What kind of car was the “First Honda Life” that made Soichiro Honda decide to retire?[Push car]| MOBY [モビー]

The first Honda Life, an important step that became a turning point for Honda

The name Life is still fresh in our minds as the Tall Wagon, which was the mainstay of Honda’s minicars before the N-BOX appeared.

Around 1970, Honda’s road to becoming a global automaker was paved with the great failure of the Honda 1300, which was particular about an air-cooled engine, and the great success of the first-generation Civic, which was equipped with a water-cooled engine including an environmentally friendly CVCC. The episode of opening… is well known.

It is often said that the charismatic founder Soichiro Honda decided to retire as an engineer because the Honda 1300 and F1 machine RA302 ended in tragic results. The name of the car that has become is usually just a glimpse.

Soichiro Honda was allowed to switch to a water-cooled engine that was advantageous for environmental measures. should be rated higher.

Shifting from a maker-centered approach to car-making from the user’s point of view

From N360, which was a motivated manman, I feel kindness in life

As soon as it was released in 1967, the N360, which was the driving force behind Honda’s rise to the No. 1 mini vehicle manufacturer at the time, had an overwhelming power performance of 31 horsepower compared to other companies’ mini vehicles, which were about 20 horsepower, and the BMC Mini (1959 ), and a great success with the FF layout aiming for a “Japanese mini”!

Subaru 360 and the first generation Mazda Carol, which had been popular models until then, were kicked out, and rivals such as Suzuki Fronte released vehicles equipped with high-performance engines with over 36 horsepower, reaching 100 horsepower per liter, causing light power wars.

However, the N360 is “an example of a car that happened to be supported by the manufacturer for the good of the user”, and there are many aspects that cannot be praised for its comfort and safety. Although the claim was accepted, it was treated as a defective car and even a trial was filed.

Reflecting on this, the model change of the N360 shifted to car manufacturing that actively incorporated requests from the user’s perspective. It was the first life that was done.

Ultra-long wheelbase and 4-door configuration

The first-generation Mazda Carol was discontinued in the previous year, and the first-generation Life at the time of its release was the only 4-door mini passenger car.

Basically, just like the N360, it is a 2-box style FF car that aims to compress the mechanical parts and maximize the interior space, later called the MM concept (man maximum, mechanical minimum).

However, the wheelbase is 80mm longer than the N360, and the expanded interior length of the cabin is comparable to compact cars such as the Nissan Cherry. The size and interior space of the car were greatly exceeded.

The idea of ​​giving a 4-door minicar, which has limited dimensions, a practicality that is comparable to, or in some cases exceeds, that of a small car is the same as the N-BOX, which is still popular today. It will be the first to introduce a 4-door car, which is a year behind.

The normal Life has an independent trunk, but the later-introduced Life Wagon and Life Light Van have a tailgate that extends the rear of the body and opens wide. ” was the prototype of the mini-tall wagon that would become a big hit about 20 years later.

Powerful air-cooled engine to smooth and quiet water-cooled engine

The impression of the appearance is that the N360 has been refined and softened, but the contents are very different, such as the adoption of a water-cooled engine and the use of a diacosa type FF.

The N360 is an engine that emphasizes power and ignores noise and vibration, but the camshaft has been changed from chain drive to cogged belt drive, and a balancer shaft has been added. was taken care of.

The FF layout of the engine has also been changed from the two-story Isigonis type, where the engine is placed on top of the transmission, like the Mini, to a Ziacosa type that allows the engine and transmission to be placed in series and horizontally to lower the center of gravity. “Mellow route”.

The hot model is a twin cab and maintains 36 horsepower and liveliness, but if anything, it has a torque characteristic that is easy for anyone to drive, with an emphasis on the practical range of low to medium revs. On the contrary, the element as a family car is emphasized.

Such a route change can be said to be in line with the advent of the private car era, which is popular with everyone, rather than a maniac direction that is popular with car lovers. was able to provide

The historic decision made by Soichiro Honda was at the time of life development

The Life has many similarities to the original Civic, but the basic layout and concept were actually followed by the Civic, and the design began with fleshing out the Life.

However, what changed the most was not Honda as a manufacturer, but the charismatic founder, Soichiro Honda, who was on the front line of development.

The RA302, which exploded in flames at the French GP, met a tragic end together with Joe Schlesser, and the Honda 1300, contrary to initial expectations, was suffering from a sharp sales slump. , air cooling is more efficient.”

Even after the development of the Life began, Honda did not approve of the adoption of a water-cooled engine. Mr. Takeo Fujisawa, a well-known clerk who grew up with a team of three, approached.

Mr. Honda, will you remain as president?Or will you remain at Honda as an engineer?

Honda Official What I want to tell Honda’s challenging spirit “Honda 1300 announcement” Turning point of lifting the ban on water cooling, researcher meeting / Atami conference

Recognizing the limits of his ability as an engineer, Mr. Soichiro decided to remain as president. “At this rate, we won’t be able to meet exhaust emissions in time!” Allowed.

Do whatever you want.Instead, just do proper water maintenance.

Honda Official What I want to tell Honda’s challenging spirit “Honda 1300 announcement” Turning point of lifting the ban on water cooling, researcher meeting / Atami conference

This is sometimes talked about as an episode of the first generation Civic, but in fact, it was an event that condensed the elements of the first generation Civic as a prototype, and it was an event that occurred during the development of the first Life, which was preceded by the enthusiasm of the researchers, Mr. Fujisawa’s persuasion, and Mr. Soichiro’s decision. saved Honda.

Life itself has been three and a half years since Honda decided to withdraw from mini passenger cars due to the decline of the mini car market, which was losing its superiority to small cars due to higher prices due to quality improvements, and the concentration of production due to the huge hit of the Civic. It’s over in a short period of time.

However, the remaining development know-how and concept, and above all, the water-cooled engine, played a very important role in Honda’s great success and breakthrough after the Civic.

* The author information of the images used in this article is as of the publication date.

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