Ran When Parked: 1971 Honda Z600 Coupe

Not too long ago, I was close to pulling the trigger on a Honda N600 project. That dashboard-mounted shifter will get me every time. But my resistance to the project grew the more I read about how down on power they were – perhaps an unfair or shortsighted assessment – but those and the Z600 like this rough example here on eBay still catch my eye. The seller says it’s been in covered storage since 1983 and the engine will still turn over. It’s parked somewhere in Cathedral City, California, with the reserve unmet. 

These “kei class” vehicles have a devoted following, and seem to pull a good price in restored form. This Z600 is a long ways from that, but the seller claims the floors are solid and there’s only mild surface rust to contend with. The dash is cracked but still looks presentable; the rest of the interior is in the same average condition and looks like it was used for storage more often than actual driving. The OEM radio and steering wheel are both great to see still attached.

This is a California blue plate car (which is sort of the same as a black plate car anymore) and it sports one of my favorite features of any long-standing project: a period-correct dealer license plate frame! Though the seller says none of the rust is terminal, that area above the driver’s side taillight doesn’t look too friendly, and the rust on the middle section of the chrome bumper may require removal and re-chroming. Fortunately, glass and lenses look fine.

The SOHC four-cylinder would have coughed up just under 40 b.h.p. when new; it’s anyone’s guess as to whether those horses are still capable of being woken up given the Z600 “ran good when parked” back in 1983. It’s clear due to the dust the engine bay hasn’t been disturbed, so I’d plan on a full reconditioning under the hood regardless – and I’d also take up the seller’s offer of an additional $250 for a set of fully reconditioned Cosmics.


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  1. RayT Member

    Jeff, Jeff, Jeff….

    First off, Honda 600s had TWO cylinders, all in a neat little row. They are/were hardworking little powerplants and, like Honda bikes of the period, would rev like crazy! Performance, while not in the Corvette ZO6 class, was quite acceptable, and very entertaining. And the shifter took milliseconds to get used to. It was easier to get right than that of a Citroen 2CV, itself really no great problem.

    Working on the engine is simple. There aren’t all that many parts — two cylinders! — and everything comes apart/goes together easily. Replaced a bent valve on my N600 on my parents’ driveway; didn’t take long.

    If you want to be practical, the rust scares me, too. These things did rot, so I’d want to pull it down to the bare-nakeds to be sure all was solid and covered with fresh paint. Finding trim bits and accessories would probably be a bit of a drag, too.

    If I were going to buy one now, I’d go for the best, shiniest, most carefully reconditioned example I could find. These aren’t Porsche 356-level pricey. Not yet, anyway.

    But what they are is reliable (that bent valve was the sole problem I had) and a whole lot of fun in a basic, low-buck way. Ask the man who owned one. Or, better, ask the man who owned two, like me, and really wishes he had another.

    Yup, two (like the number of cylinders under the hood!): one N600, one Z600.

  2. XMA0891

    I’ve only ever seen one of these in person. It was in a Northern Maine bone-yard almost thirty years ago… And it was in way better shape than this one!

  3. Chasgould

    These are actually great little cars. They’re quite durable and robust and not at all underpowered for a two cylinder 600cc engine. They are tiny and loads of fun to drive and can be somewhat sporty for the displacement. They are notorious for the hard rubber timing chain rollers which disintegrate after 50 years allowing the timing chain to run slack and jump teeth, which causes a bent valve but as stated above, repair of a bent valve is a relatively simple project on these engines.
    I would not shy away from one on the wives tale of being underpowered but I agree with the comment above which states to buy the best one you can find. Nice examples can still be had from $3500 (running examples) to $6,000 ( very nice unrestored car) and those are running, driving, presentable cars. You can’t fix one up for that kind of money.
    Ask the guy who has owned three of these in the past and who still owns four now! I am actually planning on selling one or two and they are very nice examples.

  4. Charlie Gilg

    I worked for an Oldsmobile dealer that added the Honda cars to their line-up when they came to America. I did detailing on all the new cars. Those Hondas were fun to drive, though I wouldn’t buy one, just too small and cheap for my taste. First the N600 came, then the Z600, then the Accord. The Accord was bigger and nicer, and more my style, but still a bit small as I was used to driving full sized cars. At the time I really had my doubts about a motorcycle manufacturer succeeding in branching out into the car business, but they sure did well. Currently I own an Odyssey and a CR-Z, which I am very happy with.

    • RayT Member

      One minor correction, Charlie: the 600-series cars were replaced by the Civic, with the Accord coming later.

      My local dealer had two Civics on the lot initially: a standard and a Hondamatic. I tried both, and decided to keep my Z. They went out of business before the Accord came along.

      Never got to drive a first-gen Accord. They were hot items in SoCal, so much so that the dealer in my area wouldn’t even allow test drives unless you placed an order first!

      • Charlie Gilg

        Hey there Ray T…..
        I stand corrected. I looked up the introduction dates of the two. The Civic came 7/1972, the Accord in 1976. The pic I found looks like the Civic hatchback I remember. Plus, I left detail shop for the motorhome shop in 1974, so I didn’t keep up with the cars.

  5. TJP

    While I have fond memories of most Japanese imports from the 1970-mid 80 time frame this is not one of them. Miserable, underpowered, uncomfortable and not easily seen by other drivers in heavy traffic

  6. Charlie Gilg

    N vs Z…. Or was the Z600 first? The pictured car came second to that dealership,

    • Jonathan

      The N was first. All were 598cc in the United States, but 360’s were sold in much of the rest of the world.

  7. Jonathan

    Underpowered compared to a car with a much bigger engine, yes. 36 horsepower from 36 cubic inches. You got what you paid for. I bought a green sedan in Monterey, California in 1971, $1,700+ which included a way better steering wheel, wider wheels and tires, air horns and a tachometer. I was in the Air Force stationed in Texas. immediately drove it there where none of them existed, and autocrossed it very successfully. You knew where the corners were, and it did handbrake turns extremely well. Redline was 6,000 but it would pull past that. Most fun I’ve ever had in a car. It helped to be young.

  8. Tony

    I remember these cars growing up in So. Cal. These little cars were everywhere and could be bought for a song. Never rode or drove one, but I remember them doing a decent job keeping up with traffic.

  9. Mark

    In this case I suggest the Col. Potter method…..pull out a 1911 and put this thing out of its misery……it’s the humane thing to do.

  10. Ben T. Spanner

    My friend worked at a Chevy dealer which got a Honda franchise. I test drove one and liked it. My wife really liked it. Out the door price with tax was $1967 including a powertrain warranty from Quaker State, if you used their oil.

    I bought a new 1972 Mercury Capri V6 instead; which had just become available. I bought a used 1972 Honda Z600 a year later. Since Datsun called their cars Fairladies, Cherry’s and Violets in the home country; we called the Z600 “Honey Boy”. It was lots of fun. Replaced the battery and exhaust with Honda pieces, as they were cheap.

    Another friend had one and his Brother just had to have mine, and it was sold.

  11. Bill

    I took my life in my hands when I rode in one as a passenger in the mid seventies. We were almost swallowed whole by an Electra 225 two door.

  12. chad

    the Zs were some of the 1st Japanese imports seen new in E. MA. I don’t remember seein any Ns around. These looked like a hitop sneaker to me @ the time. Big oval plastic rear window surround always got a double take as they chugged by.
    Thanks for the find, Jeff (never saw under the hood).
    ~What’s the blue doors inda back?~

  13. JMC

    I remember them new at a local Pontiac dealer.One sunday morning we were checking out the cars at that (closed) dealership,and,after some encouragement,my old man picked up the rear car.

  14. JMC

    I remember them new at a local Pontiac dealer.One sunday morning we were checking out the cars at that (closed) dealership,and,after some encouragement,my old man picked up the rear of the

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