There is a basic principle of engineering that affects all cars: in order to make an engine produce more power, you need to add more fuel and more air. Adding more fuel is the easy part, but adding more air can be challenging. That’s why automakers use turbochargers to boost the incoming air, which in turn boosts the power output of an engine. This is particularly effective on smaller engines.
Turbochargers have been standard fare on Saabs, Volvos, and high-end Nissans for decades. One car manufacturer that has kept their distance from forced induction is Honda. However, they did experiment with it during the “turbo craze” of the 1980s.
I was at a stoplight one day when a small white car came whizzing up in the lane next to mine. I saw the “Hyper Turbo” graphics on the windows and almost mistook it for a typical ricer – until I noticed that it was right hand drive. Quickly, I snapped a few pictures with my smartphone and made a note to research it later.
Later that same night, my friend called me to say he had spotted the same car in a parking lot! We cruised over and took some more pictures and even met the owner, who really didn’t seem interested in talking with us. That was kind of a disappointment because I wanted to learn more about his unusual vehicle.
You see, the Honda City Turbo II was never sold in the United States – it was made for the Japanese Domestic Market. The first generation was produced from 1982 through 1984 and the Turbo II was produced from 1983 through 1986.
How this car got to the USA and into the current owner’s hands are unknown. Just to be clear: this is not the type of car you just happen to own – you have to go out of your way to get a car like this.
The City Turbo II has a turbocharged 1.2L SOHC engine with an intercooler which produces 108 HP and 118lb-ft of torque. That doesn’t sound like much today, but this engine in a car that weighs just 1.640 lbs means quick acceleration! The car will do 0-62mph in approximately 7.5 seconds.
With a power-to-weight ratio of 146.94 bhp/ton, the City Turbo II is better than a DeLorean, a 2012 Mini Cooper, and is very, very close to a Mitsubishi Colt Starion Turbo from 1985 which makes 144.4 bhp/ton.
UPDATE JUNE 2013:
The car featured in this post has been sold to a man in California, who in turn sold it to a private collector in Florida. That collector has now put it up for sale on the popular car blog BringATrailer, where it is for sale for $19,500. According to the listing, this incredibly rare car is only 1 of 4 TURBO II models in the United States.
Since I covered it back in October, the car has had all of its JDM stickers removed (thank God) and its original wheels put back on. The sale also includes a 50cc MOTOCOMPO folding motorbike that comes with the car, which was not in my original pictures.