Jomon's CRX-R. Part 1 - A Tribute to Soichiro Honda & Ayrton Senna.
Updated: May 14
The CRX-R is an Oxymoron of sorts. Such a car was never produced, even as a concept by Honda. In brotherhood with the EF chassis Civic, which shared many common parts, the CR-X Coupe was combined as the first to encapsulate the venerable B16A V-Tec engine.
To start with, we ought to pay homage to the temple of V-Tec & put the original engine into perspective: Back in 1989 when Honda unleashed the 16A DOHC V-Tec engine, Japan was at the peak of its domestic bubble economy and Japan’s manufacturers were fighting for attention. They each wanted to showcase their abilities to produce excellence, primarily focused on supplying exciting cars for the domestic market’s youngsters, who for the first time in Japan's history were about to be spoilt for choices.
Back then, the hottest of hot-hatches the Europeans were mass-producing to cater for strongly demanding customers, were Volkswagen’s 112 bhp Golf and Peugeot’s venerable 205 1.9 GTi.
Now - as Honda unleashed these new, powerful, high-revving lightweight cars, complete with double-wishbone suspension and resultant handling prowess, the goalposts were moved as a rude awakening for the European manufacturers.
The new Japanese kid on the block had duly arrived and promptly ran rings around the competition, before running off into the distance, leaving red faces & neck hairs stood on end from the sound of its high-revving engine; most unable to see which way the little Honda had disappeared through country roads.
The chassis was already something special, which arguably gave the little Honda better chassis control than designs of the day from European manufacturers who'd favoured the cheaper to produce, but inferior McPherson strut front & rearward trailing arm designs. Brakes included discs at each corner on V-Tec models and Honda had paid attention to every detail, even keeping the best for the domestic market with such offerings as a Torsen LSD, Close ratio Y1 Transmission and quick 3.0 lock-to-lock power-assisted steering.
The Japan market, as was usual back in the day, got all these toys and more including such options ranging from a glass roof, to an A-pilar-mounted map reading light, with air conditioning as standard for the JDM market. Some might wonder if the youngsters of Japan were spoilt in the 80's heyday, when it is said that cigars were sometimes lit during social evenings using ¥1,000 bills. I visited Japan for the first time in 1993 during a summer holiday. I saw, I gawped and envied kids the same age as I, driving all sorts of Japanese exotica both 2 & 4 wheeled. My then girlfriend's mother also drove a near new 1.6i CRX, just to rub it in.
Soichiro Honda established Honda in 1948, taking advantage of the opportunity to provide cheap transport to the masses of Japan as the country rebuilt itself after the war. He’d always had engines first and foremost in his heart. Gasoline flowed through his arteries and motorsport was an integral part of his DNA. Under his stewardship, Honda grew from strength to strength, first focusing on winning championships on 2-wheels as far back as 1959 at the Isle of Mann Tourist Trophy and continuing to climb onward. In the mid-’60s, entering F1, Honda learnt from its failures & victories, going on to reign supreme from 1986 to 1991 with the best drivers including Ayrton Senna, whom many diehard F1 fans consider to have been the best driver, ever. Period.
Soichiro Honda had also lived to see Honda grow globally & all the way through the excesses of Japan’s bubble economy & finally passed away in the summer of 1992, shortly after the production of the EF chassis cars ended and was replaced with the EG chassis as well as the production of his first Supercar. The NSX NA1.
With his love of Motorsport in mind and Hamamatsu’s factory not far away from Fuji’s circuit, Soichiro was put to rest at Gotemba cemetry with Fuji looming in the background where his spirit would be able to regularly hear the sound of engines racing at full cry on the neighbouring F1 grade circuit, Fuji Raceway. Honda's Heritage museum is located in Motegi, Honda's own circuit where Moto GP races of Japan are run each year. This museum which I never fail to visit each year is home to an amazing collection of motorsport & road vehicles and examples of fine engineering. Its incredible to think that well before the modern CNC machinery of today existed, Honda was manufacturing oval-pistoned 8-valve engines for the ground-breaking NR750. Soichiro's legacy is in itself an incredible story that this mere blog post can never do justice for. Honda's engineering history is to me, heroic in so many ways. in
Ayrton Senna was, as most CRX enthusiasts know, a famous owner of his own coupe, a car which he is said to have enjoyed. He was, of course, famously involved in the development of the original NA1 NSX.
Senna will forever be remembered for winning the hard-fought F1 titles for Honda in 1990 & 1991 and doing Soichiro San proud, before coming runner up in ’92, shortly after Mr. Honda passed away. Ayrton also came in as runner up in ’93 & finally moved onto the then more dominant Renault-Williams team before his untimely & final tragic race at San Marino in 1994.
Whilst living very close to Fuji Raceway some years ago, my family & I sometimes visited the beautiful Gotemba cemetery where Soichiro was laid to rest in 1992, saddened that this man’s passing was, at least to me, the pinnacle of Honda’s N/A engineering, combined with two glorious years in F1 at the hands of Ayrton.
I like to believe Soichiro died a happy man. His spirit overlooks what may be the most beautiful cemetery in Japan with an amazing view of Fuji in the background. When driving on the circuit myself, I sometimes wondered if Honda’s spirit was listening to and enjoying the sound of motorsports as the sun would set behind Fuji.
It is because of this history of these two individuals who lived with a passion for what they did and excellence in their work, where they’re well remembered in the early ’90s, that I created this CRX-R glass-top in tribute.
I hope its representative of something that both Mr Honda & Senna would have approved of had they each lived to have seen it.
Alas, the CRX-R was never produced by Honda in reality, but from many hours of searching for parts, diligent work & a passion for automotive perfection, perhaps my dream has been manifested, at least once in retrospect. If you've enjoyed this blog post, please subscribe below - to be informed of future updates. Author: Miguel Varella-Cid
Founder & Director of NEWERA IMPORTS