Hama Studio Coniglio

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I've been dreading this one for a few weeks.

Actually, that's probably the wrong word. Struggling, maybe, is better—it's so difficult to find information—in English—on this car online.

That shouldn't be the case, because even model maker Ebbro offers a scale kit for the car! Its name, too, is a tough one. What's correct? Hama Studio Coniglio? If you search its Japanese name, "コニリオ" results for a "Konirio" come up.

I'll put it this way: Google Translate has been working overtime. Let's see if I can piece together what I've found.

If any of you come across more information on the car, please share it and I'll add to the article. 

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I suppose the story should start in Ebisu, an area of Tokyo where a speed shop called RQ—Racing Quarterly—was starting up. 

In the early to mid 1960s, motorsport was still in its relative infancy in Japan, with saloon car races and formula car races dominating the scene simply because there weren't many Japanese sports cars on the market to race.

With the introduction of Honda's S cars—the S500, S600 and, later, S800—privateers and speed shops were overjoyed at its simple engineering and mechanicals similar to what you'd find on a motorcycle at the time. (Including chain drive, which featured on all but the later production S800s.)

This makes sense: most people already ride mopeds and motorcycles, and privateer teams often serviced both at their garages.

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RQ's logo is said to have come from a time when the founders of the shop were traveling through Hawaii. Their speed shop would tune vehicles, as well as offer fiberglass and kit parts for formula cars.

Also: "American T-Shirts" and Mooneyes hats, just like you'd see in Bonneville.

You can also see the body parts to turn a Honda S800 into the "RQ Coniglio," an option that made Honda's 770 kg (1700 lb) sports car significantly lighter and more aerodynamic. Designed—as I understand it—by Motoki Hama, who is an industrial designer in Japan and possibly related to one of the founders of Japan's Classic Car Club.

On the car's debut at the 1969 Japanese Grand Prix, the car finished second in class, helping to sell more fiberglass kits through Racing Quarterly!

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Production numbers? I've seen 10 as the number for the classic series, but I'm not sure if that also includes the coupe that Motoki Hama may still retain.

With roots so deep in the Japanese racing scene, translated comments on some of the articles I've read suggest that some members of the original crew went on to work on, among other things, Mazda's Le Mans effort (including the race-winning 787B!)

I hope to find more information on the car when I'm in Japan this October, and with any luck a Coniglio will show up for a few laps—one of the car's owners is very active in the vintage racing scene, if YouTube is to be believed.

The body is also being reproduced, if you'd like to fit one on your S800—the high-quality photograph of the blue car above is the "Coniglio Mk-II."

I'm sorry there's not more information, but I'll keep everyone up to date with anything else I can find…

Tomorrow? Something from Africa? America? Iran? Who knows…

Sources / Recommended reading