1965 Honda S600: Original Screamer

Honda S600

One of my all-time favorite vintage roadsters is the Honda S600, for two reasons: one, it’s the spiritual forebearer to the modern-day S2000 roadster, a true performance car bargain and engineering feat that will make the hair on the back of your neck stand up. And two, it makes the same exhilarating noise as the S2K, capable of being wound out like a sport bike in an era where most cars were designed to operate in a performance threshold of somewhere between 1-3,000 RPMs. This 1965 example here on eBay is RHD and clearly a restoration project, with some bodywork underway but very few details on how far along, or gone, this car truly is. That hasn’t slowed bidding activity, but the reserve is yet unmet on this pumpkin-orange roadster. As project examples grow increasingly scarce, my guess is that this is a car that will be among those we look at and say, “I should have bought one when they were cheap.” Do any of you have any first-hand experience with S600s, or any particular trouble spots to watch out for?

Fast Finds

Comments

  1. PeteL

    I have one of these in need of restoration sitting in a trailer next to the OTAS Lombardi Grand Prix also a resto. candidate. Picked it up from the serviceman who brought it home from Japan with all the original materials and purchase papers. All intact right down to the chrome luggage rack and radio. Alas, the body needs work and I know the head is in for a rebuild,

    Sheet metal is available from Japan but is pricey. From my research, having a complete car is critical as spare engines and drivetrain systems are harder to source. In speaking with a couple folks who have restored them, the key is in the rockers…if the tin worm has hit this part hard, the orange may not be worth the squeeze.

  2. Carl B.

    When everything is near perfect – GREAT LITTLE Sports Car. If you are small enough to fit in it. This one however seems Far From Perfect – and given the lack of information – you would almost have to buy with the thought in mind – that the original engine is TOAST.

    Not a Project I would want to take on – – I’d rather pay the money up front for one fully restored and near perfect. Would mod likely cost a lot less that way.

  3. johnincm

    Amazing cars the Honda S-series.

    Trouble spots to watch out for? Well they rust like any Japanese car of the era. And then there is the the power plant for various reasons. There are many points of concern with an S-series engine that has been sitting for many years. This one looks to have a complete engine which is great since there were many production changes made and very few parts will swap from one engine to another. So building an engine from parts is a long shot (even if you can find the parts).

    There is a good chance this engine has not been taken apart since it left the factory. If the new owner does not preform a complete engine tear down before getting it running they will be replacing more parts in no time. Just a few of the things that can go bad in a big way …

    Cam driven water pump seal will blow filling the crankcase with coolant and most likely wipe out the roller bearing crankshaft that can not be serviced.

    Wet cylinder sleeve base O-rings will fail again filling crankcase with coolant.

    Timing chain rollers crumble to pieces making for all sorts of valvetrain issues (bent valves, damaged head, damaged crank).

    Older head gaskets are known to fail quickly after sitting for years.

    Hardened engine O-rings allowing pressurized engine oil to be shot out of the engine.

    When these engines are fresh they are works of art and will give many smiles per mile. So if this engine gets a good refresh (complete reseal and worn parts replaced) everything will be good otherwise the engine will fail within 100 miles of getting it to start.

    Hopefully whoever ends up buying it already knows what they are getting into.

    • francisco

      Johinincm, Barn Finds is lucky to have you as a member.

  4. Cory

    Leno’s garage featured one with a cbr1000 (I think)motor in it. Pretty damn cool. Given that these had a sport bike motor in them to begin with, and given the rarity of parts., thats the direction I would go

    • johnincm

      “these had a sport bike motor in them to begin with”

      A common misconception. Just how many water cooled four cylinder bikes were in Honda’s catalog in 1965? These engine were a blank sheet of paper design for four wheel use only. Other than a few bits that interchange with a bike (carb gaskets and such) there is no relationship to the motorcycles. Having said that these engines did follow Honda’s design philosophy at the time. In a funny twist a few custom bikes were built with S-series engines back in the day.

      The S600 highlighted on Leno’s Garage is an incredible build. Basically a ground up operation with an S600 body dropped on top. So much more than dropping a bike engine in the engine bay. One thing the hotrod S600/CBR1000 has in common with a stock S600 is both engines sound very similar. The factory 606cc engine really screams as the revs run up to 9,500rpm.

    • Howard A Member

      Hi Cory, I think he has more than one. I saw a clip ( kinda long) with him driving a red one, that was redone to stock specs. The engine, like johnincm sez, was a masterpiece. It had DOHC, 4 carbs, roller bearing crank and rods, and would spin to 10 grand, easily, and the car was CHAIN DRIVEN. It had a top speed of 90 mph and got 35 mpg. (@ 60 mph) In the ’60’s, it sure made our ” flathead 6’s” that we were phasing out, look like crap.

  5. Cory

    https://youtu.be/UsbfzmPCYX4 this would be my choice

  6. Chris A.

    These make an A-H Sprite look big. Great car that’s built like a fine watch. When the Honda engineers told the accountants “here’s what we are building, just pay for it” they built great cars and bikes. Thinking of neat Hondas, have we ever seen a CRX in Barn Finds?

  7. krash

    Howard A….here’s a photo of another one featured by this garage a little while ago…maybe it’s the one you’re referring to…

  8. Rocky

    Couldn’t a Honda bike engine make a good substitute? The CBR600 should do the trick.

  9. Tony

    My only experience related to the S600 is that I drove a prototype, in London, some years (I really do not remember how many) before the S600 was unveiled. The most striking feature of that car, which served to emphasize its prototypitude [Can you suggest a better word?], was that it was about two sizes too small. Had it been a coat, the buttonholes would never have met the buttons (they mate for life, you know). I am five foot seven if I try hard, and although this is likely to be regarded as apocryphal, or at least to be taken with salt, at a pinch, the fact is that when I sat in the driver’s seat, my eyes were too high, or the top of the windshield was too low, depending on your perspective. Either way, driveability was not its strong point for anyone my size, or even taller. The guy who accompanied me on a three mile trip was from Honda. I think a small team from Honda was showing the car to dealers and seeking feedback. In short, it was a very odd experience — a far cry from trying to ‘drive’ a children’s toy car, but still too small by a big enough margin that everything was wrong. By the time the car was brought to the market, it was two sizes larger. And the gentleman from Honda who accompanied me on that drive was no longer the only kind of person, sizewise, that would fit.

  10. Paul B

    Very cool and illuminating story, Tony!

  11. Fergus O

    Yes, a Honda motorcycle engine can be made work, just plan the lack of a reverse gear accordingly (avoid crowded gas stations?)

    From Jay Leno’s Garage site:
    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=UsbfzmPCYX4

  12. Richard Walter

    While on leave from my US Army stint in Korea (1965), rented a S600 in Tokyo. This was a standard rental car choice at the time. Traveled several hundred miles or so including a ride partly up Mt Fuji. Fun car, reminded me a lot of my friends Sprite back in the States. Would love to have one today.

  13. KeI got to drive one back in the daynt Pearson

    I got to drive one back in the day when they were just being introduced and Honda was shopping around for dealers. My father knew a guy who had one on spec to see if he wanted in. They knew I was interested in sports cars so let me take it out for a spin. I’m 6’4′ so it was a real squeeze but it was a lot of fun too. I thought I remembered it doing more like 12000 rpm but that was a long time ago.

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