forward for supreme comfort, although in typical Honda fashion the important toe-and-heel set-up is wonderful.

   
Left - The left and right hand ends of the instrument cluster slope back towards driver for maximum efficiency. Judge degree of wrap-around from radio below dash.
Right - Mr Honda excelled himself with thoughtful points like these clip-in, clip-out fuses. Slide them into your pocket for instant anti-theft device.


The gearstick will nestle too closely to the left leg for some drivers, but we like it that way. Your hand falls automatically on to it. The box itself is good, except for quick changes into second gear. The syncro there is poor and if you whip the change through quickly it crunches nastily.

We also found that our car became terribly stuffy in Sydney's 85 degree humidity even though it had through-flow ventilation and quarter windows. There's no power boost for the through-flow, so you cook when moving slowly in city traffic.

The lack of a blower presents another problem when it comes to demisting: you must use heat, and this is uncomfortable in conditions like ours where the windscreen may be badly fogged during summer rain, but the temperature is still 70 or 80 degrees. Certainly it clears the screen in super-fast time (the air is simply channelled from the engine's turbo fan, so it hits the screen with force), but who wants to roast in the process?

While the Honda's styling is a matter of personal taste, and very much love/hate, its finish is unquestionably good.

All nuts and bolts in the car are tightened to correct torques, it is proof-coated throughout (this also helps excellent sound deadening) and the trim and paint work are superb.

We were able to run the Honda through a very tough water test in which it was doused from all directions by very high pressure water jets. It did not leak one drop - a feat which a top local motor executive says most Australian cars cannot emulate.

Honda says the car will carry three adults comfortably in the rear. Sorry. It might take two Australian kids in comfort, but any distance in the back would necessitate a crash course in yoga for an adult. Nonetheless, the seat itself is very comfortable, as are the front reclining buckets.


The boot is quite big, but is spoiled by ridiculously small opening. Jack clips neatly into its own bracket Tools pack into space on other side of boot.




Bennett-Honda ambitiously intend to import 1000 Coupes in the next year - probably at the rate of five 7s for every 9. We found the 9 a more pleasant car for drivers than the 7, because of its better handling and performance. Even though the 9 develops its power at higher rpm than the 7 it is still smoother and more able down low, and a lot more potent at the top end.

The 9 costs $3180 and the 7 $2984 - and that's damned good value in Japanese or Australian.


TECHNICAL DETAILS
MAKEHonda
MODEL1300 Coupe 9
BODY TYPECoupe 2-door
PRICE$3180
COLORRed/black trim
MILEAGE START693
MILEAGE FINISH1097
WEIGHT(905 kg) 1991 lb
FUEL CONSUMPTION
Overall24.5 mpg
Cruising30 mpg
TEST CONDITIONS
WeatherFine, hot
Surfacehot mix
Load2 persons
Fuelpremium
SPEEDOMETER ERROR (mph)
Indicated 30 40 50 60 70 80
Actual 28.8 37.6 46.6 55.5 64.8 73.8


PERFORMANCE
Piston speed at max bhp3567 ft/min
Top gear mph per 1000 rpm16.6
Engine rpm at max speed7000
Lbs (laden) per gross bhp (power-to-weight)17.1 lb


MAXIMUM SPEEDS
Fastest run(160 kph) 100 mph
Average of all runs(See Text)
Speedometer indication, fastest run(173 kph) 108 mph
IN GEARS
1st(46 kph) 29 mph (7500 rpm)
2nd(86 kph) 54 mph (7500 rpm)
3rd(126 kph) 79 mph (7500 rpm)
4th(185 kph) 116 mph (7000 rpm)


ACCELERATION (through gears)
0-30 mph4.1 sec
0-40 mph6.1 sec
0-50 mph8.6 sec
0-60 mph11.7 sec
0-70 mph15.7 sec
0-80 mph20.8 sec
2nd gear3rd gear4th gear
20-40 mph3.1 sec5.8 sec11.8 sec
30-50 mph3.4 sec5.8 sec9.5 sec
40-60 mph5.4 sec9.6 sec
50-70 mph5.8 sec9.6 sec


STANDING QUARTER MILE
Fastest run17.9 sec
Average all runs17.9 sec
BRAKING
From 30 mph to 01.7 sec
From 60 mph to 03.0 sec


SPECIFICATIONS
ENGINE
CylindersFour in line
Bore and stroke(74 mm x 75.5 mm) 2.92 in. x 2.98 in.
Cubic capacity(1298 cc) 79.2 cu in.
Compression ratio9.3:1
Valvesoverhead single cam
Carburettorsfour Keihin sidedraught
Oil Filterfull flow
Power at rpm116 bhp @ 7300 rpm
Torque at rpm (11.5 kg/m) 75.9 Ib/ft @ 5000 rpm
TRANSMISSION
Type4 manual, all syncro
Clutchsdp
Gear lever locationcentre, floor console
Ratios:OverallDirect
1st3.44612.705
2nd2.0147.426
3rd1.3675.047
4th1.0003.692
Final drive3.692
CHASSIS and RUNNING GEAR
ConstructionUnitary
Suspension frontMcPherson struts, A-Arms
Suspension rearGross beam swing axles, leaf springs
Shockabsorberstelescopic
Steering typerack and pinion
Turns I to I-3.8
Steering wheel diameter15% in.
Brakes typedisc front, drum rear
DIMENSIONS
Wheelbase(225 cm) 88.6 in.
Track front(124.5cm) 49.1 in.
Track rear(119.5 cm) 47.1 in.
Length(414 cm) 13 ft 7 in.
Height(1 32 cm) 4 ft 4 in.
Width(149.5 cm) 4ft 10.9 in.
Fuel tank capacity(45 litres) 9.9 galls
TYRES
Size155 SB 13 (Japanese)
Pressures24 Ib front/20 Ib rear
Make on test carJapanese Dunlop SP 68
GROUND CLEARANCE
Registered17.5 cm) 6.9 in.


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Japan's 'Ichi Ban' (No. 1) Strikes Again
HONDA-SAN'S SPORTY 1300 COUPE

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With peak power (116bhp) at 7300 rpm, you'd expect a peaky little beast with a frighteningly narrow power band and you'd be wrong, dead wrong! It's a beautiful little motor, in a body you either love or hate. If you're looking for a conventional motor car, forget it it couldn't be more unconventional if it tried!

By MARTI DUNSTAN

IF JAPAN'S Honda-san wanted to make his latest locally-released opus, the Honda 1300 Coupe 9, any more unconventional than it is, he'd have his work cut out!

Four cylinders . . . fair enough. Air-cooled? Well, it's been done. Transversely-mounted engine? That's been done, too. Forced-induction air-cooling? Not all that new. Front-wheel drive? Not new. Four carbs on a four-banger? Standard procedure, for Honda. Dry-sump? Been popular in performance cars for donkey's years. Cross-over swing axles? Extremely rare!

But combine all these features in one super-sporty little coupe, and you've got what looks on paper to be the weirdest little motor car ever!

It's all very well to build an unconventional motor car, but it's quite another thing to make it work.

Probably the most unusual thing about Honda's 1300 Coupe 9 is that it does work and very well, too!

We picked up our test car, in glowing Honda racing red, from Bennett-Honda's Banksia (Sydney) branch, and tootled off back to the office (nose to the grindstone, never stops!)

The first impression, toe-ing around the back streets, was one of surprise at the almost complete lack of front-wheel drive characteristics.

Later, under more severe conditions, our surprise grew to amazement as those characteristics still remained extremely hard to pick.

The first time we achieved better than 35 mph, we found a large-scale problem in severe understeer but that was fixed with an extra 10 psi of air in each front tyre.

From that point on, our only criticism of the road-holding and handling would be that it could use a bit more rim width but then again, Bennett-Honda are selling the beasts with wide wheels as an option.

Apparently the only reason they don't come standard with wider wheels is that Japanese motor traffic regulations are extremely strict on that score.

Naturally enough, with all that air under the front, the ride suffered a little, but the interior comfort did much to offset that.

On the subject of interior comfort, we come upon another area open to some criticism.

The steering wheel is set high, and our six-foot-two editor found that once he'd achieved a comfortable driving position he was unable to see over the end of the bonnet!

From the passenger viewpoint, everything is peachy-keen, as our young American friends are prone to saying.

The driver has things pretty much his own way, too, apart from the problem just detailed. Instrumentation is comprehensive and well laid out, with the dash sort of wrapping around to put everything in easy reach.

The steering wheel is large and thin-rimmed, but it's leather-bound, and has a horn button at your thumb-tip in each of its three slotted alloy spokes.

The absence of front-wheel drive characteristics in a definitely front-wheel drive car is at least partly due to the way it's set up.

The mill is mounted firmly to a special sub-frame that in turn bolts up extremely firmly to the car's body.

There is an extension of the sub-frame jutting rearward to house the remote control gearshift and also to provide additional rigidity.

The motor/sub-frame is exceptionally well-located just slightly in front of the wheels.

The cross-over swing-axle rear suspension set-up also warrants further explanation.

It is a system unique in road cars, although it has been seen in U2 sports-racers and Ford commercials, and then as front suspension, not rear.

Each rear wheel is on a swing axle that pivots on the opposite side chassis rail in other words, the axle extends almost to the full track width.

The axles are sprung and located longitudinally by semi-elliptics, with a floating connection to prevent the leaves twisting as the axle rises and falls.

The advantages of this system include much lower roll centres, reduced camber change with wheel movement, and less susceptibility to undesirable jacking-up effects associated with shorter swing axles.

The front suspension is delightfully simple, consisting of front A-arms rubber mounted to the subframe, and McPherson struts.

What, then, is the sum total of all this in terms of behavior? We put our necks on the block and describe it as the best-sorted of any road car, regardless of size or configuration.

This, of course, makes it ultra-sensitive to tyre pressures, as we found out early in the piece. With tyre pressures out of kilter, it becomes a real bitch of a motor car a friend sarcastically described it as "basically an understeering motor car" after it had surged straight ahead on a 45 mph sweeper on 26 psi in the front tyres.

The rear end is exceptionally well-behaved in any conditions.

A multi-bladed impeller mounted directly to one end of the crankshaft pumps air through the passages, providing the main cooling. It is assisted by more fins on the exterior of the motor.

Because Honda has made the fins thick and stubby, they do not ring with high-frequency vibrations a major problem with previous air-cooled engines. So the motor is in fact far quieter than many small water-cooled jobs.

The lubrication system and its beautiful-looking dry sump also helps the cooling. There are two oil pumps: one feeding the oil from the dry sump tank mounted high up inside the right-hand mudguard to the motor and the other pumping it back from the crankcase to the tank. The tank, like the rest of the engine, has the stubby cooling fins.

The 1298 cc engine with its OHC hemispherical-chamber cross-flow head is all alloy, considerably reducing weight. This is a major reason that the car is so well balanced.

The four Keihin side-draught carbies have just one air cleaner and are canted slightly on their inlet manifolds. At the other side of the head, there's a beautifully cast extractor that flows down in front of the engine into two pipes, then one.

The engine's performance is incredible it knocks out 116 bhp and 75.9 Ib/ft of torque.

The fact that the willing little engine pumps out its peak horsepower at 7300 rpm would lead many to believe that it's a very peaky motor, with a power bank maybe 500 rpm wide, but you'd look a long way to find a motor smoother, less peaky and more eager to go than this one.

Second gear will pull strongly from as low as 700-800 rpm and wind out to its maximum 54 very rapidly. Third and top performance is just as impressive, letting the driver potter down to 1000 rpm if he likes.

There's no hint of complaint from the motor, just smooth, silent power. And because the motor/gearbox/remote control is so well-mounted, there is absolutely no vibration as the little motor lugs away from 1000 rpm.

On the open road we stirred the engine along in the 5000-7500 rev range in third and top to clock incredibly swift times over one of our test routes.

Third gear runs out to 79 mph, so it is spot-on for overtaking and fast cornering. Once again, the motor's smoothness and quietness are impressive as you back off, line up the bend and squeeze on the power going through. The brakes are just as good as the performance they drag the car down from 60 mph in a very, very good three seconds. But I wasn't happy with their pedal feel during the touring tests. The rest of the driver's scene is so good that you come to expect an extremely high standard and despite power boosting the brakes need a decent shove.

They're also not as progressive as I'd like to complete an otherwise fabulous touring set-up for the driver.

It will bore into corners very flat, and with just the slightest trace of predictable, comfortable understeer.

It handles like a very well-set-up, front-engined rear-wheel-drive car, even to the point that pouring on power in the apex of the corner brings the front in tighter.

Backing off in the corner brings on a trace of oversteer, and is therefore an excellent counter to the car's natural understeer tendencies.

The major hang-up with the car's road behavior, though, is the most incredible short-wheelbase pitching if you're susceptible to sea-sickness, take your Andrumin before going out in a Honda 1300 Coupe 9.

With the brilliant little motor, Honda has proved once and for all that it has overcome all the problems previously associated with air-cooling.

The engineers devised a system called Duo Dyna Air Cooling. The head and block have "airways" passages just like the water channels of liquid-cooled engines that are cast with short, thick vertical fins.

And that's the story a tremendously willing, sporty little coupe (just a little more room in back than a 2+2).

At $3180, it's a little on the pricey side, but it certainly represents more-than-reasonable value-for-money.

MAKE:HONDA 1300 Coupe 9
PRICE:$3180
PERFORMANCE
Top speed (fastest run)116 mph
Top speed (average)116 mph
Speedometer Indication122 mph
Rpm at max speed7000 rpm
Speeds in gears: Equivalent rpm
First29 mph (7500rpm)
Second54 mph (7500 rpm)
Third79 mph (7500 rpm)
Fourth116 mph (7000 rpm)
Acceleration through the gears:
0-30 mph4.1 sec
0-40 mph6.2 sec
0-50 mph8.5 sec
0-60 mph11.6 sec
0-70 mph15.6 sec
0-80 mph20.7 sec
Acceleration in gears:
2nd gear 3rd gear4th gear
30-50 mph 3.2 sec 5.7 sec 11.7 sec
40-60 mph 3.3 sec 5.7 sec 9.4 sec
50-70 mph--- 5.3 sec 9.5 sec
60-80 mph--- 5.7 sec 9.5 sec
Standing quarter mile:
Fastest run17.5 sec
Average of all runs17.7 sec
Fuel consumption:
Overall for test24.5 mpg
Normal cruising30 mpg
Speedometer error (mph):
Indicated304050607080
Actual 28.937.746.755.664.973.9
CALCULATED DATA:
Mph per 1000 rpm in top gear16.6 mph
Piston speed at max bhp3567 ft/min
Power to weight ratio17.1 Ib/bhp
SPECIFICATIONS
ENGINE:
Cylindersfour in line (transversely)
Bore and stroke74 mm x 75.5 mm
Cubic capacity1298 cc
Compression ratio9.3 to 1
Valvesoverhead, single cam
Carburettorfour Keihin sidedraught
Fuel pump electric, at tank
Oilfillerfull flow
Power at rpm116 bhp at 7300 rpm
Torque at rpm75.9 ft/lb at 5000 rpm
TRANSMISSION:
Typefour speed manual
Clutchsingle dry plate
Gear lever locationin console on floor
OVERALL RATIO:
1st3.446
2nd2.014
3rd1.367
4th1.000
mph per 1000 rpm16.6
CHASSIS and RUNNING GEAR:
Constructionunitary
Suspension frontMcPherson strut, A-arms
Suspension rearcross-beam, swinging axles
leaf springs Shock absorberstelescopic
Steering typerack and pinion
Steering wheel diameter15 1/2 in.
Brakes typedisc front, drum rear
power boosted
DIMENSIONS:
Wheelbase 88.6 in.
Track front 49.1 in.
Track rear 47.1 in.
Length13 ft 7 in.
Width4 ft 4 in.
Height4 ft 101/2 in.
Fuel tank capacity9.9 gals
TYRES:
Size155 SB13 (Japanese)
Pressures 35 front/25 rear
Make on test carJapanese Dunlop SP68
GROUND CLEARANCE:
Registered6.9 in.

Magazine reviews - Honda 1300/1300 Coupe

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1999 Oct Nostalgic Hero #75 HONDA SPECIAL EDITION
2001 Feb Nostalgic Hero #83 1300 Coupe 7S
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1970AprWheels 1300 Coupe
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1971MarWheels 1300
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