Once more it’s time to plunge the sieve of clarity down into the sand bucket of the past, and see what nuggets of fascination can be shaken from the grit of time.
No theme whatsoever this week, just a random couple of pluckings from deep core of The Carchive. This one comes from the “forbidden fruits” section for all you who live West of the Atlantic.
It’s the Honda Aerodeck.
“In creating the Aerodeck, our engineers wanted to open up an entirely new dimension in motoring”
A New Dimension. Well, that was a bold claim. Whether in 1986 there was much call for the world of motoring to be turned upside down was possibly up for debate. Fortunately, the introduction of the Aerodeck barely registered on the world’s radar, let alone changing buying habits for ever.
The Aerodeck used existing Honda engineering but presented in a unique, two-box format. You could almost call it a longroof-coupe; there were two doors and a station-wagon style rear end. America received a far more conventional hatchback coupe instead, but the JDM and us spawny Yoorpeens could get our hands on the ‘Deck.
“…technology, quality and performance come together in a trend-setting combination”
Let’s take a look at the phrase “trend-setting”. There had been, of course, the Volvo P1800ES, then the Reliant Scimitar. All of these were three-door estate cars intended to serve up a blend of space and sportiness; to be honest the industry had been catering to this select audience for absolutely years; you could accuse the Chevy Nomad of being a part of it if you wanted to.
Pop-up headlamps on a station-wagon? Nope, the Lotus Elite did that in the ’70s. I guess we could say that the Honda was the first car to do whatever it does on a front-wheel-drive chassis. Apart from the Lancia Beta HPE. Dammit.
Scratch that, lets just give the Aerodeck plaudits for looking dang cool.
Among its unique featureset, aside from those pop-ups, were a pair of very long side doors and gently tapering roofline, which went towards providing “ unprecedented interior comfort and utility”, along with what was referred to as a “gull-wing tailgate”.
The name was accurate. The tailgate opened with a ten-inch chunk of roof, making for a much wider opening than had it been conventionally hinged. Marvellous; but then as if to completely nullify the whole concept the tailgate abruptly ended just above tail-lamp height, so heavy stuff had to be hauled way up over a loading sill. Those in need of a beast of burden needn’t sell their Volvo 245s just yet.
That “trend-setting” body yielded a drag co-efficient of 0.34, a good figure for the time but, with all the pop-up lamps and low bonnet-lines that the brochure crows about I’d have expected something even better.
The mechanical package, too, could have been pushed a bit further. This ’88 brochure presents just two models, both using the 12-valve two-litre engine; the EX model offering 106 hp fuelled through carburettors, or 122hp using the PGM-Fi for which Honda were rapidly becoming famous. There was no mention, certainly not on UK models, of either the 16V engine or 4-wheel-steer systems that the Prelude benefited from.
It’s a bit of a shame, really. The Aerodeck had double-wishbone suspension all round and was clearly set up to be great to drive. It seems daft to have ended up as a car which was neither fish nor fowl; not quite practical enough to be a station-wagon alternative, and not quite swift enough to become an everyday sports car.
“Form and function have never co-existed on better terms”
Whatever that means, it seems as if the recipe that Honda followed for the Aerodeck has been left out of most manufacturer’s cookery books since then. But then the two-door coupé / station wagon has never really been lobbied for. It would take a concerted effort starting with a unified global refusal to buy SUVs before Honda and others would even consider returning to these slim market niches. After this generation, the Aerodeck was never directly replaced. There was a Civic station wagon for which the Aerodeck name was revived, but frankly that was a pale imitation of the eccentric original.
We all yearn for a more colourful motoring landscape, but it’s no use if the customers aren’t there. It’s a fair bet that the die-hards of the ’80s who bought the Aerodeck the first time round were looking for a modern, reliable alternative to that Scimitar or Elite that they owned (or aspired to) in the past. Today, those customers simply don’t exist any more. Or if you do, then a) I’m sorry, and b) the lobbying starts here.
(Images are of original manufacturers promotional materials, photographed by me. Copyright remains property of Honda Motor Company. Aerodeck was a cool name. But I guess any future version couldn’t have pop-up headlamps anyway. So there’d be no point.)