Pininfarina Lines: 1991 Honda Beat
Remember when Honda used to make cutting-edge products available at bargain prices? If you can't, don't blame yourself. We were never officially offered their amazing 1991-1996 Beat.
The Beat featured a mid-mounted three-cylinder engine that powered the rear wheels, similar to a Porsche Boxster. It produced 63 horsepower and had an electronically limited top speed of 84 mph. It was only available with a manual transmission. The I3 SOHC engine was the only engine available, and there were minimal changes to the car over the years. That's it. It was what it was, you just had to "get it".
Styling is awesome. Japan and some other parts of the world were privy to a cute subcompact class called "kei cars" that were as small as possible but extremely usable while also conforming specifically to Japanese regulations. Fortunately, what sheet metal the Beat does wear it makes great use of, thanks to famed Italian design house Pininfarina. They give the car the right amount of subtly and edge that makes it a lost classic of late 20th century design. Note how the headlights flow into the front wheel fenders, for swept-back look. The side air intake is thankfully a clean simple cut, probably influenced by Honda's groundbreaking mid-engine NSX a couple years prior. The rear is nicely rounded off with simple taillights and engine intake slots.
The interior is an exercise in more simplicity and frugality. A driver's side airbag was optional. The center console is slim and tall. The instrument cluster is a single standalone unit that houses clear white-faced gauges. Zebra-striped seats spice things up and somehow don't seem tacky, but just fun.
Honda was really onto something with the Beat. This thing easily could have taken a slice out of Miata sales, and probably handled better, too. They were never imported here, and though one or two have shown up, they are extremely rare. This one, unfortunately for my fellow Americans, is located in the United Kingdom.
Available here on Car And Classic UK for about $6,400.