Magic Motor: 1964 Honda S600

1964-honda-s600-hood

One of my most memorable automotive memories is riding in a friend’s Honda S2000 roadster the night the vehicle’s break-in period expired. With the roof down and warm breezes wafting in, there was nothing between us and the sound of the magical VTEC crossover to the more aggressive cam lobes at 6,000 RPMs. It was a glorious noise, and this ’64 S600 once emitted similar sounds with its tiny 606-cc inline-four before it parted ways with the chassis. Find this engine-less S-car on here on craigslist in Fresno, California for $5,000. Thanks to Barn Finds reader Robert J. for spotting it!

missing-engine

What’s always impressed me about the S600 is the amount of innovation packed into a car manufactured in the 60s. Powered by a watercooled, aluminum inline-4 fed by four carburetors, the car produced 57 bhp with a stratospheric redline of 9,500 rpm – a figure more commonly associated with motorcycles. The S600 was also very light and featured a silky-smooth 4-speed gearbox that Honda is now famous for (albeit with more gears). Though the S600 was never sold in the U.S., it was the first car that Honda sold in Europe, eventually offering it in LHD configuration for foreign markets.

1964-honda-s600

It’s a bit difficult to assign a typical price tag to these Honda roadsters. In fully restored guise, they can command prices in the upper teens and higher; cars like this one can sell for significantly less. There’s not often a middle ground of driver-quality S600s, encouraging sellers of projects to perhaps ask for a bit more than is realistic if you’re considering rebuilding one from the ground-up. I’ve seen decent drivers sell in the range of $10K to $12K, so asking $5,000 for one lacking an engine seems ambitious. However, it does appear that the car in the ad isn’t terminally rusty, which could make it worth a closer look.

1964-honda-s600-trunk

While the seller is not exactly effusive on the details of the car, it’s positive to see that its registration is current – not something you’d expect with a long-dormant project. Although the chilly weather in the northeast makes a warm fire an attractive thought right about now, I can say without hesitation I’d rather be somewhere balmy enough that an S600 can fly freely with the roof down. For some motivation, check out Jay Leno’s restored SM600 on YouTube (one of my favorite episodes). Perhaps you know of an affordable way to bring this project S-car back from the dead? If you do, let us know in the comments below.

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Comments

  1. Alan Northcott

    I remember seeing one of these at a car show when they were launched. It had a clear plastic hood, which I think was an option, so that you could show off the motor!

  2. Vince Habel

    More than I would pay for a rolling chassis. How hard would it be to to find parts here?

  3. Richard V

    That does not appear to be a California plate , I wonder what state it’s from.

  4. skloon
  5. Other Josh

    Jay Leno just did a video on his a few weeks back. Really cool car.

  6. Dolphin Member

    Jay Leno’s feature on the Honda S600 is a hoot to watch. He has to be the most car loving guy there is—from block-long Dusies to Honda S600s.

    Anyway….I would be cautious on this, as much as I like vintage Japanese sportscars, especially ones with engines that rev to 9 grand. It could be very hard to source a good engine for this car. I did a quick search and found no engines for sale. I wonder whether the engine was taken from this RHD car for another, maybe LHD car that someone is restoring. This CA cabriolet looks unrusty but it lacks an engine and lots of other stuff from the engine bay that aren’t exactly “misc parts”, as the seller calls them. Plus it’s RHD and a cabrio, of which far more were made (over 11,000) than Coupes. There could be a discount on the $5K ask for the cabrio if cash on the barrelhead were offered.

    Skloon’s interesting CL listing link to an S600 Coupe for sale makes it tempting to buy that one even if it is a coupe just to have enough parts to make 1 good car. Plus, the coupe is much scarcer than the cabrio.

    Neither of these cars is very cheap, but with the strong rise in vintage Japanese sportscar values it’s unlikely that someone would lose money down the road on these.

  7. John Chaney
  8. gill

    Looks like the tag says Arkansas.

  9. Rick

    That’s probably a good buy at $5k even w/o the motor, think you could sit on it and recoup your investment plus, and at least make a better return that the measly .005% or whatever the banks are paying currently on savings accounts.

    • Jeff Lavery Staff

      I keep trying to convince my wife that classic cars are a better investment these days than anything a bank offers! She hasn’t fully bought in, yet…..

  10. jim s

    i heard one of these on a race track, back in the day, and it sounded great. this one is going to take a lot of work even if there is no rust because of all the parts that are missing. but these seem to be going up in value so it might work out. great find.

    • Jeff Lavery Staff

      Jim, the sound is what does it for me every time. I’d love to get some seat time in one.

  11. Tom

    Since the car is missing the engine, there is no sin in resto-modding it. So, this car cries out for a Goldwing boxer 6 conversion! Or, one could be true to the 600cc designation and swap in a CBR600 engine. Total sleeper no matter which way you’d go.

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