The winner of a global contest between Honda’s design studios, Project 2&4 is a joint project between the firm’s motorcycle and car designers in Osaka and Wako respectively.
It’s some 40cm shorter than an Atom, at just 3040mm long, and a little wider, at 1820mm. Honda says the car’s layout and livery are inspired by the RA272 Formula 1 machine that became the first Japanese car to win at the top level of motorsport by claiming the Mexican Grand Prix 40 years ago this October.
Project 2&4 features a novel layout, with the RC213V MotoGP bike’s 999cc V4 engine mounted at one side of the chassis and a single seat ‘suspended’ above the ground by extrusions on the other side. Honda claims the design is intended to give the driver the same feeling of freedom that he would have on a motorcycle and, barring a four-point harness and a deeply scalloped seat, there’s little to hold the occupant in place. The carbonfibre seat slides fore and aft on protruding hinges.
The V4 motor has been detuned for road use, but Honda says it still produces more than 212bhp at a heady 13,000rpm. The peak torque figure of 87lb ft comes at 10,500rpm, and the limiter will cut in at 14,000rpm (the same figure as the RA272’s 1.5-litre V12, incidentally). Power is transmitted to the rear wheels via a six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission that’s controlled via paddles behind the steering wheel.
The motorcycle engine and bare single-seat layout help Project 2&4 to a remarkable kerb weight of just 405kg — a full 115kg lighter than the two-seat Atom and enough to give the car a power-to-weight ratio of 523bhp per tonne.
The car’s construction is a essentially an expanded motorcycle frame, made out of aluminium, coupled with a carbonfibre floor and bodywork. The official images of the concept show Öhlins dampers that are likely to be adjustable; the brakes are taken from a motorcycle, and the exhaust is made out of titanium.
The Project 2&4 does not have a conventional dashboard. Instead, it uses a transparent digital display to show a range of information. The concept’s display shows a lap of Suzuka circuit and a link from the rear-view camera, which takes the place of side mirrors and is based at the back of the central air intake. The steering wheel itself includes the engine starter button, switches for the trip computer’s stopwatch operation and toggles that are likely to adjust the Project 2&4’s engine and traction control modes.
Honda has declined to confirm if a version of Project 2&4 could reach even limited production, but the car's designer Martin Petersson said, "We should make it. I wish we could; it's not too crazy to do. There’s lots of bike parts, such as the suspension and brakes. The pedals are from a car. To make a central backbone frame like this is not too complicated; it’s the same as on a bike but scaled up."
He added, "It depends on what’s written, and the reactions to it. There’s always possibilities. We’ve done crazy stuff in the past. If you don’t believe in it I may as well give up and go home.”
Honda would have the capacity to manufacture a handful of examples - particularly since the detuned MotoGP engine is already in production in the roadgoing version of the racer, the RC213V-S.
The Japanese brand is keen to re-establish itself as a producer of extreme driver-focused cars, helping to support the much-delayed arrival of the NSX supercar next year and the recent return of the Civic Type R hot hatch.
Comment - Can Honda build it?
Honda desperately needs to reignite its reputation as a bold creator of fantastically engineered, driver-focused products as it prepares to bring back the NSX brand - and Project 2&4 could be just the ticket.
There are elements of the concept that are pure fantasy - the high-tech instrument panel would cost the same as an Ariel Atom alone, one suspects. But replace it with a conventional Stack racing display and use the road-going RC213V-S engine instead of the MotoGP unit and you could conceivably produce a track-day special that could sell for the price of a high-performance sports car.
Would that make Honda a profit? It’s unlikely. But with the brand’s return to Formula 1 with McLaren faltering badly, a limited production run of even four-fifths of the Project 2&4 concept could indeed do wonders for a brand that badly needs to rediscover its performance mojo before it relaunches its own supercar.
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