Back in 1970, “SUV” was not an initialization anybody had ever thought of. But the idea of an outdoorsy lifestyle vehicle based on a road-vehicle platform was still popular. And that’s what an SUV basically is, right?
Honda’s outrageous/excellent Vamos from 1970 was clearly inspired by the likes of the doorless Mini Moke and Fiat Jolly. But Honda went next-level with the crossover nature of its little beauty. It was technically a lifestyle ute (that in itself is very-2021) because it was based on the TN360 kei-truck; but it was aimed at private buyers that wanted to have fun, cart sports equipment around and even haul motorbikes. Very, very small motorbikes - like Honda’s own Dax.
The forward-control driving position might not look too safe, but not to worry: the company assured that the front-mounted spare tyre would absorb accident impact. The painfully thin rollover hoop and sidebars were more psychologically beneficial than protective.
But what a machine! The mid-engined, 354cc Vamos was offered in three different configurations. The single-cab (very) light commercial version had a larger tray, a second top could be added to cover the rear (with a second row of seats if desired) and you could go all the way with side flaps to make it an enclosed van.
It was a fun vehicle to be sure, but Honda didn’t think to make it AWD, which limited its adventure potential. It only lasted three years and 2500 units in production, although the Vamos name was revived for a 1999 kei-minivan in Japan.
The reborn Vamos continued until 2018, and while nowhere near as innovative or interesting as the original, it had its moments.
The 2003 Vamos Hobio (above) offered a Travel Dog Package with water-repellent upholstery (eat your heart out, Subaru) and there were regular trim and option changes aimed at making it a fashion-van. Oh, and Honda did offer the new Vamos with AWD.