A unique cylinder head made the clean-running 1975 Honda Civic CVCC an engineering marvel.
But good old-fashioned marketing and a catchy tag line did just as much to elevate the car and Honda's image for technological competence in its critical early years in the United States.
As strict emissions standards loomed for the 1975 model year, most of the world's automakers decided to clean up exhaust gasses after they left the engine. They did so with expensive, performance-robbing equipment such as catalytic converters, exhaust gas recirculation valves and pumps that forced air into the exhaust system.
Honda went a different way. It designed an engine that created fewer emissions to begin with.
The CVCC, short for Compound Vortex Controlled Combustion, was exactly the breakthrough Honda needed to compete with Toyota and Datsun. Before the Civic, Honda was best known in the United States as the motorcycle company that also sold a few two-cylinder, air-cooled roller skate-sized N600 coupes.
Honda made the most of its engineering breakthrough with an effective tag line for the Civic CVCC: "What the world is coming to."