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American Honda Museum - Behind Closed Doors

Exclusive look at Honda America's private museum

Matthew Jones
Jun 27, 2014 SHARE

Imagine a place where everything you've ever loved, been inspired by and sought after was all under one roof. Where all nuts, bolts and body panels of models thought to be lost forever, have been perfectly restored and maintained to resemble the blissful shine they once portrayed the day they rolled off the assembly line. A place where teens can create dreams of their first top-down kiss while parents quietly reminisce about when it used to only cost $20 to fill up the tank and take Betty-Sue out on a night on the town. That place exists, my friends, and it's called the American Honda Museum.

American honda museum honda race cars 03 Photo 2/22   |   American Honda Museum - Behind Closed Doors

Call me a complete noob, but I've never really had the opportunity of touring an OE's personal museum before. I'll also be the first to admit that I had no idea what to expect. How cool could it actually be? If I'm able to recall my younger years in any sense, I think it'd be an accurate statement to say that the "museum" field trips in elementary school were never on my "F Yeah!" list. Yet as soon as I stepped foot into the spacious Honda hanger tucked off in Torrance, CA it all made sense... Honda has been one of the most prominent brands throughout the automotive industry for decades, isn't it only fitting they create a home to showcase all of their pride, joy and outstanding accomplishments? Well, that's exactly what they did.

American honda museum integra type r 02 Photo 3/22   |   American Honda Museum - Behind Closed Doors

See, the Honda museum is not so much a museum in the sense of a space to showcase every model they've ever created, but more or less a shrine to the road that paved the way for the Honda Motor Corporation—from timeless first-gen Civics and gimmicky scooters and trinkets to flawless (and I mean literally flawless) ITR's, checkered flag reigning racecars and one-off concepts with a foot still stuck in the future. Just about every piece of history that has played a part in the growth of Honda is all under this one roof.

American honda museum honda z600 04 Photo 4/22   |   American Honda Museum - Behind Closed Doors

Initiating my walk down the first rows of cars, I instantly felt as if I had fully stepped into a Honda time capsule. And opening the doors to a chassis nearly 30 years my elder only solidified that thought as I was blasted in the face by that classic nostalgic smell we all know too well. That smell that's as distinct as race fuel in the morning, or cigarette smoke on a new blazer. Yet it brings a chill up your spine as you instantly envision yourself one day owning a hunk of metal and leather with such a stench. Though take a step to the right and that smell will squirm out of your nose faster than "VTEC, Yo" and will be replaced by none other than the smell of a futuristic contraption that's never seen the light of day, nonetheless had a foot stepped in it. A smell that is just as distinct, and just as consonant.

American honda museum vintage honda ads 06 Photo 5/22   |   American Honda Museum - Behind Closed Doors

Let's be realistic. The Honda musuem space isn't quite big enough to fit every single Honda model ever produced, and I don't want to steer you wrong...but is that a problem? Think about it... there's Euro and JDM-spec models (all of which we wish we had), models that are "different" solely due to trim change, or even production vehicles that have received slim re-design between the years. Not only would it be an absolute daunting task to track down, restore and refurbish every one of these production vehicles, but to find a space to even fit all of these projects would be just as impossible. But what Honda HAS done is compile all the historical greats, the true trendsetters and building blocks that have made the American Honda culture what it is today. Like the N600 pictured in this article, for example. With a whopping 45hp, 40mpg and a top speed of 80mph, this chassis was the very first Honda automobile ever sold in the US. As the old guys would say, "this is back when cars used to cost about $1.00 per pound!" And with an MSRP of $1,395 and a curb weight of 1,356, they're exactly right. Yet more than 40 years later, the car is still just as applicable to the modern industry. It will only be a matter of time before our generation is scouring the internet in hopes to come across a rust-free 600 they can restore and maintain as a true classic just as our grandparents have done with their timeless domestics. Just imagine how cool it would be to have a pristine, 70-year-old "import" sleeping in your garage. Something you can factually point at and finally shout, "back in my day!" ...Unreal. Right?

American honda museum 05 Photo 6/22   |  
As a photographer, one of the most inspiring aspects of floating through the museum was the opportunity to view a great selection of Honda’s ad work from decades past. The grain, the grit, the tonality... all aspects a passionate shooter could not only appreciate, but learn from.

Sadly, with every blissful experience comes a downfall. It's the realistic balance of life. With that being said, I regret to inform you that the Honda museum is not entirely open to the public. Nor will it ever be anytime in the near future. In fact, many of Honda's own employees haven't even trickled through. Sure, there's the occasional scheduled car club or elementary school outing, but that's really the extent. Unfortunate, yes—but in some ways I suppose that's what makes the space so special. It truly is a shrine. A silent facility tucked off in an unmarked building where everything is in order and where history can rest in peace.

Considered the world’s fastest Honda Civic (at the time), this 1974 racecar was used regularly from '74–'86 and was built by the one and only Bob Boileau. Unlike the Mugen CRX, the Civic racer has been abused, beaten, battered and put to the ultimate test. The hood hadn’t been popped in over 20 years and I’ve probably skated rails with more structure than what this build’s roll cage consisted of, but gosh dang it, this little monster simply looks HAF—A whopping 40 years later and still as aggressive as ever.


American honda museum mugen CRX 13 Photo 10/22   |   American Honda Museum - Behind Closed Doors
American honda museum mugen CRX 15 Photo 14/22   |   American Honda Museum - Behind Closed Doors

Another absolute gem in the Honda museum was the Mugen CRX, or as I’ve dubbed it, “The Panty Dropper.” Produced in 1984 this first-gen CRX was used as a prototype test vehicle for Mugen performance parts. With a 1488cc engine, aluminum block and head and a Mugen camshaft you’d better believe this project was built for shredding. Luckily for me, it seemed to have just stepped off the production line without scratch on it.


American honda museum 1974 honda N600 19 Photo 15/22   |   American Honda Museum - Behind Closed Doors
American honda museum 1974 honda N600 interior 21 Photo 19/22   |   American Honda Museum - Behind Closed Doors
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By Matthew Jones
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