Motor In a Box: 1972 Honda N600

honday1

Do you ever get a wierd feeling that the car gods are speaking to you? It happens quietly at first – you begin noticing a particular car that never appealed before, and then suddenly there’s one on your street. For me, the classic pre-cursor to the Honda Civic, the N600 like this example here on eBay, is popping up more and more and I’m having trouble looking away. Maybe it’s that part of me that always wanted to own a vintage Mini but with greater reliability baked in. Could an N600 be the first non-Bimmer in the stable? 

honday3

Part of the intrigue has to do with always digging the rarely-seen 1970s Mini Clubman. I prefer the angrier, more squared-off jaw of those later cars compared to the classic Mini that just seemed too friendly in appearance. But those are hard to find, whereas the N600 proved pretty popular in the U.S. Combined with that killer shifter jutting out from the dash, these vintage Hondas seem to be the epitome of why driving a slow car fast is so much damn fun. Although this interior is in serious need of a cleaning, it does appear to be relatively complete.

honday4

Note: they are not fast. I wouldn’t recommend one for highway use, but for tooling around backroads and running to the coffee shop, you can’t beat it. And plus like all things Honda, this little 600 cc two-cylinder revved to high heaven, so even pulling out of the driveway can feel like you’re about to storm the chicane at Suzuka. Unfortunately, this N600 suffers the same state of engine disassembly I found with my E21 project, with half the motor in the trunk and the other half exposed to the elements. The seller says there’s no guarantee all of the parts are still with the car.

honday2

Of course, the other issue is rust. Most of what I see appears limited to the surface layer, but vintage Japanese tin was never known for its strength. I suspect this N600 will require a fair amount of body work to return to the roads safely, but that’s to be expected for a car that’s been barn-stored since the 1970s. I dig the silver paint job and although the “GT 600” lettering on the doors reeks of used-car lot fakery, it will disappear with ease when the Honda is repainted. There’s a starting bid of $1,400 with no reserve, but $1,000 is as high as I would go given the condition of the body and unknowns of the engine.

WANT ADS

WANTED 1968 Dodge Charger running or not Contact

WANTED 1967-1969 Pontiac Firebird Looking for an original 400 convertible, 3 or 4 speed preferred. No restomods. Contact

WANTED 1969-1970 Mercury Cougar XR7 Coupe Looking for a rolling chassis with good sheetmetal in the North East Bub. Any parts considered. thx Contact

WANTED 1970-1978 Datsun 240z 260z 280z Hello, I’m looking to buy a datsun z car from 1970-1978, project condition or nicer car considered Contact

WANTED 1965 1975 Porsche 911/912 Wanted Porsche 911/912 restoration project or driver thanks Contact

Submit Your Want Ad

Comments

  1. RayT Member

    Never saw a silver N600 when they were new…in fact, I didn’t see all that many in ANY color, and I owned one! That was in Southern CA, and I know Honda sold a bunch of them there, but sightings were rare.

    I would run as far and fast from this one as I could, even though owning another is on my bucket list. Too much rust (and, believe me, I’ve seen some that looked fine on the outside and were iron oxide in every nook, cranny, chassis brace and mounting point), and too many signs of either neglect or ham-fisted ownership (leaving the engine open to the elements is a major no-no in my book).

    As far as I’ve seen, parts availability for these is roughly on par with finding bits for a Wartburg or Trabi, if not worse. Unless someone in Japan has picked up the torch, there’s no repro stuff. Just about anything you’d need for this car (and it needs a LOT) would have to be found used. Probably well-used. A lot of the trim looked just fine during the first 10 years or so if kept clean, but was not made from the most expensive plastics.

    If I were on the hunt for an N600 now, I’d have to find a much better one, perhaps that had been given an earlier resto when parts were still somewhat available, had not been allowed to deteriorate so badly in poor storage, or that had been owned by someone who had deep enough pockets to do all the really time-consuming grub-work and now just wanted out.

    • z1rider

      I am the original owner of a SILVER 1972 N600 bought new in 1973, so yes, they did paint them silver from the factory.

      You are correct about the parts. A few are being reproduced but not that many. My biggest concern would be the roller crankshaft. Decades ago, I pressed apart the pieces of two worn ones, re-bushed the small ends of the two best rods and pressed the rest of the crank assembly back together. Ran for awhile but I think I developed a slight rod knock after about 10K on that “rebuilt” crank and so I parked it. I still have it but it hasn’t run since then.

  2. ron

    nothing wrong w/minis reliability.

  3. Howard A Member

    Never ceases to amaze me, it all started with this car. I don’t think this car shares anything in common with a new Honda, except the name. Funny, now that gas is relatively cheap, we hardly think of cars like this, but make no mistake, gas won’t be $2.25 for ever, and stuff like this will make perfect sense. Aside from the fun factor, I really wouldn’t want to share the road with these “ultimate behemoth” pickup trucks now in this.I’m pretty sure they would do at least 55 mph. Wiki claims 77 mph top speed,,,,yeah, good luck with that. Just a car before it’s time. Great find.

  4. Mike O'Handley

    Back when I was a mechanic working at State Toyota in Schenectady, NY in the winter of 1971/72 the dealer took on that Honda line. One of the other mechanics bought a grey one identical to that one in every way – except for the 40+ years of rust, wear and grime.

    He and I were dating a couple of girls from Litchfield, CT who were best friends who we’d met at a rock concert in Springfield, MA one weekend. We used to pile into his little car every Friday night and make the trip to CT for the weekend and head back at oh-dark-thirty on Mondays to arrive back just in time for work.

    There are some loooooong hills on the interstate and secondary roads between Schenectady and Litchfield. As soon as we’d hit a hill the car would feel like it was trying to go in reverse and the only thing propelling it forward was our collective will.

    We used to have fun when cars whizzing down the interstate would approach from behind. He’d throw his door open, I’d throw my door open, and we’d each stick one leg out the door and make like we were each pushing the car up the grade. I swear, if we hit a headwind going up one of those grades it was possible for the passenger to get out and run alongside pushing the car.

    Folks in other cars flying by loved the show. They’d honk their horns, slow down and offer to put their bumper up against the back and push, etc.. We especially like it when the young ladies would slow down and crawl alongside talking to us for a bit.

    The State Police? Not so much.

    We eventually got spotted doing our little act and got pulled over by a cop so big it seemed like when we were sitting in the car we were staring at his knees (not really, but he was one BIG honking cop).

    He did sort of see the humor in it though – he didn’t write my friend a ticket, instead he just chewed out the two of us for being such knuckleheads (Who knew that the interstate had a minimum legal speed? “Not us, Officer!”

    After Mr. Bunyan got done scolding us, he gave the car one very long look of incredulity, snickered and walked back to his sedan shaking his head – probably thinking to himself, “These goofy hippies!”

  5. rangeroger

    I mentioned in an earlier post on the N600’s about mine. It would do a flat-out 85. Stress the flat. One of the things about the early shifters on these was the ability to accidently hit reverse when shifting to second. Did it on a freeway on-ramp In San Bernardino and I came to an immediate stop. Later I lost 3rd gear in it and took it to Harrison-Reno Honda in SB where I bought it.
    The whole engine has to come out of the car, then get turned up-side down to work on the tranny. The service manager spent hours on the phone to Honda USA and finally had to call Japan. When he was done he took me into the shop and told me that, after finding someone who spoke English, he was told the only way it was covered under warranty was if the shifter plate was cracked.
    These used a motorcycle type tranny with dogs moved by the shifter plate. He then proceeded to lay the plate against the 1″ steel work bench and hit with a big hammer. He looked at me and said “Your shift plate is cracked.”
    When I saw the picture of the engine and the parts in back, I shuddered and thought Run away,Run away. I’ve have always wanted another one, but definitely not this one.
    BTW, when I bought mine and began autocrossing/racing it, there was a big race following for these cars in Japan. 2 classes,one for the 360’s (never imported) and another for the 600’s. The 600 cars were able to hit 120. Exhaust headers came out the grill and curved under like a motorcycle. I had a full catalogue of performance equipment for these cars. Unfortunately it was all in Japanese, and I couldn’t afford to import any thing.

    • z1rider

      The early ones used motorcycle type dogs but later they switched to a conventional synchromesh design.

      I once saw 90 indicated on a long very slight downhill. That engine was singing.

  6. Joe Nose

    Get rid of the “6” in this car’s name and what do you get?

    NOO!!!

  7. hans grafftenberg

    I have owned four of these little gems and i can tell you that they are far more reliable and drivable than you would imagine. I would regularly cruise on the freeway keeping up with 70mph traffic no problem. Just hope there are no big hills. There are many parts available on ebay. Definitely one of the funner cars I have ever owned

Leave A Comment

RULES: No profanity, politics, or personal attacks.

Become a member to add images to your comments.

*

Notify me of new comments via email. Or subscribe without commenting.