Honda just announced the pending availability – for the 2023 model year – of the most powerful production car it has ever offered for sale in the United States.
And it’s a Civic.
One with 315 horsepower.
Yes, it’s a special Civic – the Type R. But a Civic, nonetheless. That “nonetheless” not being derogatory in the least. The opposite, in fact. What’s next? 1,000 horsepower Corvettes? Actually, come to think of it, we’re not far from that. The current Corvette comes standard with almost 500 horsepower – upgradable to 650 horsepower. Dodge’s Hellcat Charger and Challenger offer up close to 800 – which is within spitting distance of 1,000 horsepower.
If you can spit that far.
The Corvette’s base price is $64,200. A Hellcat Charger starts at $75,900. And the new Type-R Civic starts at $42,895 – only twice as much as the price of the base Civic. On the upside, you get twice as much power – and get to 60 in the high four second range – which is quicker than every Corvette made from the first one back in the mid-1950s all the way through the early 2000s.
And it’s a Civic, remember.
It’s like putting 50 cents into a vending machine and – instead of getting a can of Coke – you get a bottle of really good champagne. Of course, Coke machines don’t dispense soda for 50 cents a can anymore, either. More like a buck fifty. And while you’re getting a lot for your money when it comes to the Civic Type R, how many have that kind of money?
Which is a young person’s car.
It is, after all, a Civic.
A car that was designed to be a first car, which usually means a young person’s car. This is still the case with the standard Civic, which lists for $22,550. But the Type R costs twice that . . . and it’s still a Civic. The most powerful Civic ever, to be sure. One of the most powerful and highest-performing cars ever made, too.
But when all is said and done, it’s still a Civic – and not many people who aren’t already middle-aged are likely to be in a position to spend twice the cost of a standard Civic on this Civic. Not to mention the additional cost of insuring a car like the Type R, which is likely to amount to thousands more – annually – for drivers who aren’t already middle-aged and older.
This is why it’s almost universally true that whenever you see a car like the Type-R or a new Corvette, it is driven by someone middle-aged or older. The under-30s have been priced out of what was – once-upon-a-time – the youth market. This was the market mined by Lee Iacocca and John DeLorean back in the ’60s. Iacocca took the Falcon – an entry-level economy car – and made a Mustang out of it, specifically made to appeal to young people.
Very young people.
As in people just graduating from high school. Late teenagers.
DeLorean – over at GM’s Pontiac division did the same, using a basic car (the Tempest) as the basis for what became the GTO, the 1964 equivalent of the 2023 Civic Type R. But there was an important difference. In 1964 – the first year for the GTO – the base price of the car was $2,491. Even adjusted for Joe Biden (and the “Federal” Reserve which is “federal” like Bruce is female) the ’64 GTO only cost $23,927.
Interestingly, this is only slightly more costly than the cost of the current – basic – Civic. The one that does not have a 315 horsepower engine. The ’64 GTO came standard with a 325 horsepower V8 engine. It was also a much-larger car than the Civic; a full-size car by modern downsized standards.
It was, admittedly, a much more basic car than the Civic – even the basic (non-Type R) Civic. It did not come standard with air conditioning, power windows and locks and no amount of money would have bought you a ’64 GTO with an LCD touchscreen or even one air bag.
But that is precisely why the youth of 1964 could afford the GTO – and the Mustang – and the fleet of emulators that quickly followed when it became apparent that there was a huge market for cars like the GTO and Mustang.
GTOs were not for the gray-haired – as they are, today. As – for the most part – cars like the new Type R and Corvette and Hellcat Challenger also are, today. They are all very nice cars, in addition to being almost-surreally powerful cars. The new Type R’s performance makes the old GTO’s look almost palsied in comparison, notwithstanding the V8’s menacing rumble.
But it’s not likely you’ll see many just-out-of-high-school youths behind the wheel of a new Type R – unless their parents bought the car for them. In fact, you aren’t likely to see many Type Rs, period – because there are only so many parents in a position to buy one for their kid and only so many middle-aged and older people who would buy a car like this for themselves.
Cars like this, in general, having become specialty-verging-on-exotic rather than mass-market cars, as the GTO and Mustang were, once. The latter sold in numbers proportionate to the number of $23k economy cars are sold today. You saw Mustangs and GTOs (and 442s and Road Runners) everywhere, usually with a kid not long out of high school behind the wheel.
Today, you see cars like the Type R rarely. And almost always with a gray-hair behind the wheel. This bodes not well for the future of such cars – because most of the market for such cars won’t be around for much longer.
Or will be in nursing homes, at any rate.
The shame – just the right word – is that it would be easy for Honda to offer a car like the ’64 GTO – one that young people could afford to buy – if Honda could build one with just the equipment that makes the Type R powerful and quick, without all the rest of the equipment (such as the six air bags it comes standard with) that makes it cost twice as much as it needs to.
But Honda can’t do that.
Because it’s no longer 1964 – and it’s illegal to do that.
The federal regulatory apparat says it can’t. The apparat didn’t exist in 1964. There was no middle man (with a gun) in between the car companies and car buyers. Whether you think “safety” – and so on – are important isn’t the point. The point is you’re no longer free to decide how much you’re willing to pay for such things – because the government decrees how much you will pay for such things.
Of course, there is a limit to how much people can pay for such things. Which is why it is probable very few people – who aren’t verging on being old people – will be able to pay for the new Type R Civic.
Notwithstanding how impressive a car it is.
. . .
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