21 July 2020

More than an old car #151: Honda Vamos

I have a soft spot for unconventional-looking cars simply because it demands you to look at them. Whether or not it rubs you the other way is subjective, but this 1970 Honda Vamos would make you yearn for more!

The Vamos was first introduced in 1970, where it was officially known as 'Vamos Honda'. Its name is derived from the Spanish word, meaning 'to go', and it was certainly an unusual conveyance to do just that. The car was intended to be a Swiss Army knife of sorts, as Honda claimed it was suitable for security purposes, construction sites, factory transportation and farm management among other uses. Beneath its rudimentary appearance, the Vamos incorporated safety features such as protective guard pipes (which served as doors) higher than the occupants' centre of gravity, a roll bar, lap seatbelts as standard and a partly tempered glass windscreen. The spare tyre in front also doubled as a shock absorber in case of emergency. Uniquely, it used a MacPherson strut front suspension and a De Dion tube with half leaf springs in the back.

It was offered in 3 different body types: a 2-seater (Vamos 2), 4- seater (Vamos 4) and a 4-seater with a full-length canvas top (Vamos Full Holo). Interestingly, the Vamos was offered in 4 colours: McKinley White, Caravan Green, Andes Yellow and Alpine Blue, although most were sold in green. The Vamos shared its engine with the N360 and Z360 sister cars, and was supposed to compete with the Suzuki Jimny and the limited-edition Daihatsu Fellow buggy. Due to the open cab configuration, all instrumentation and switches had to be both water- and dust proof.

It was powered by a 354 cc air-cooled i2 engine, allowing it to reach a top speed of 90 km/h. It was only 2,995 mm long and weighed 520 kg, with a load capacity of 350 kg. Owing to its small size, fuel consumption was also very favourable at 25 km/litre

Production of the Vamos ended in 1973, with only 2,500 units made. The Vamos name was resurrected in 1999 for a totally unrelated micro/kei van. Honda had intended to produce 2,000 units per month, but general unpopularity due to the lack of off-road performance despite its appearance greatly impacted sales. It is likely that even fewer still survive, with the overwhelming majority still in Japan. The fact that one actually made its way here is seriously impressive given how obscure it is even to car enthusiasts. A similar unit was sold for almost 2.1 million yen (S$27, 230), which goes to prove that such oddities do not come cheap.

While it remains unregistered, it is interesting to see what plans the owner has for this car. Despite its exposed nature, it can definitely attract eyeballs since very few cars are designed like that in the first place. If you are lucky, you may get to see it on the roads some day!

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