Dogs like to sniff each others’ trouser puckers to see who their friends are. If you were to go sniffing around the aft-end of today’s Nice Price or Crack Pipe Honda City, aka Bulldog what you’d smell is motorbike! Of course we’ll still have to see if its price stinks.
While in reality more Chihuahua-like owing to its bug eyed mug, Honda’s diminutive dynamo - the turbocharged City II - nonetheless gained the nickname Bulldog. We’ve gone through the history of these little cars in a previous contest, but that particular car remained frustratingly out of reach from most Americans living as it did in the more liberal confines of Canada. It also didn’t come with a bike in its butt, but more on that later.
Japan’s keijidōsha, or light vehicle, class is a fascinating one, full of all kinds of cool rides. Designed to meet tax and insurance regulations, the island nation’s pocketable cars, trucklets, and egg-like vans offered a full menu of products, all in three-quarter scale.
The Japanese government further appreciated the class because at the end of their usable lifespan they didn't need to be crushed into cubes owing to their already diminutive dimensions, and predisposition to cube-like proportions.
Yep, much like fun-size candy bars, dwarf hookers, or songs by the Minutemen, Kei cars often come up appreciably short and sweet. In fact, every Japanese maker at one time or another played in this sandbox. Some, like Mazda even created distinct brands for their Kei cars, even if most the products offered by their Autozam subsidiary were little more than rebadged Suzukis.
Honda was proud enough of their Keis to slap them with their own brand, and even the iconic H logo. On the City II turbo that’s on an offset grille which gives the car the appearance of being even less impressed than McKayla Maroney.
On this 1986 City Turbo II, that’s bookended by the aforementioned bug eyes and fenders showing off plenty of flare. The widebody look is mirrored in the back and those fenders wrap around a set of fairly plain steel wheels, somewhat at odds with the car’s otherwise audacious appearance, at least below the equator.
Above that it’s all phonebooth, all the time. For those of you too young to have seen anything but a revisionist Superman, that’s a glass box that used to be a common sight in many public locales, and which allowed Clark Kent a place to find his motivation.
The added height allows the City to provide a reasonable amount of room inside despite its truncated length. Here you get a pair of modestly bolstered thrones in silver and blue mouse fur. Unlike the current spate of button crazy and multi-tiered Honda dashboards, the one here is representative of the brand’s saner ‘80s work, which is to say it’s simple and ergonomically considerate.
It’s also on the wrong side of the car for U.S. consumption, but that’s not an insurmountable problem, just pretend you’re a mailman. Everything inside looks perfectly serviceable despite the whole having to shift with your left hand and making the drive-thru at Sonic a bit of a hassle.
But pop the hatch and you’ll find this car’s coolest feature, which is the tiny collapsible mini-bike that takes up all the grocery-getting space behind the back seat. It’s fully functioning and features a 49-cc two-stroke motor and centrifugal clutch single speed power delivery.
Like the rest of the City this rare option looks almost brand new. Of course if that little two wheeler’s two and a half horsepower and 20-something top end seems a little tepid then you might find the 99 ponies derived from the car’s CVCC-II (lots of IIs on this car) 1,237-cc IHI RHB51 turbo-equipped and intercooled four more your cup of sake.
That’s backed up by a proper 5-speed stick that sends power to the front wheels in typical Honda fashion. Suspension is independent all around, and braking is facilitated by tiny drums out back and discs in front small enough to be mistaken for tentacle porn DVDs.
Of course Honda, nor any other company deemed the U.S. To be worthy of official Kei-nication, so those that have come here have done so through surreptitious means. This one is being sold by a company called California Cars, is said to have solid New Hampshire registration, and to be located in that bastion of all things whackadoddle known as Florida.
That’s a lot of states to go through for this pound pup and the last hurdle to do so might just be its $19,500 price, which obviously is not insubstantial. Of course for that you’re getting both a car and a bike, and that cool nickname.
It’s now up to you to determine if this Kei is worth that kind of kibble. Or, if this Bulldog’s price is total bullshit.
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