1966 Honda S600 Roadster on Bring a Trailer Was One of Honda's First

1966 honda s600 roadster
BaT Find: 1966 Honda S600 RoadsterBring a Trailer
  • One of Honda's earliest passenger cars was a sportscar.

  • With a redline of 9500 rpm and a curb weight of 1500 pounds, this little roadster is part car, part motorcycle.

  • This one is a rare left-hand-drive example originally from the island of Okinawa.

In the mid 1960s, a Japanese journalist named Shotaro Kobayashi shipped his white Honda S600 to Europe, and spend the next two months and 7500 miles hitting all the highlights. He toured the Porsche factory just as it was tooling up for production of the 911 (then called the 901). He showed up at Lotus and let Colin Chapman take a spin in the little Honda—Chapman came away impressed. Perhaps most importantly, Kobayashi and his S600 were there for Honda's debut in F1 at the Nürburgring with its spidery RA271. Who wouldn't want to relive that kind of adventure?

1966 honda s600 roadster side
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Well, perhaps you can. Up for auction on Bring a Trailer—which, like Car and Driver, is part of Hearst Autos— is a near-identical match to Kobayashi's tiny road-tripping roadster, albeit one more appropriate for U.S. roads, with the steering wheel on the left side. It's a 1966 Honda S600, one of Honda's earliest passenger cars—almost more motorcycle than car.

1966 honda s600 roadster rear
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The Honda story began with motorcycles, and later in the U.S. with the thrifty and utilitarian N600 of the early 1970s. The S600 is basically the Venn diagram overlap area of those two worlds: It's got a 606-cc engine that sips fuel but one that also redlines at 9500 rpm, with four tiny carburetors, one for each cylinder.

1966 honda s600 roadster engine
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The S600 was never officially sold in the States, although Canada did receive some left-hand-drive models through a few motorcycle dealerships. This version is a left-hooker because it was originally delivered to Okinawa, which was then under American administration. In fact, Okinawans drove on the right side of the road up until June of 1978.

The S600's furiously-spinning four-cylinder makes just shy of 60 horsepower, but that's only part of the driving experience. Instead, it's all about the 1500-pound curb weight, as feathery-light as a contemporary Lotus Elan. Driving an S600 is like putting a saddle and a Honda badge on a hummingbird. Its lack of inertia makes it feel agile and darty today, and in the 1960s must have been a complete revelation.

1966 honda s600 roadster interior
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This example has the equivalent of 54K miles on its odometer, and has benefited from a recent comprehensive mechanical overhaul. Both the engine and transmission were disassembled and rebuilt, including the twin rear chain drives. The fuel system was cleaned, and the electrics inspected.

Best of all, this car's white on red color scheme is a match for Honda's first F1 cars. Dr. Honda himself had to fight for the right to paint his road cars white or red (neither was legal in Japan at the time except for emergency vehicles). White shows off the elegantly restrained design of this little car to maximum effect.

Driving such a small car in modern traffic for 7500 miles might be a non-starter these days, but even a short weekend spin will feel adventurous in something so tiny and swift. The spirits of Shotaro and Soichiro will ride shotgun with you, smiling through the first curve.

The auction ends on March 19.

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