Automobile

1976 Honda Lady Review: Driving the One-of-One Civic Wearing Haute Italian Fashion

The exterior, conversely, is stunning for a mid-’70s car from any country, but especially for a hatchback hailing from Japan. In a time where most Japanese cars either aimed for bottom-dollar pricing—and ergo appearance—or simply copied stylistic cues from American cars, the Lady is truly forward-looking and unique. The svelte wedge shape, with its integrated corner lights and aggressively raked windshield, essentially looks like a leaked design document for the entire decade to come for the automotive industry as a whole. Interior space or visibility isn’t completely sacrificed in the way less-reasonable concept cars from the same era did. 

As a result of this pragmatic-yet-bold design, the Lady still completely drivable as a normal car, which is fairly unique among concepts from the ’70s, and this truly makes it feel like a vision for future road cars rather than just a head-turning flight of fancy with wheels. The third-generation Civic hatchback that debuted in 1983 and the third-generation Accord that arrived in 1985—especially the Aerodeck variant of the Accord—make it clear that Honda drew inspiration from this concept in one form or another. 

Stepping into the Lady, it has aged in the way a split-level home with a conversation pit has: You can date it pretty accurately at a glance, but you’d also still love to live with it. Personally, I wish both would come back already. Essentially, the Lady’s interior is a slightly upscale version of the standard Civic interior. Think of it a bit like a ‘76 Acura RSX—but decades before the idea of a luxurious Japanese car was anything but a punchline to European and American consumers—and you have a pretty good idea of what the general look and feel from inside is like. 

The only upgrades inside the cockpit versus the production Civic are wood accent work, a modified upper-dash panel, a purse hook, and a matching passenger-side makeup mirror (which I totally admit I used to fix my lipstick; we’ll get to that shortly). Apparently leaning into the “Lady” moniker meant these amenities were added like a bespoke, less-pandering Japanese version of the failed Dodge La Femme from 20 years earlier. Because the car is still drivable, stunning to behold, and not painted Barbie-Corvette-Pink, I found it rather charming instead of condescending. 

Artistic Integrity

Preserving brand history and heritage is a relatively modern idea, and certainly not something Honda was focused on in its relative infancy in the global automotive industry. Therefore, the angular hatchback ended up at a Honda dealership in the Netherlands at some point after it completed its show tour and found its way into the hands of a private collector after that. This is usually where the story of a car like this would essentially end.

The Lady is a machine that can absolutely stake a claim as a piece of history. It represents a seminal moment in Honda’s development as a global automotive superpower, both in its vision for future style and in the ambition it represented. Or, alternatively, it could very easily be declared as a piece of art. The cars-as-art debate has been around for as long as there have been cars, but the Lady surely qualifies as a sculpture on wheels. Only one exists; it was constructed by hand by an influential designer, and it was built entirely without the realistic constraints of budgetary concerns, mass-production tooling, or DOT approval. It stands as pure a vision as possible of what a car should be. 

Whether it’s art, history, or both, this is an obscure but irreplaceable classic that is best left untouched and appreciated with your hands clasped behind your back and you dutifully bending over in a dim warehouse to peer at details forever frozen in amber. Maybe, if we’re lucky, it will reappear at a Concours down the road, and we’ll all be treated to a fresh photograph of it behind a velvet rope, sitting on a manicured lawn at a country club. 

Or not.

The private collector who owns the Honda Lady is not like most collectors, especially the ones hawking low-mile Type Rs and virtually undriven Zanardi NSXs on certain automotive auction sites. You see, the Lady is owned by Myron Vernis, the self-described Junkman, and someone I have been fortunate to call a friend of mine. Vernis’ collection spans nearly a century of time, an entire globe’s worth of countries of origin, and every possible form of automotive propulsion ever envisioned. This incredibly diverse cast of cars is united by two common themes: They’re cool, and he drives them all.

Here he is picking up parts from AutoZone in the only Honda Lady that exists on the planet, to drive home that second point. 

When I told him I wanted to come through his garage to shoot some cars for stories—and I requested access to the Lady—he joyfully agreed. I told him I’d like to get the chance to get some photos of myself with the car. Me, a self-described Honda lady posing with the Honda Lady, was something I’d been dreaming of ever since I started coordinating outfits to cars. 

Of course, he said yes, and went a step further. Vernis tossed me the keys. I put on my matching dress, adjusted my makeup in the vanity mirror inside the car, and drove off to find a good photo spot. I spent the better part of a few hours having the most joyfully surreal time of my life as I drove and posed with my favorite Honda.



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