ROTM March: Joe Ardagh’s Honda City Turbo II

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The site of  a Honda City is rare enough here in the states, but to witness a Turbo II (T2) still in action roughly 8,000 miles away is going a step further. Owner, Joe Ardagh, tells us that in his home land of New Zealand the community is kicking it strong & old-school but only to a select few!

Proudly featuring out of New Zealand, Joe can be seen surfing the forums and chatting with the locals. The Honda scene is not huge in NZ and due to it’s closer relationship to the motherland, rarities and exclusive models Honda released are somewhat assessable if you know the right person. From Saloon Accords to Beats, they are lurking in certain areas….but all isn’t what it seems if you don’t have the connections to find a Bulldog like this one.

…much like the states these these are extremely hard to find, and near impossible in this sort of condition, I looked for 2 and a half years to try and find a good example of a T1 or a T2 but nothing but rust buckets with stuffed engines ever came up on our local trading site (trademe) our local version of Ebay. But then when I joined in the build section I stumbled across a bloke on there that has a passion for restoring old Hondas, and he had just picked up this little T2 with rust patches all through it. I watched over 3-4 months as he cut out and killed the rust and then painted it this perfect original Honda silver, and that was the calling card I had to have it.

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Joe watched the T2 everyday being restored from fellow City enthusiasts as the body went under knife and emerged into what it is now. It was a exhausting process he tells us, with every little detail being looked at and correctly fixed when needed. Finally in May of 2012, he flew to Auckland from Christchurch and negotiated a fair bidding on the Bulldog. The trip was well worth it and Joe proudly drove home with the T2 ready for it’s new home.

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Released in the Eastern Hemisphere (and in the UK as the Jazz) the Honda City was Honda’s forte into a so-called teen market of it’s time with it’s launch in November 1982 with Honda Clio dealerships. Featuring an innovative tall seating arrangement and the ability to carry a transforming partner, the Honda Motocompo, the City sold extremely well till it’s production ended in 1986.


During it’s run, Honda released the City Turbo which added a IHI RHB51 turbocharger, developed as a joint venture between Ishikawajima Heavy Industry and Honda. It was lighter and smaller than most other turbos and could run at higher rpm. It accelerated the “ER” CVCC engine from 0–100 km/h in 8.6 seconds or 0-60 mph for us American folk. This was also the brainchild of Mugen’s founder & Soichiro’s son, Hirotoshi Honda!

The Honda City Turbo II was released in November of ’83 with pronounced fenders, sideskirts, graphics, front fascia and a revised “ER” CVCC-II engine. Already with a 8-bit computer handling the turbo, Honda decided to increase the compression ratio, revise the intake and exhaust manifolds & add another first in Honda production…….a Intercooler! This allowed the little ER to produce 110 PS (81 kW; 108 hp) at 5,500 rpm and 16.3 kg·m (159.8 N·m; 117.9 lb·ft) at 3,000 rpm.  Not bad for ’83 considering this is the only time Honda put a factory turbo on any of their production vehicles until ’07 with the Acura RDX.

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The Turbo II started to create it’s own nickname, the “Bulldog” and for good reason! Not only could you buy a fast subcompact that could outrun many domestic compacts, it was downright menacing looking for a car of it’s stature. Think of it like a Toyota Yaris or Honda Fit for it’s time on steroids. It became so popular that Honda even released an official mascot of the car later on in it’s production until ’86. Check out the commercial below.


Joe tells us he constantly gets asked about his T2 and the love affair locally is minimal but strong. Just like the people who help run Roots, the community is there and ready to help.

The community has taught me a lot, there are a lot of great people on there and so many willing to help, I really don’t think I could have drummed up the courage to take on such a rare car if it wasn’t for the guidance of two guys in particular, matt (lotasboy) and brendon (BMGJET) are two of the most knowledgeable blokes on these things that I’ve met, brendon knows absolutely all the in’s and out’s of these cars, hes twisted every bolt and tampered with every engine component on his. 200whp out of his little beast and it only weighs 500kg!

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We love Joe’s ambitions and the guidance from fellow City owners who have been willing to help. Between his day job as an Arborist and night time hours chatting with fellow T2 owners, Joe deserves credit for his continuation in the Honda game. His plans with the Bulldog are to continue the build that Matt & Brendon started and to help garner a stronger following for these cars. If the digital boost gauge wasn’t enough in that awesome cluster, this Bulldog screams fun and the plans are already laid out for it’s future.

“The plan is for 200 reliable horse power at the front wheels. Which includes things like a custom air to water barrel intercooler and a hyper flowed ‘holden rodeo’ turbo. Id like to thank Matt, Brendon and the rest of the NZhondas team for all their love towards the car and the support, and to my parents for letting me steel their garage!”

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All photo’s and quotes are from their respected owners and used with permission.

Nate Mitchell

HR Commander n' Chief Collector of 1G Preludes and resource material. Keeping the Roots Alive one car at a time!

5 thoughts on “ROTM March: Joe Ardagh’s Honda City Turbo II

  • March 1, 2013 at 10:00 am

    Great article. This is one car that interests me so much but I didn’t know a lot about it. I will be keeping this for future reference.

  • March 1, 2013 at 8:32 pm

    Nice to see international fame for the T2.
    Getting to the 170hp mark isnt to hard,
    Just increase fuel pressure, remove boost cut, intercooler after market fuel pump and turn the boost up to 16/17psi with a nice big exhaust and make sure the O2 is working so it isnt to rich down low. Be interesting to see how yours turns on Joe, 200 is a very hard mark to reach and mine was no where near reliable at that power. Killed the turbo every 3-4 months and a few head gaskets getting the tuning perfect.

    Video for those that have never experienced a T2

    The city turbo isnt the only old school turbo honda, Cant forget the turbo legends which also came as auto RWD or manual FWD.

    • March 4, 2013 at 2:00 pm

      Thank you for sharing this impressive footage! I never knew that little engine had such potential, it just makes it worse that I can never have one! LOL

  • May 10, 2016 at 10:38 pm

    Do you know if the owner is on city forum? I’d like to know the paint code for when I spray mine soon.Cheers


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