25 Year Rule Bet: 1991 Honda Beat

Lately, as more and more desirable Japanese market vehicles have aged to the right side of the NHTSA’s 25 year importation rule, we’ve seen an uptick in unusual cars and trucks like this Honda Beat popping up for sale. Obviously, no one is importing these sheerly for their own entertainment, so here’s the question: is there an opportunity for shrewd investors to make money bringing a tiny kei car convertible to our shores? Check out the listing here on eBay, which ends later today. 

Obviously, many of our readers know about the varieties of muscle cars that are eminently find-able in any Pennysaver you pick up. Fortunately, for Barracuda or Mustang shoppers, the values have been fairly well established for quite some time, making transactions slightly less worrisome. In the case of a vehicle like this Honda Beat, the final price is almost entirely determined by how badly an enthusiast wants something no one else has, and if we’re making purchases with that mindset, well – the sky is the limit as to which car or truck you want to bring home.

And in the case of this Honda Beat, you’d have to be completely OK with the zebra-striped interior before deciding how much you want to wager on it. Kidding aside, the appeal of becoming a vehicle importer is strong, but as more and more sellers get into the game, how do you create an advantage? This is at least the fifth Honda Beat I’ve seen for sale on eBay this year; heck, there was a seller not five miles from my house last summer that put one up for grabs. This Beat is in average condition, with a non-functioning radio and an A/C system that may have a leak.

Image courtesy of Stanceworks

If you are thinking of owning a kei car someday, here’s some perspective (we found this image on Stanceworks, which is sort of a proving ground for oddball imports): these things are tiny. But that is half the appeal, to some folks, as driving a car like this that also happens to be right-hand drive is guaranteed to get some eyeballs in traffic. If being a wallflower is more your cup of tea, wait for an importer to show up with a Nissan Cedric – it’s the Buick Regal of Japan.

Fast Finds


  1. RayT Member

    Somehow, the “zebra” interior looks just right, Jeff! I spent a week driving a Beat around Southern California back when they were new, and the limitations — primarily not a whole lot of speed and no stowage space — were far outweighed by the laughs.

    It was a typical Honda, of course: beautifully engineered and nicely assembled. I wouldn’t have minded having one for a third or fourth car, but having to constantly zing the daylights out of the engine to keep up with open-road traffic could get old. It was, as you’d expect, much more fun on winding roads.

    Worst of all, for people raised on American and modern Japanese cars, the Beat (and other cars in its class) can seem rather tinny. Weight is a 660cc engine’s worst enemy, so sheetmetal, upholstery and plastics are all thinner (and possibly less durable as a result) than the norm.

    None of these factors would — or should — deter an enthusiast. The Beat is cute and a lot of fun to drive. It’s just not a “real” car in many important ways.

    At the current bid — just over $2K — I’d be interested. But if I was intent on rolling up the pennies and getting a Kei car, I’d go for an Autozam AZ-1. Or maybe a Mitsubishi Dangan….

  2. tyler

    is a b18 or k20 swap possible and maybe add a turbo.

  3. leiniedude leiniedude Member

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kei_car. Just in case I am not the only person knowing what a Kei vehicle is. I still keep learning here, thanks BF !


    I’ve got a 4WD Honda Acty (kei class pickup truck) here in northern Ohio – which is great fun to drive but with 660cc’s, 60 mph feels like all I want to push it, even with a 5 speed ‘box. The shifter is great, right at my left hand, and while it’s somewhat slow, it’s just fun and crazy handy.

    Most common comments?
    Number 1: Where can I get one?
    Number 2: That would fit in the bed of my pickup.

    I haven’t driven a Beat yet, but the styling has held up rather well to me. Ray T’s description sounds spot on to me.

  5. Patrick S newport pagnell Staff

    This would be perfect for a rural postal carrier. Be-1( 50-70 MpG) or Pao would be even better. Find all kinds of Kei here:


  6. wynkin

    I knew someone that was 6 feet six inches tall that drove one.

  7. John K

    As Jeff notes, these are starting to show up for sale pretty regularly. I’ve been following these and the Cappuccinos for a next vehicle, and while the Suzuki is still pretty uncommon, one or two Beats are always available either via ebay, craigslist, or one of the Kei car forums. With the Beats, as supply increases the prices sure seem to be settling down. With the glitches this one has the seller should be very flexible with the price – – the radio may now be patched up but it’s still not going to be compatible with the US frequencies, and good luck replacing that AC unit.

    I’m glad it’s in CA otherwise I’d be tempted to take a look. Which would probably be followed by me shuffling money around for an expense (but wait, it’s an asset! – – see I’m starting already) I really can’t afford right now.

  8. Dave Wright

    I have a friend in Germany that deals in this kind of thing……..I think these are Hondas…..but can’t remember for sure. There is an active group collecting and playing with them.

    • Dave Wright

      Nop….they are Nissans……..


      Looks like a Nissan Figero to me. Very unique and appealing cars. I see a wire wheeled MGBGT beside it.

  9. Dave Wright

    He is an Englishman living in Germany. Great guy, his website has fun stuff and gives a window into the European market. It shows the direction of our market here in the US.

  10. Sam

    Great Race

  11. Sam


  12. Sam


  13. Gay Car Nut

    Honey, someone shrunk the NSX!

  14. Gerry Member

    The newest version of this called the S660 (see pic) here in Japan is even more of a miniature NSX Daihatsu’s Copen is a better choice for a two seater mini convertible and has a big following.

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