All Original: 1972 Honda Z600

When Honda introduced the Z600 to world markets, it stated that it saw the vehicle as the first step in becoming a serious player in the global passenger car market. Many people rolled around on the floor in fits of hysterical laughter, but it seems that Honda has had the last laugh. Not only has the company achieved considerable success in motorsport categories like Formula One and Indycar, but cars like the Civic, Accord, NSX, and the S2000 demonstrated their ability to develop and produce passenger cars that have sold in the millions. As a starting point, this 1972 Honda Z600 is a bit of a gem. The owner claims that it is original and unrestored, which makes its overall condition pretty remarkable. It is also a survivor that needs a new home. If your classic leanings are towards the quirky and unusual, you will find the Z located in El Cajon, California, and listed for sale here on eBay. A single bid of $3,000 has been received at the time of writing, but that figure is below the reserve. The owner has set a BIN figure of $20,000 for those who feel that the Honda is a must-have for their collection.

When Honda introduced the Z600 to the market, I remember a journalist speculating whether it was really a small car or a large motorcycle with a roof. While it may be small in stature, it makes up for this shortcoming by being loaded with personality. The body is a more-or-less traditional hatchback, although I’ve always felt that the hatch would serve effectively as a replacement door for a microwave oven. I’ve joked about this car, but it deserves better. The owner claims that it is an unrestored survivor. If that’s the case, you can’t help but be impressed. The Pop Orange paint holds an impressive shine, with no flaws or issues that are worth mentioning. The panels are laser straight, and in a significant positive, it appears to be rust-free. The tin worm could be the enemy of these little cars, so finding one as structurally sound as this is a rare treat. The chrome is in excellent condition for a survivor, as is the glass. It may be tiny by the standards of the day, but I’d be willing to bet that it would turn as many heads on the street as any muscle car from the same era.

For Honda, the staple of their passenger car range has become the front-wheel-drive configuration. A few notable exceptions like the NSX and the S2000 trod a different path, but cars like the Civic and Accord are descended from the Z600. Mind you, their motors are significantly larger than what we find occupying this engine bay. What buyers got for their money was a marvel of engineering and packaging. The OHC twin-cylinder engine has a capacity of 598cc and sends its 36hp to the road via the front wheels and a four-speed manual transmission. The journey down the ¼ mile would take 22.4 seconds, and the driver needed to be prepared for the fact that the needle still wouldn’t have hit 60mph. That feat would take a further two seconds to achieve, meaning that the Z600 won’t leave many passenger cars quaking in their boots. However, considering the engine capacity and available power, a top speed of 75mph doesn’t look that bad. As with the rest of the vehicle, the mechanical components bolted to this little Honda are original and unrestored. It has recently emerged following several years on display in a climate-controlled showroom. That may mean that the buyer will face a few tasks before it could be considered roadworthy. For example, the fuel is old, so the tank and system would benefit from a flush and clean. Everything else will need to be inspected before this little beast can safely terrorize the tarmac once again.

For me, the surprise with this Z600 is the state of its interior. Honda plastics and upholstery from this era could be prone to marked deterioration, but it wouldn’t be overstating the facts to describe this interior as appearing factory fresh. The plastic is in good order, with no cracks or problems visible on the dash. The seats and door trims look flawless, as does the carpet. There’s no visible wear on the wheel or shifter knob and no other signs that this little classic has ever done any work. It isn’t an interior that is loaded with luxury features. It has what I have come to know as “2/50” air conditioning. For those who’ve never heard of it, that’s two windows down at 50mph. Otherwise, the buyer will receive a heater, a radio, and a gauge cluster with a tachometer. It’s also worth noting something at this point. The Z600 may be tiny on the outside, but its interior is remarkably spacious. It can seat two adults and two small children in relative comfort, which is pretty impressive. I have seen these with two adults in the back seat, but it wasn’t a pretty sight!

Giant oak trees grow from a single tiny acorn, which is what the 1972 Honda Z600 is. It is an automotive acorn that eventually delivered Honda as a superpower in vehicle design, engineering, and manufacturing. The Honda name has become an international byword for quality, and the genesis of this stems from vehicles like our feature car. We will have readers who will wince at the BIN price on this car, but it isn’t unprecedented. Several recent sales of spotless examples have met or exceeded this figure, and values are growing steadily. If you do have a soft spot for quirky classics, this one deserves a closer look.

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Comments

  1. Mike Roberts

    Excellent write up. I never appreciated the importance of these cars. Your splashes of humor made it engaging to read.

    Like 13
  2. jnard90 jnard90 Member

    Great write up Adam, as usual.

    Like 8
  3. jokacz

    I had the sedan version of this car in 1971. Looked like a Mini, I thought the coupe looked weird. Cost about 1600 bucks brand new with a radio and sales tax. Top speed depended on wind direction, with a headwind it couldn’t break 55. If I caught a good draft from a semi, it would do 85. In the winter you had to throw a lever on the air intake to get heated air into the carb, otherwise it would ice up like a Cessna 150. I drove it flat out to work every day for over a year 30 miles each way on the New York State Thruway and it never missed a beat. Got about 28 mpg, but gas was only 27 cents a gallon in those days so who cared. Great little car, but it was basically invisible to other drivers so one had to drive defensively non-stop.

    Like 12
  4. wuzjeepnowsaab

    We used to call these “clown shoes” when they came out

    Like 6
    • Steveo

      The Vasque hiking boots store in Los Angeles had one done up like a hiking boot. Google Vasque boor honda 600

      Like 3
  5. RayT Member

    I had one, bought new in ’72. Given some extra money, work-space and a less rust-inducing climate than Massachusetts, I’d have one now, or at least be on the hunt.

    Oddly enough, though I’m a large-ish person, I never felt cramped in my Z. It was peppy enough to enjoy — how many other cars can you drive flat-out with no one else noticing? — while not using much fuel. And I had zero trouble with it.

    Two things: The Z, like its N sibling, was remarkably well-equipped for the price; Vega and Pinto the U.S. subcompacts, didn’t have front disc brakes on the basic models, as all 600s did. And the Hondas had carpeting, not rubber mats. Not saying they were little Cadillacs, materials-wise, but they gave a lot for the money.

    And, finally, I recall 75 as being about the limit, but you could get a tow off semis on the freeway and run them up to 80 or so. At least until you got to a hill….

    It has been many moons since I was hot for TWO cars appearing here at the same time. BF is getting dangerous!

    Like 5
  6. Ben T Spanner

    Test drove a new one, price was $1967 out the door with tax etc I bought a Mercury Capri V6 instead. One year later bought a used Orange Z600. Not only had power brakes, but a very small power brake booster. Parts were cheap from the Honda dealer. Until 1973 in my city, parts and motor cycles came from the Honda dealer. Cars were sold by a Chevy dealer.
    We thought the rear window looked like a scuba mask. This one still has the plastic chrome window trim.
    The owner’s manual stated; “When encountering a pedestrian on the roadway, one should tootle one’s horn trumpet.”

    Like 2
    • Rick

      Had to tootle them with vigor!

      Like 1
  7. Car Nut Tacoma

    Nice looking car. Given its condition and rarity here in the USA, I’d be willing to pay its asking price of $20,000.

    Like 2
  8. Miminite

    I was in the Navy for much of the 70s. My second ship, er “boat” was a submarine out of Pearl Harbor. There was a crewman that had one of these and I remember he would haul ass and could go all the way over to the curb and avoid the speed bumps. Fun times. IDK what happened to him or the Honda.

    Like 1
  9. Howie Mueler

    $7,877 now, but reserve not met.

  10. brian joseph

    We bought one in 1973,almost new with 6k miles. Blue. My wife loved the car. When we sold it, she cried..So…..we have z600s now,45 years later ,infact we have 5 restored ones. They are always a hit at car shows. We drove one in the Hot rod Power Tour in 2021..

    Like 1
  11. Hot Rod Lincoln

    Bought a ’72 used in ’76 and taught my wife to drive a stick in it. We took it on a economy road ralley and the other participants hated us. I knew all of the short cut back roads and got 52 mpg. So shortest miles and time and best mpg by double of anyone else. Fun car to drive until the tin worms tore it up.

  12. 4501 Safari Member

    Boy this brought back memories. A fellow USN photographer had one and I got a ride with him one day on the expressway from NAS JAX to the beach. I was a Honda motorcycle rider he time and this little car scared the hell out of me as a passenger. It was basically invisible to other traffic. More so than a motorcycle back then. He’d bought it new and drove it like he’d stolen it, as the saying goes. Identical car to the one today’s story. Never gave him a moment of trouble. Always wondered where both went as time moved on. Nice flashback. Thanks!

  13. Mountainwoodie

    As a teenager hitchhiking in 1971 I was picked up by a guy driving one of these. I thought it was the smallest car I ever got into. I wasnt all that big. Paying 20 large for this seems nuts but given what some JDM cars bring.you never know.

  14. Bob P

    My neighbor bought one in 1972 for high school (a 57 Chevy or 65 Chevelle wasn’t “cool” enough for him), and with 4 skinny teenage boys in it, it wouldn’t do over 45 on a flat street. And in the target rich environment of the San Fernando Valley (including cruising the wonderful Van Nuys Blvd) where even your aunt’s 1963 Ford Future was a potential “trim mobile”, I can tell you that NOBODY ever got laid because they had one of these.

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