Land of the Rising Sun-day: Tamiya 1970 Honda NIII360
The Japanese Mini? What an insult.
Hello LaLD, it's been a while. After long periods of being busy with school and not being motivated to do anything, I'm forcing myself to start being productive again, and part of that plan was to get back on Drivetribe and put out another model review I can be proud of. I don't know how often I'll be on here once school resumes, but with the last three weeks of summer I want to get as much done as I possibly can.
I grew up surrounded by JDM cars, everytime something like an S15 Silvia flew by when I was a kid I could do nothing but stare at it in awe of how insane it looked. Being drawn to JDM as a kid, I got myself plenty of 1/64 Japanese cars in small scale, and I have countless memories of showing them off to the other neighborhood kids.
That fascination with Japanese automobiles didn't last past my childhood though, and I was going through a bit of JDM lull where I lost interest in Japanese cars when I decided to dive headfirst into 1/18 collecting last year. Supras and Skylines just didn't fascinate me as much as they used to. That's why even as my collection size doubled over the past year it was mainly 50s/60s European classics, which I was (and still am) obsessed with.
It wasn't going to be this way forever though, and as I continued to grow as a car enthusiast I earned a deeper appreciation for Japanese automotive history, especially after a couple visits to the Land of the Rising Sun myself and seeing legendary pieces of Nihon Steel in the flesh. Soon, older Japanese cars from the 70s and 80s earned a special place in my heart, even more so than the cars from the tuner scene that came around at the turn of the century.
When it comes down to 1/18 models, there's plenty of Hakosukas and 2000GTs and Mazda Cosmos out there along with all the earlier legendary Japanese icons you hear about. Then there's the Laurels and RX-3 Savannas, slightly less known classics that get their share of love and attention.
The Honda N360 should be one of them, being one of the predecessors to the infamous Civic line and the first four-wheeled Honda to hit American shores in 1967, albeit with a larger engine as the N600. While it wasn't much of a success due of tightening US vehicle regulations that worked against its small size, it paved the way for a whole generation of successful Hondas being brought stateside, especially the Civic, which I'm sure needs no introduction.
It hasn't received the recognition it deserves in larger diecast scales either. Hasegawa made it as a model kit in 1/24, a scale I'm not very interested in. When Tamiya announced that they were releasing a 1/18 model kit of the NIII360, a mid-production facelift of the N360, I was both excited and frustrated. While I finally had the chance of adding a 1/18 version of it to my collection, I knew it was gonna turn out badly if I tried building it myself. That's why when a friend offered to build the kit for me as long as I was willing to buy some of the materials for him, I didn't hesitate for a second.
Flash forward a few months, and now the NIII360 is complete, sitting on my desk as I type. The paint finish on it is Tamiya's Racing White paint, a sort of yellowish off-white that lends itself well to the simple box-like shape of what some call 'The Japanese Mini'. The NIII360/Honda badges on the back and side of the car are stickers, but could easily be mistaken for factory printed tampos.
The dash is always one of the most important parts of a good 1/18 car for me, and in this case also the part of the car I was most impressed by when I received it. All the details on the dash were hand painted with a silver marker using photos of the real thing as a reference, which I think is just insane.
The car, despite being a plastic model, also features some details that a lot of 1/18s nowadays just don't have anymore. The front wheels for example, feature steering. Although the mechanism is a bit flimsy because the wheels are snapped on through a Lego-like mechanism, it's still really cool that they managed to fit something like this into a plastic kit.
When it comes to early Hondas, the S800 might have been the star of the show with its high-revving motorcycle engine and distinctively European looks. It was the N360 however, that paved the way for Honda's success in the coming decades (especially in the American market) with affordable, high-quality economy cars like the Civic or Accord.