I really do like this model. A lot. Hondas got an obvious strong play from the late great Ryu Asada while he designed at Mattel, bringing all things #honda4life to both the Orange and Blue brands.
And choosing this to honor Ryu as part of my 10 Most Significant Models list is a great place to start, but there is a specific reason I chose this exact model as opposed to other Ryu classics, like his HW S2000, Prelude, NSX, or his favorite Matchbox design, the Lamborghini Miura.
But let’s get to that reason in a second. I of course wanted to mention Ryu in this list. I got to know Ryu well before I started the Lamley blog, and I think it is obvious he had a great deal of impact on my enjoyment of the hobby. As has been well documented by all those that knew him, his passion and excitement for what he was doing was contagious. You couldn’t help but walk away with a little bounce in your step after talking to him. He loved cars, and he loved designing them.
I could also just mention him here based on his output as a designer. Ryu’s designs were easy to spot. They were always ultra-detailed, accurate, and true to the task at hand. He was as accurate as possible with most of his Matchbox designs, as replicating the real car was very important to that brand at the time. When he moved to Hot Wheels, he knew his job and added a little of that HW flair, lowering or raking or doing whatever for that California Custom vibe that the brand was built on. In fact when I first saw his design for the Hot Wheels Acura NSX, I trashed it in a post, and I heard from him soon after. He understood why I didn’t like it, but let me know that he tooned it a bit on purpose, because, duh, he worked for Hot Wheels now. He could have gone entirely accurate, he said, but that wasn’t the job. I respected that. He did get his chance later, however, when he designed the NSX Type R for premium. “I hope you’re happy!” he said with a laugh emoji on chat. I was.
Which leads me to why I chose the Civic. This red Civic, the first release of this casting. Throughout my time doing Lamley, I would get the occasional text from Ryu. Sometimes he would thank me for a feature, but usually it was to give me a little background on a model. What went into a design, or a small detail I might have missed. Not always his models either. Sometimes he would point out something wrong about a design from either brand, telling me the fog lights should be placed slightly higher, or something else that specific. Other times he voiced his frustration that the model I was photographing for a post had a slightly misaligned headlight, tail light, or grill, and it would DRIVE. HIM. CRAZY.
He would ask for more pics so he could contact the plant to see if things could be improved. He always wanted his creations perfect. It gnawed at him when a model he put time and effort into was released with bad tampo alignment or another flaw.
It was in these chats that I learned that Ryu, and his design counterparts, really are artists. Sure, they work for a corporation, take on assignments, and push to meet deadlines, like anyone in a corporate job. But taking immense pride in their work, and demanding the best within the constraints given them was a job requirement. Designers for any product, in this case toy cars, need to put pride in their work, and take an artist’s approach. That is how they succeed.
I learned that most from Ryu, and those late night chats. And that was why I stopped showing leaked photos, because of the time Ryu let me have it about showing leaked photos, and he mentioned this Civic.
I was given grainy, early shots of that red Civic, like I had been given similar shots many times before of upcoming product. These were shots of models lifted from the factory. I was in traffic-building mode with the blog, and no posts were as successful as my leaked photo posts. I didn’t think much about the ethics of it, as I figured the photos were out there anyway, someone would show them if I didn’t, and I fancied what I did similar to the spy photos of upcoming cars driving around town weighed down with camo in car magazines.
I had done quite a few leaks, and would occasionally hear something from someone at Mattel, but I figured it was cool to do, and I was probably helping promote the upcoming models. It wouldn’t hurt anyone. But I was hurting Ryu, and he finally told me that later during a chat.
He lamented that the first images collectors saw was a poor quality photo of a car with misplaced tampos. And not just the Civic. A whole bunch of his designs. To Ryu, his art was showing incomplete, laying against a dumpster in a dark alley behind the gallery, not in the well-lit, approved space the gallery reserved. He was legitimately sad. I was heartbroken and embarrassed when he told me that.
We had a few chats after that. I started learning about the damage that leaks do beyond betraying the designers. I learned about licensing problems, models that were cancelled or delayed because of leaks, even lost relationships with car companies and other licensors. I saw a burgeoning black market for stolen cars that was causing all kinds of problems, and I certainly didn’t want to be a part of the problem. I learned I was doing far more damage than good. So I finally quit.
And it was one of the best moves I ever made for Lamley. I thought I would see a decline in traffic. I saw just the opposite. I saw some comments like “What happened to Lamely (emphasis on Lame), he used to show all the sneaks, now no one cares.” Except I cared. By not relying on traffic-growing red meat like leaks, I was forced to turn my attention to my content, photos, and relationships. Focusing on my content let me couple of months later to start the Lamley YouTube Channel, and I have never looked back.
Of course that also helped grow my relationship with Mattel. Sure, they send some pretty cool stuff for me to show, but more importantly they trust me. They share info with me, knowing I won’t share it until it is authorized. They never tell me what to say, and are totally fine with my panning something. But they trust me, and that is what counts. Of course that has benefitted Lamley in a big way, and hopefully you, as I am given some pretty cool insights on these models when I showcase them.
I know I am rarely the first to show something. I love it when I can, and don’t think I am constantly asking Mattel when I can show a particular model or sneak. But I know I will rarely be first. That’s ok. But I will always be happy I made that decision. And happy that Ryu helped me get there.
So, for Ryu, here is that Civic in the best photo quality I can give. Thanks man.