Seeing a car — even in a picture — that you’ve never known before is a huge thrill. When you write and think about cars every day like I do, that gets harder and harder to find, making you like a junkie always trying to beat their tolerance to get that high again. Well, today, I found some raw, uncut, car-heroin: the Honda Formuling.

If you’re like me, when you first look at these pictures, the 82% of your brain devoted to the visual identification of cars is likely going bonkers, neurons dumping out long drawers of images of cars as they reach their little axons in there to try and figure out just what the hell you’re looking at.

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It says HONDA on the car there, silkscreened on that grille-less front in a way I’ve never known any Honda to do. It’s a convertible, from an era (1979) when I was pretty sure Honda made no convertibles. The exterior styling looks like a strange cross between a Chevy Baretta and a Lancia Beta, while the interior seems to be the plaid wonderland that is a late-70s Honda Civic. Again, what the hell am I looking at?

This Kijiji ad calls the car a Honda Formuling, which is also printed nice and big on the dash. A Google search doesn’t reveal much about the car at all. ‘Formuling’ is a (I think French?) company that makes steering wheels, though the steering wheel on this Honda Formuling is bone-stock ‘79 Civic. So, if it’s related to that company, it’s unusual they didn’t decide to fit it with their signature product.

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Based on the description in the ad, this is a very rare car indeed:

1979 Honda formuling this is a one of a kind only twelve made this one came from waterloo Honda in ont this is onlyone that is convertible all original even tires has only 8000 km taking offers aways garage kept has not been driven since 1994 just in garage would like it to go to a good home

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Punctuation also seems pretty rare for the seller, too.

So, it seems like the Honda Formuling was some sort of Canadian dealer special. Specially-modified dealer cars are certainly not unheard of, but I can’t recall one that’s quite as dramatically altered as this. The donor car here seems to have been a 1979 Honda Civic, which is a pretty dramatically different-looking car than this Formuling. It appears that the entire body has been removed, with almost nothing (that I can tell) re-used for the new, clean-lined, targa-like body. Is it fiberglass?

It doesn’t look like the doors have been retained (though I think the door handles are from the Civic), or any of the lighting equipment or anything. That’s all very unusual. Even the glass, usually something that’s kept on conversions like these, looks different. Maybe the rear window was retained, there?

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The drivetrain seems to be the same old CVCC FWD Civic guts, and I’m guessing the central unibody tub that contained most of the passenger compartment was retained as well. Though, notably, the rear seat back seems to have been sacrificed.

I called the dealership referenced in the ad, Waterloo Honda in Ontario, and they claimed they’ve never built any vehicles like this at the dealership. So it’s even more of a mystery than I thought at first, when I was already mystified.

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It’s actually quite a nice-looking car, and, compared to the original donor Civic, a dramatic conversion. If anyone knows more about these fascinating unicorns, let us know here in the comments! I want to know the story behind these Civics-in-fancy-tracksuits!

(thanks, David!)


Contact the author at jason@jalopnik.com.