Tim Mings, possibly the only full-time Honda N and Z600-mechanic left on Earth, spent a good chunk of this year restoring the very first Honda in America after realizing Serial Number 1000001 was sitting on his lot. Now we finally get to see the finished product.
The plucky N600 was “roughly three feet shorter than most vehicles on the road” when it arrived in the U.S. in 1969, Honda explains on their site dedicated to this specific (Serial Number 1000001) example of the car.
The 598cc engine was rated to 42 horsepower and a claimed top speed of 80 mph, according to old-car experts at Hagerty. They also say you might be able to pick one up for about $10,000 now. Though I do not think Serial One is going to be on the market any time soon.
“It’s a capable little car... but you have to have a certain degree of mechanical aptitude, and be aware that it is a car that shouldn’t go more than 65 mph down the road,” Mings explained to Hemmings Motor News back in 2012.
The 600 represents a strange slice of Honda’s history; it was something of an icebreaker into the American automotive market, coming in with the intention to prove “Japanese cars could be reliable” (a message that would later become self-evident) but not really all that relevant in the company’s greater scheme.
The Civic was Honda’s real foothold here, and that didn’t show up until 1973. As Mings told Hemmings:
“...these cars became orphans very quickly. If you bought one at a Honda motorcycle dealership and a car dealer came into your town, the bike shop wasn’t obliged to repair or carry parts for it. Most Honda car dealerships started with the Civic, in 1973; because it was before they were around, they weren’t obligated to work on these either.”
I guess that’s how Mings found himself a job! And one he’s damn good at, as you can see before and after:
It might not be the car you want to cross the country in on a regular basis, but like all mechanically simplistic things it can be kept alive even in its obsolescence. Mings and his assistants literally re-installed every single bolt, nut and bit of trim effectively making this particular 47-year-old economy car “new.”
And just look at it, man. I see stuff like this and just want to hang my head in shame over the rat’s nests of wires and period-incorrect parts on my own project vehicle.
You’re in inspiration, Mings. And we’re all lucky to be able to enjoy this piece of automotive history thanks to your handiwork.