Illustration for article titled There's No S2000 Without The Honda SSM Concept

Illustration: Honda/Jason Torchinsky

Welcome to Automobiles Of Future Previous, a brand new weekly collection the place I open up one of many many dusty books about idea automobiles sitting on my shelf from 20 years in the past, flip to a random web page, see one thing that strikes my fancy and dredge up as a lot details about it as I can discover on the web.

For this introductory installment, I cracked open certainly one of my favourite books from my youth — Chris Rees’ Idea Automobiles, printed in 2000 by Barnes & Noble — and traveled again in time to an period that lives rent-free in my head and shall proceed to take action till the ultimate breath escapes from my lungs: Honda within the mid-’90s.

What Is It?

This week’s focus is the 1995 Honda SSM, or Sports activities Research Mannequin if we’re to make use of its full identify. For those who may cryogenically freeze an automaker with the intent to thaw it solely as soon as the world has reached its most despairing of lows, to resume religion that good issues can certainly occur on this planet when humanity works towards a typical purpose with the clearest of minds and purest of intentions — properly, my vote’s going to Honda within the ’90s. Automobiles just like the NSX, Integra Kind-R, Civic Kind-R and S2000 are why. Just by wanting on the SSM, I’m certain you would surmise which member of that record this idea had a hand in bringing to life.

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Picture: Honda

However properly earlier than fans fell in love with Honda’s high-revving, front-engine, rear-wheel-drive two-seat convertible, we acquired a preview in idea type. The SSM debuted on the 1995 Tokyo Motor Present with traditional sports activities automobile proportions no one may critique, penned by commemorated Italian design home Pininfarina. Inside that lengthy hood resided a 2.0-liter, 20-valve inline-five cylinder with VTEC — regrettably linked to a five-speed model of Honda’s semi-automatic F-Matic transmission that no one favored within the NSX.

Transmission apart, the SSM’s credo was lean, sharp and easy. Honda touted 50/50 weight distribution, aided by the idea’s inflexible “excessive X-bone body.” In later manufacturing purposes, Honda promised X-bone may ship the “torsional and bending rigidity of closed-top car, with out extra weight.” All 4 corners acquired double wishbone suspension as properly.

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Illustration: Honda

The SSM’s styling was all enterprise, with just a few notable quirks that differentiate it from Honda’s future stab at this formulation. The low-slung headlights sit on the identical peak stage because the grille — an unusual look that provides the SSM a scrappy, equipment car-esque character. From the again, we see an enormous diffuser chopping into the house usually occupied by the rear bumper, housing two gun-barrel exhaust pipes.

The wheels are a large-diameter, six-spoke tackle a design not vastly dissimilar from what you would possibly’ve seen on Honda’s Kind-R creations, however with a slight, Porsche-like “twist,” flaring out on the fringes. The old-school Honda script behind the entrance wheels was a giveaway to the SSM’s lineage, evoking the identical badge on the traditional S600 roadster.

Oh, and another factor — there’s a beam slicing via the middle of the cabin, parting the double roll hoops.

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Picture: Honda

This bar divided the driving force and passenger halves of the inside, although there was nonetheless open house beneath it; in different phrases, it handed over high to hitch the SSM’s entrance and rear bodywork, slightly than creating two completely separate inside compartments. Honda claimed this considerably bolstered rigidity, and it is smart that it will.

The SSM’s inside was about as driver-centric because it will get — unsurprising, contemplating the steel bar obscuring the center of the dashboard. All of the local weather, navigation and in-car leisure controls have been positioned to the fitting of the steering wheel, in just a little pod with a number of dials. The place of the grasp dial decided what the driving force would see on the SSM’s instrument-cluster show, and inside that dial was a four-way directional pad for but extra management.

You may see the SSM’s inside and bizarre controls on this promotional video, which Honda recommends you watch utilizing a contraption referred to as “Goggle TV.” I’ll depart it to you to determine the right way to get your arms on a kind of.

I think about you’d make changes to the air-con or radio utilizing the D-pad, when you’d already chosen the related mode with the dial. It looks like a slightly clunky, laborious method to fidgeting with creature comforts, however then that bar didn’t depart Honda designers with many locations to stuff all these controls.

Under these dials is a keycard slot. I’m not precisely certain what the aim of the keycard system was, aside from this being the ’90s and playing cards seeming like a cool different to boring previous keys. As soon as the cardboard was inserted, you’d be capable of press the push-button starter and hearth up these 5 cylinders.

Why Is It Good?

You already know why it’s good! A two-seat, rear-wheel drive sports activities automobile with a naturally-aspirated motor and a wedge-shaped profile that’s the furthest factor from fussy. It’s the automobile we at all times complain producers don’t make anymore, and Honda made a prototype of 1.

Did It Occur?

And then Honda made hundreds of ’em so we may all expertise the enjoyment. The SSM is after all the predecessor to the S2000, which entered manufacturing in 1999. Evidently, it wasn’t a well-kept secret; Honda paraded the SSM world wide’s auto exhibits for years, so journalists weren’t shocked when the corporate introduced the roadster was making the leap to showrooms.

Illustration for article titled There's No S2000 Without The Honda SSM Concept

Picture: Honda

The manufacturing automobile ditched lots of the SSM’s extra concept-appropriate eccentricities — the middle beam, low-down headlights, confounding inside switchgear and that humungous diffuser — whereas retaining the gist of Pininfarina’s authentic design. Impressively, the S2000 had a digital instrument cluster similar to the SSM, although Honda saved cash with passive-matrix LCD readouts rather than the idea’s high-resolution display, which might have been enormously costly again in ’99.

The two.0-liter, 237-horsepower F20C four-cylinder changed the SSM’s inline-five, however the X-bone underpinnings and double wishbone suspension have been carried over to the ultimate product. Mercifully, the idea’s slushbox was ditched for a tried-and-true six-speed handbook — a call for which we’re all eternally grateful. One thing tells me the S2000 wouldn’t be fairly as celebrated as it’s as we speak if Honda caught with the unique transmission.

Can You Drive It In A Video Recreation?

Video video games are the one manner the overwhelming majority of us ever get to “drive” idea automobiles, so this shall be a pertinent query in each installment of this collection. Whereas the S2000 clearly landed in an enormous variety of titles and continues to dwell on in new video games, the SSM wasn’t as extensively immortalized.

There’s only one sport that has it: Tokyo Xtreme Racer Zero, launched in 2001 for the PlayStation 2. At this level, developer Genki wasn’t licensing automobiles for the Tokyo Xtreme Racer franchise, so the SSM goes by the moniker “Kind-JS4X.” Apparently, it seems as a closed-top coupe, regardless of the actual fact the SSM was offered solely as a convertible. Such have been the gaming {hardware} limitations of 20 years in the past.