Top 10 Honda concepts that didn't make it

Honda might be the biggest, but is it the most imaginative?

HONDA has come in for a bit of stick recently with murmurs that its bikes, while still just as accomplished as ever they were, lack some of the sparkle of earlier generations.

That really depends on your point of view and priorities, but there’s no denying that the firm has teased us in the past with some magnificent concept bikes that have since disappeared without trace. Weirdly, some of Honda’s craziest concepts have reached production, for better or worse. The NR750, for instance, went from 1989 concept to 1992 production, and remains magnificent to this day. The DN-01 also started life as a concept. Well, you can’t win them all.

Then there have been wacky wonders like the Rune, and indeed the lovely-looking CB1100, which have similarly achieved the leap from concept to production, in both cases with virtually no alterations.

So we know Honda has the wherewithal and the balls to turn concepts to reality. And that means the bikes in this list likely came within a whisker of making it to showrooms. Here’s what you could have had…

10. Dream Kids Dokitto, 1997

Yes! If Fisher Price made a motorcycle, this would be it. Honda’s idea here was to introduce kids to motorcycles, cars and whatever else they could stick an engine in, with a series of kits made up of interchangeable, Meccano-style parts. Bolt them together in whatever fashion you want using those big, blue fasteners and off you go. And while today anything like this would have a little battery and a whining electric motor, back in the '90s Honda was still firmly an engine company and that blue block in the middle is a real, four-stroke, 31cc lawnmower engine. Cos what could go wrong if you let toddlers play with petrol? There was also a four-wheeler, called Wakuccho.

9. VTX Techno Cruiser, 2004

Honda’s crazy, Goldwing-based Rune cruiser started life as a concept from the firm’s American R&D department, so there were high hopes that its follow-up, the VTX Techno Cruiser, would also reach production in some form or other. It didn’t. Which is a shame because on style alone it might have rather shaken up the cruiser establishment. The massive V-twin – based on the VTX1800 motor, but perhaps even bigger – was wrapped in a shape so sharp-edged that it could almost be a KTM. Those massive, billet, trailing-link forks probably gave a hideous ride, but they look great. Honda even mooted a turbo version, because why not? Never came to anything, though.

8. Zodia, 1995

It’s debatable whether the Zodia really qualifies for this list, since it’s supposed to only cover the bikes that didn’t reach production. While the Zodia didn’t, it’s influence on the Rune, launched eight years later, is clear. However, we’ll keep it in because those crazy, HR Geiger-esque forks never went any further and the eventual Rune shared none of the bike’s powertrain, swapping the Zodia’s V-twin for a Goldwing flat six; an unusual example of the reality being madder than the concept.

7. e-NSR, 2001

You can tell that the guys who made the Fisher Price style Dokitto still didn’t feel they’d got their message across four years later, when the e-NSR appeared. This time, the petrol engine was gone – which is probably a sensible move – and there was no effort to do any LEGO/Meccano stuff. Instead there was a simple, lightweight electric bike that could be dismantled and packed away – in the boot of a small car, for instance – and used by kids, or more likely their dads. Of course, production was never a serious consideration.

6. FN-1, 1997

Think Honda’s been a bit cunning, turning its age-old Pan European into the ‘new’ CTX1300 this year? Well it turns out a similar idea was floating about back in 1997 – as demonstrated by the FN-1. Actually, the FN-1 was a far sportier proposition than the CTX1300 is, designed to be a naked sports bike rather than a cruiser, although it’s clearly still as big and heavy as Moby Dick. Neat, never-made-it bits include the single fork front end, but that split headlight is surprisingly modern. Sort of.

5. Xasis, 2001

Er, Honda… Why didn’t you make this into a production bike? It’s not like naked, sporty V-twins had no market back in the early-2000s. The FN-1-style single fork was clearly a no-go but the rest of the bike looked more than viable. Being the product of Honda R&D America, it wasn’t so off-the-wall as some of the Japanese concepts, either. Most of the bits, like the VTR engine, were real, off-the-shelf components. Unfortunately, it remained a mock-up (by some of its later showings, after the concept had been freighted around the world a couple of times, the clearly-not-real-metal frame was badly cracked…) Arguably, the seat unit did provide inspiration for a generation of Honda superbikes, but that was about its only contribution to showroom models.

4. EVO6, 2007

The Goldwing’s enormous flat six was never going to be a likely candidate for a sports bike, but that didn’t stop some lunatics at Honda from having a damn good try. To put the EVO6 into perspective, remember that Yamaha was just launching its new V-Max at the time, so something bigger and badder from Honda was a nice bit of distraction. It looked great, too, even though, in your heart of hearts, you knew it would likely be a slow, wallowing pig to ride. From all sensible perspectives, the decision not to make the EVO6 was the right one, but we still wish that some – maybe a limited run, like the similarly-engined Rune – had made it into the wild. Biking would have been better for it.

3. X-Wing, 1999

The 1999 X-Wing represents perhaps the last flash of that old, cocky, ‘we can make anything’ Honda that created things like the original Fireblade and the NR750. Powered by a 1500cc V6 engine – a proper, powerful, DOHC one at that – and packed with tech like traction control and variable valve timing, as well as a built-in sat nav and internet connectivity (this was 1999, remember, when that all sounded like science fiction), it was supposed to be a preview of the sort of sports tourers we’d be getting from Honda in the new millennium. However, in the hangover after that new-millennium’s-eve party, it obviously didn’t look like such a good idea.

2. RC-E, 2011

Perhaps the RC-E, which represents Honda’s first really serious stab at an electric sports bike, is still new enough to make it to production in some form or other, but with every passing year the chances are fading. The electric power train seemed like it might have enough get-up-and-go, on paper at least, to make it enjoyable, and the rest of the bike was nicely shorn of wild-and-wacky, look-at-me, concept bike clichés. There was even a number plate, and mirrors. But it’s that styling, part RCV, part RC166, that really stands out. Want one.

1. CB1100R, 2007

The longing for most concept bikes is tempered by the fact that they’re so obviously impractical propositions for production, with unobtainium components smattered all over and usually some futuristic technology that isn’t even possible. If you ever see one at a show, take a close look at the ‘touchscreens’ etc – more often than not they’re actually what's technically referred to as ‘stickers’. However, the CB1100R wasn’t like that. It’s achingly close to being a viable production bike, and indeed its sister concept, the CB1100F, became one. Really, making one of those into the ‘R’ version would be a weekend’s work if you had the right parts, but said bits aren’t even in Honda’s options catalogue. Come on Honda, there’s still time…