9500 RPM Terror: 1965 Honda S600 Coupe

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When some of us think of sports cars of the 1960s, we have thoughts of wind in our hair, interesting style and design, as well as a moderate wave of ingenuity and progress compared to that of the 1950s. This 1965 Honda S600 looks like a classic, and it is, but the ingenuity of design is phenomenal. The DOHC 600cc engine sports a roller bearing crankshaft and spins to an ever so pleasing 9,500 rpm. The rear suspension is independent, via two hollow control arms that encase drive chains to propel the rear wheels. Very high tech for the 1960’s. This S600 coupe is a rare variety in the USA. Even more so with it being a left had drive variant. With an asking price of $9,900, this Honda appears to be complete. Find it here on craigslist out of Los Angeles, California.

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Let’s talk vintage Honda. One of the most important things when looking at “S” series Hondas is how complete the vehicles are, and the condition they are in. This car looks complete, and the condition looks to be good. There is some visible rust on the Passenger side rocker which looks to be the worst of the rust issue. There is also some visible rust around the hood and the rear hatch. The body looks surprisingly straight and the glass also looks to be in good shape. All exterior trim appears to be present as well. This is a plus as parts are not the easiest to come across, but this car being complete would have the future owner a few steps ahead of other S600 owners.

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We would have liked some more detailed photos of the interior of this S600, but from what we can see it looks to be complete and in good condition, aside from the dust. The ever so important “S” series steering wheel looks to be in excellent condition. Another plus for this S600. The cockpit of the coupe is a wonderful view when driving. The dash has a pleasant, yet, traditional layout. There is just the right amount of wood, aluminum, and black vinyl. The 9,500 rpm redline is clearly the highlight of the cockpit view.

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The 600cc heart that can pump 9,500 pulses per a minute. The S600 engine isn’t particularly powerful or “fast”, but it is an absolute thrill, producing 57 horsepower at an astonishing 8,500 rpm. The engine of the S600 is listed as not running, but that it does indeed turnover. That is fantastic news, indicating that the engine doesn’t have any severe damage. At the least, the engine would likely be in suitable shape for a rebuild. Formula H Motorworks would be the folks to talk to about your “S” series needs. Formula H is known for their quality work, as they fixed some issues with Jay Leno’s Honda SM600.

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This car appears to be complete, and in good shape. Did we also mention it’s rare and fun to drive? Anyone who has ever ridden in, or driven, an S600 will tell you they deliver many smiles per gallon. The thrill of safely revving an engine to 9,500 rpms, and the wonderful sounds that the engine and exhaust produce are pure ecstasy. Finding a 1965 S600 coupe is rare, as there were only a little over 1,500 made that year. On top of that low production number of coupes, this car is left hand drive. What would you do with this project? Restore it? Preserve it and drive it? Whatever your choice would be, this is an excellent start to a Honda Sports 600 project.

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  1. crazydave

    When these were new, the only ones I ever saw had Chev 283’s and 327’s in them, with 4 spd Muncie boxes and very quick timeslips

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  2. RayT

    I seem to recall that these had some high-speed (well, relatively) handling issues, due to the chain case/”trailing arm” rear suspension.

    Can’t imagine putting a SBC in one! Honda knew how to engineer lightweight vehicles, but the extra weight and power would surely be beyond the capabilities of suspension, body structure and brakes.

    Don’t know what parts supply is like — I’d guess spares are tough to find even in Japan — and so worry about things like the missing/broken RF turn/parking light lens. I’d worry about rust, too, which is very likely to be far worse than it appears (look at the A-pillar).

    Needs someone braver than me, but should be lots of fun when restored.

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  3. Jim Mc

    There’s nutter in SoCal who took a ratty ’64 S600 roadster and dropped a 1000cc 4-cyl into it from a CBR1000 bike. You can see it all over youtube, it was featured on Jay Leno’s garage. He loved driving it, the thing goes like stink on those twisty mountain roads. Looks like a ball to drive!
    This one is a little too nice for that. But it’d be cool to see’em side by side one day after this one is fixed up.

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  4. Van

    If you clean this car, stabilize rust, and don’t touch it for two years, you will double your investment.
    Do a reasonable restoration and still double your money.
    Italian cars went nuts, mercedes-benz went nuts, English cars have done well.
    The tuners are going to spend their money on good Japanese cars.
    If a custom tuner will spend 100 large on a civic, I’m just saying.

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  5. Jack Quintrall

    A Boat load of Honda 600’s were dumped in the ocean off Long Beach, CA harbor in the 60’s due to lack of proper emission controls. It was decided to dump them rather than returning them to Japan for refitting! More cost efficient! The’re still on the bottom.

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    • Aaron

      Do you have any kind of source to verify this? I can only find a very few references to it on the internet.

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  6. DolphinMember

    Sometimes engineers go above and beyond in the designs they produce, and I think that’s what happened here. You can pick up free horsepower and revs by reducing internal friction, and bearings that roll do that, but…..

    I’m sure someone will think of it, if it exists, but I can’t think of a car that started out with a roller bearing crankshaft that kept it in production for very long. Porsche didn’t, and the early small Honda sportscars didn’t stay in production very long and didn’t get built in very large numbers. Plain bearings won out, and running an engine with needle rollers today might be pretty risky. Of course, if you’re Jay Leno, with a garage full of expert staff……..

    I would be very wary of this car, because since it doesn’t run you don’t know if it makes any strange and expensive noises, of even if it will run at all. If it has problems, especially bearing problems, I would not want to be the guy who had to pay the bills for parts and expert labor.

    According to the last few SCM Guides these are appreciating and the S800s have sold at auction at a median of $24K, but they don’t list numbers for the S600, which I’m guessing sell for less. $9,900 might be an OK price for this one, but to me that’s rolling the dice on both the engine and parts availability questions.

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    • Van

      Bugatti had roller bearings in the 20s
      It was less durable than the same engine without rollers.

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    • Eric Dashman

      The early Saab 2 cycle 3 cylinders had roller bearings. I know because my 1966 96 blew apart at 70mph on I-80 near Patterson, NJ after a gas station attendant failed to put the full quart of oil in the tank that I gave him (NJ still mandates attendants to pump gas). Thank heavens for free-wheeling. I still have my feet and ankles.

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  7. Andy Frobig

    I’ve never seen one of these as a coupe. I love it. It has kind of a GT6 meets 240Z but tinier thing going on. I think this is the right time to fix one of these up–you can 3D print plastic parts, just for starters. Teach yourself machining, or get buddy-buddy with a skilled machinist, and a lot of the parts searching will be bypassed. You’ll never see yourself coming the other way, and yes, it’ll be an excellent investment.

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  8. stillrunners

    neat little car in pretty good shape….

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