Early Imports: Pair of 1972 Honda Z600s

Until the early 1970s, Honda was known in the U.S. for their motorcycles. 2-wheel riding became more and more popular, helped by advertising campaigns like “You Meet the Nicest People on a Honda.” They started dipping their toes in the 4-wheel market in North America with the sub-compact N600 and Z600, a sedan and coupe, respectively.  You don’t see these cars very often today because they were considered just econoboxes at the time — to be driven and discarded. But in Sacramento, California, this seller has two of the Z editions from 1972 that he’s toying with selling as a pair. They’re presented here on Facebook Marketplace for $9,500 as a package deal.

Post World War II cars made in Japan had to be small because of the growing population and an under-developed roadway system. In fact, from the 1950s to the 1970s, there were rules in place on how long, wide and high cars could be by class. This also helped keep cars affordable so more and more Japanese could afford their first automobiles. The N series sedan was launched in 1967 and this would be the basis of the cars that finally made it to the States. They had a transversely mounted motor (to help keep the engine bay small) with its 4-speed gearbox mounted in the oil sump. Ride quality was delivered by way of MacPherson struts with an anti-roll bar in front and a leaf-spring dead axle in the back.

By the time these cars got to the U.S. they were powered by a 600cc (hence the car’s name) SOHC, all-alloy, iron-cylinder-lined version of the 4-stroke motorcycle engine from the 1960s. It was rated at 36 horsepower and was air-cooled, to minimize the part count and because Honda the Man was sold on air-cooled engines. While Honda would market both the sedan and coupe in North America, the Kamm-tailed unit known as the Z600 or Z Coupe here is what drew the most attention and is what the seller has collected a pair of.

We’re told the seller wants to keep these cars together as a pair because they are rare and expensive to find parts for today. That would suggest he considers one to be a viable road vehicle and the other a donor car, but that’s not quite how the automobiles are described. Let’s break them down by color to keep things straight:

1972 Honda Z600 (Orange)

The seller tells us this one is 99 percent complete, although not fully assembled (such as the interior), but almost everything on it has been rebuilt. It was a running car when he first brought it home. It starts now but needs a tune-up and some carburetor work (he has a carb kit for it). You could swap the carb from the Yellow car as an interim measure. The seller has the original title, bill of sale, warranty card and even more from when it was first delivered in Mechanicsburg (Pennsylvania?). Today, the car is titled in Washington State. We’re told it alone could be worth $14,000 when completed.

1972 Honda Z600 (Yellow)

This one doesn’t sound as though it’s as far along as its stable mate. The body is mostly good except for a little rust, but the paint is nice and shiny. The interior is in great shape and could be moved to the Orange car if you were looking to make one good one out of two. The exhaust system and brakes are new, but it needs a crankshaft to run again. It sports an $800 set of mag wheels and the seller suggests with a little work this could be a $4,000 car. Both these estimates are the seller’s, not figures verified with Hagerty or its contemporaries.

Do you remember when these little cars first went on the market here about 50 years ago? The N sedan could be had for $1,495 and the Z Coupe for $1,630. To put things into perspective, Ford was selling the much bigger and Falcon-based Maverick at the time for $1,995. The Honda weighed just 1,350 lbs. versus the Maverick at 2,900. Even the more recent but tiny Smart Car tipped the scale at 2,350 lbs. So, these Honda 600s were really, really small cars compared to what U.S. buyers were accustomed to. BTW, I think they were sold at selected Honda motorcycle dealerships until there was enough traction for the company to begin developing a dealer network for automobiles. It all started here.

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Comments

  1. RayT Member

    I had one. Traded in a N600 to get it, back in ’72.

    Fun, fun little cars that felt fast — you could drive all day at 10/10ths and nobody noticed — and were very easy on fuel. Reliable, too, though I can remember seeing a few in later years that were being nibbled away by the rust bug. The only mechanical issue I encountered was a bent valve, which I replaced in my parents’ driveway….

    Put a lot of miles on both N and Z, using them for L.A. — San Francisco trips and runs up to the desert. As I recall, they were pretty much done by 70 mph, though you could slipstream 18-wheelers and get a little more out of them.

    Though they were pretty bare-bones cars in some respects, they did have front disc brakes, carpeting, and a few other amenities you didn’t find on base-level Detroit compacts back then. They were nicely-assembled as well.

    If I had a garage, I would have bought this pair before typing this comment. Small they definitely are, but I (at 6’2″ and 175 lbs. in those days) was comfortable in them. And happy, enjoying the pleasures of foot-to-floor motoring without attracting The Law.

    Like 23
  2. JMC

    When they were new,we saw one outdoors at a closed dealership(sunday),my Dad picked the rear of it off the ground himself.

    Like 13
    • RayT Member

      When I had my N600, I dated a girl who was a student at UCLA. One night, some students picked up my car and put it at the top of the steps leading to one of the buildings.

      It was a bumpy ride down….

      Like 19
    • Scott m

      We used to move my 7th grade art teacher’s bug around 😇, 1963 or so

      Like 7
      • Phlathead Phil

        I once heard about a math teacher at a friend’s H.S. who had a bug. It was finals week and a bunch of jocks picked up the car and set it on four metal trash cans.

        They left a sign on the window reading: “Calculate your way out of this one!”

        Nobody passed his class that semester.

        Like 4
      • RegularGuy55

        I omitted the anecdotes about how we used to prank my college friend. Four strapping fellows could easily pick the car up and move it around.
        It found its way into the main lobby of a dormitory. It found itself sideways in a parking space (between two other cars).
        Once we were about to carry the car away when a University cop strolled up. Calmly, he told us to ‘put the car back where you got it from.’ So we put it next to an expired parking meter.

        Like 2
  3. Ben T. Spanner

    Not only front disk brakes, but power brakes. My friend sold Chevrolets and the dealership took on Honda cars. I test drove one in 1972. out the door price with tax was $1967. I bought a 1972 Capri V6 instead.
    I bought a used 1972 Orange Z600 in 1973 and kept it 2 years or so. My friend had a yellow Z600.I replaced the exhaust and the battery with Honda parts which were cheap.
    The owner’s manual was roughly translated and read,” When encountering a pedestrian on the roadway, one should tootle one’s horn trumpet” I did pass one car on a freeway; a Subaru 360.

    Like 2
  4. Charlie Mullendore

    The engine was not a “version” of any Honda motorcycle engine, but a clean sheet design with a heavy motorcycle engine influence. I owned a Z600 back in the early ’80s, purchased out of a junk yard. Did a complete top-end rebuild and have worked on Honda motorcycles as well. Similar design, no common parts.

    Like 18
    • Miles Chappell

      CB100 ignition points are direct fit. 219 cam chain direct fit when cut to correct length with Honda CB350 & CB450 peen over masterlinks. CB750 tach seal direct fit to AZ600 coupe engine.

  5. TD

    A friend of mine had one of these in high school. Myself and a few other accomplices picked it up and turned it sideways in a parking spot between two cars while he was in work. Don’t recall how he got it out and wasn’t there to see it. Ended up selling it in the middle of the fuel crises to buy a 72 Nova SS.

  6. Steve

    Would love to have these but I’m not ready for divorce yet.

    Like 7
  7. MILES G CHAPPELL

    I have owned over 150 Honda 600 sedan, coupe + 1 s500, 14 s600, 3 s800, z360, n360. The AZ600 was my first Honda 600. Back in 1979 parts were still cheap, a crankshaft kit was $220. Parts now, several suppliers including myself but for the most part engine parts are difficult to get new. New OEM parts pop up every now & then and many items are being reproduced. Vintage Honda owners have several great FB groups with lots of support for new buyers and seasoned owners. – Miles

    Like 15
  8. Showbiz

    Had a 1970 Red N600 that inherited from my brother that bought new,would love to have one in that year back to bring back all the good memories of years past, drove that little Honda Car in 1973 /74 all over up in Vancouver BC and we had to call it Honda Car due to everyone thought of motorcycle if you just said Honda, remember shifter coming out of center of lower dash and you could chirp the little 10 inch rimmed tires in second taking a turn..lol ..very cool little Honda Car with many a good cruising memories as a 17 year old.

    Like 7
  9. RegularGuy55

    Back in college (’73) a friend got one of these. It ended up letting him beat a speeding ticket he got in Champaign, IL. When he went to court to contest the ticket, the police officer testified (from his paperwork) that he had clocked a Honda MOTORCYCLE speeding. My friend pointed out that the officer must have been clocking the wrong vehicle, since he drove a Honda CAR.

    Case dismissed.

    Like 9
    • That AMC Guy

      Reminds me of the time many years ago when I was pulled over for speeding in a Subaru 360. The police officer was dumbfounded looking at the car, shaking his head in disbelief. He just told me to take it easy (no ticket).

      Like 10
      • james malone Member

        Those were the days:

        “You did that with an automatic….?”

        or “Is this thing smog legal…I won’t look” Me …”Yes sir it is”

        or on my CB450 “Slow that cotton pickin thing down and get your license!”

        No tickets (those times!) Yep, those were the days! :)

        Like 1
  10. chrlsful

    remember these well, stared long enuff at the 1st 1 I saw to see the big plastic oval rear window as it disappeared (reminded me ofa hi toped sneaker 4 some reason). Never saw the other shown here or on the other channel (I guess its an “N”?) recently. Would figure how to remove the rear seat & put on a lift gate (I’m awful) for that model. The 1 I LIKE is the sporty model – with the chain drive (5 yr made S800).

  11. vintagehotrods

    I had bought a nice maroon 1972 N600 for $500 for my wife in 1976 when we first came back from Germany after I got out of the Army after owning several Fiat 600’s and an 850. The little Honda was in perfect shape and ran great. I worked at a Honda motorcycle dealer at the time and the motor was similar to a CB450 motorcycle at the time, but was completely different. We didn’t have it long because I was afraid she would get run over in it because it was painfully slow. That and the South Dakota winters wouldn’t have been much fun in it either. It was the Smart Car of the 70’s.

    Like 2
  12. Alan Robbins

    Bought one of these in the late 80’s for $100, brought it back to life sold it for $200. A terrifying ride in traffic, but an absolute blast to drive, at 30 mph it felt like 90.

    Can not believe they are worth this much today.

    Like 2
  13. RoughDiamond RoughDiamond Member

    I observed a Z600 sitting in a parking lot many years ago and strolled over to get a closer look. I was still 10 feet away when I bent over slightly to glance at it and what struck me was how long (tall) the gearshift lever was. It reminded me of how high Peterbilt cab shifters are. I figured the owner had modified it.

  14. jokacz

    I had a 71 N600 that I bought new to do a daily 30 mile commute. If I caught a good draft from a semi I could get 80 out of it. But if I was fighting a headwind and there was no one to draft, it was all done at 55. I remember having to change a rear tire once and if the hand brake wasn’t on the tire would spin when the car was on the ground when you wrenched the lug nuts off. Got about 26 mpg at wide open throttle and gas was 25 cents or so in those days so it cost nothing to operate. I remember you had to open a flap on the air filter to vent heated air from the exhaust manifold to prevent carburetor ice in the winter, kinda like a Cessna LOL Fun car, but even when new it was hard to get parts for it.

  15. Dean Wilson

    My older brother bought one new. At 6’3″, in order to fit, the drivers seat was pushed back up against the lower rear seat cushion. I recall that it was very hard on tires due to the 10″ diameter. Also, the motor utilized a roller bearing crank so the rods, bearings and crank were sold as a single unit making it a very expensive rebuild for such a small engine.

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