1983 Honda City Turbo II with Motocompo *Being sold exclusively at Bring a Trailer via live auction. *


Walkaround Video

Nippon Imports is proud to present a two-for-one package of eighties icons - the Honda City Turbo II and its partner in hooliganism, the Honda Motocompo scooter. The Motocompo was an optional accessory for the (non-turbo) City when it was new and a sure-fire conversation starter that’s fun to ride in its own right.

Both vehicles are recent arrivals from Japan and both have been lightly restored and fully prepared to use and to stand out at any event - from your local cars & coffee to the JCCS in Long Beach, if you choose to take them.

The Story of the City Turbo

By 1978 Honda had essentially stopped building the very small cars it had trafficked in a decade earlier, like the N600, Life, and Z600, in favor of the Accord and Civic.

But Honda was readying a new small car, one very different to those older models. What became the first Honda City started as the SA-7 project, designed by a team of young engineers (average age: 27) to be a small runabout that wouldn’t have any “economy car” stigma. It had to be roomy, good to drive, and not boring to look at.

What emerged was a very unconventional car by Honda standards, looking like something that Marcello Gandini (at Bertone) or Sergio Sartorelli (at Fiat) might have come up with. It was radical for Honda and distinctly youthful - a look at odds with Honda’s overall direction and one that was at first greeted with skepticism by management.

The development team turned to Toru Arisawa, an executive in charge of advertising and promotion in Honda’s domestic sales channels at the time. Arisawa assured upper management that young people would love the design, and after some months of pleading and presenting the case for the car, management okay’d it and the City went into production in the fall of 1981.

It was tall and narrow in the Kei mold but it was not a Kei - it bristled with interesting details and even in basic trims it looked vaguely sporty. It drove that way too.

The City was a sharp handler - light and lithe. Every version of the City was powered by the 1,231-cc “ER” CVCC-II SOHC four - but the best versions were the Turbo, introduced in September of 1982, and the Turbo II which followed a year later.

Created by Hirotoshi Honda, founder of Mugen and son of Soichiro Honda, the Turbo grew out of his own private projects and became one of the definitive hot hatches of 1980s Japan.

Until very recently, production road cars from Honda were almost never turbocharged. Even when Honda’s own turbocharged engines were powering Prost and Senna in epic F1 battles in the late 80s, turbocharged Honda road cars were rare - the City Turbo was definitely exceptional.

The first Turbo, the first Honda to use the company’s electronic FI system, mated an IHI turbo to the ER for 100 hp. With the City weighing in at just 1,500-lbs., the Turbo was a recipe for smiles. A year later the Turbo II upped the ante to 110hp with an intercooler, gaining a wider track and chunky flared fenders in the process.

Called “the bulldog,” the Turbo II’s wide fenders and big “TURBO” graphics gave it a vaguely Group B look, but it was as practical as any ordinary Honda.

The City, in all forms, featured lots of gadgets and “high tech” gadgets - typical of 1980s Japan - including the "Manhattan Sound" option, which featured a boombox that flipped down from a slightly raised roof.

Most famous option was the Motocompo minibike, a folding lightweight 50-cc scooter specifically designed to fit into the luggage area of the City.

Honda’s long expertise in motorcycles meant the Motocompo was as good as any other scooter if a little different. The handlebars, seat, and foot pegs fold inward to create an easily-stowed rectangular shape. Designed for the City, it was also sold with the later Honda Today Kei car, gaining fame in the Police-themed Manga “You’re under arrest.”

The Motocompo, Honda surmised, could take a driver even farther than a car in space-limited Japan. In practice, even though the Motocompo is fun to ride and both small and light (it is the lightest motorcycle Honda has ever produced), it still weighs about 100 lbs., awkward for many commuters.

It didn’t sell as well as Honda had hoped, but the combination of Motocompo and City was genuinely unique.

Built for pragmatic purposes, rather than style, the Motocompo was not an option on the performance-oriented Turbos, but they retain the mounts from the non-turbo model shell. The Turbo and the Motocompo make for a very popular pair as classics.

The City Turbo was a good seller when it was new, and even spawned a one-make racing series via Mugen; but Honda didn't replace it with any subsequent turbocharged hot hatches.

Our City & Motocompo

Our 1983 Honda City Turbo II sports 86,800 kilometers on the odometer which we believe to be the original mileage given the condition of the vehicle. It was purchased at auction in Japan in mid-2017; arriving in Florida in the fall.

At auction, this was a grade R car - we typically do not purchase grade Rs, but many cars graded R suffer from only minor defects other than age. Sometimes 20-60% of older vehicles at an auction may be graded R - a few are genuinely rotten apples, but many have only minor defects - like a bumper or panel that was damaged at some point in the past and repainted.

That was the case here, with the only “damage” being a small spot of bubbling rust on the leading edge of the front fender; as well as minor scuffs and dents.

Finished in its original factory silver, the paint was refreshed and the small rust spot repaired and repainted. Replacement factory decals were then fitted over the refreshed paint, replacing the faded, time-worn originals removed before work began.

The car sports a set of rare Volk Racing turbofan wheels, which is what first attracted our attention to the car despite its auction grade. The wheels were restored while preparing the car for sale.

Inside, the blue-and-gray two-tone interior is in good original condition and required only minimal cleaning after arrival. It shows signs of age but is not torn or damaged. It sports its original striped Turbo floor mats, which are hard to get replacements for.

Mechanically, the car required a new brake master cylinder after auction but the entire brake system was renovated prior to shipment from Japan. The A/C system, listed as inoperative at auction, required a recharge but now works and blows cold. Records with the vehicle indicate it received a new water pump in 2017 prior to auction.

The car runs, drives, shifts, and stops as it should and received a clean bill of health from our mechanics in Japan and again during our own inspection and preparation for sale after arrival in Florida.

To accompany the City, we purchased and imported a mechanically excellent but slightly scruffy White Motocompo. The painted panels were removed, refinished, and repainted in a factory shade of red to match the red decals on the City Turbo. White and yellow factory Motocompo decals were then added to give the bike a factory fresh appearance.

The Motocompo required no mechanical renovation and runs, steers, and brakes just like it did in 1983.

The City Turbo was not offered with the Motocompo, but the mounts for it remain. Factory straps were not available for tying the bike down so a set of Husky straps are in place to keep the Motocompo solidly anchored to the floor even when the City is driven vigorously.

With the car and bike matched color wise, the Volk turbofans, backed by 25mm spacers to put them more flush with the body, were repainted into the body color, with the “Volk Racing” scripts painted red in the same shade as the Motocompo. Details matter!

We’ve spared no expense in preparing this vehicle as if it were going to be our own to show off and treasure - we hope you’ll be pleased.

Joshua DiVirgilioSold