Refined Design: 1966 Honda S600

The Honda S600 would become the first car to be mass-marketed by Honda, beginning in 1964. This 1966 Honda S600 is listed on eBay with a current bid price of over $16,000 and the reserve isn’t met. It’s located in Lancaster, Pennsylvania and with a 9,500 RPM, it would be a fun ride home.

Honda S360, S500, S600, and S800 models have really shot up in price over the last few years. Nice examples regularly sell for $30,000 or more. The S600 doesn’t look like any other Honda that most of us in the US have ever seen before. It’s a sleek, exotic, refined, tailored design compared to the commuter-type cars like the Civic and Accord that came later. The design didn’t change that much between the S360 and S800, but they were quite a departure from the T360 that put Honda on the map and was the first Honda to be put into regular production.

Now that’s a car collection! The seller says that the “paint was stripped and painted a Honda Red. There was little rust in the quarter panels and it was correctly repaired with metal. All the chrome except the windshield posts were done. New top and boot.” The S600 was made for just three years beginning in 1964 and in the final year of 1966 only just over 100 S600 convertibles were made. The next series got a relatively big boost as the S800 was introduced.

The seller has the mileage listed as being 39,260 and if the interior is original, that appears like a pretty solid mileage claim. I couldn’t imagine putting 139,260 on a car like this but I’m sure that many of them have done that or more. These cars competed with the Datsun Fairlady and, my personal favorite, the Toyota Sports 800. The S600 was also offered in a coupe bodystyle and it was the first Honda to be offered with two trim levels. That sounds pretty quaint now but it was a big step for this little company.

The S600 got a slight power bump compared to the 44 hp 531cc inline-four S500 – up to a 57 hp 606cc engine. That may not sound like a big horsepower jump, but for a 1,600-pound car it was a nice gain. These Hondas had four-carb, water-cooled engines as opposed to the air-cooled Z600 and N600s. This engine and transmission haven’t been rebuilt because “it always ran good.” This whole series of cars seem so refined and highly-styled for Honda, it had to be quite a gamble and quite an investment. Do any of you have any experience with the S600 or any of the other variants?

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Comments

  1. Dolphin Member

    Special Japanese cars are hitting the market and bringing good money now. It doesn’t surprise me at all that excellent S600s can sell for $30K and up.

    Datsun Fairladys have been selling for over $100K for a while now, and the top isn’t in sight yet. Even excellent early 240Zs can sell for $30 to $60K.

    This S600 looks pretty good, and I expect it will sell for good money. They are very scarce, and sporting Japanese cars are doing very well in the collector market now.

    Here’s Jay Leno talking about his S600:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qdck07wTRXo

    • JamestownMike

      Very informative Jay Leno clip, thanks! I’d want one IF it wasn’t a right hand drive car. The car looks and sounds like a vintage Ferrari!

      • JamestownMike

        I just noticed, despite Jay Leno’s S600 being a right hand drive……..the featured car is a left hand drive! I thought ALL S600’s were right hand drive cars??…….apparently not!

    • Loco Mikado

      Love the Jay Leno clip and the sound of the engine. Had ’69 Toyota Corolla with
      the 1100 cc engine. It like this engine didn’t do much until almost 3000 rpm. It only went to 6500 rpm and was not built to be a sports car, but like Jay says you can have fun going fast in a slow car. The roller bearing crankshaft was and still is technological marvel, todays engines are still using plain bearings like they did over 120 years ago. If I won the lottery I would buy this car.

      • Will Keith

        I had a used 1966 S600 coupe (a mini 240Z?) for a couple of years. What an amazing collection of technological marvels wrapped up in such a tiny package! Not the least being the final drive via chain cases that also served as rear trailing arm suspension! This setup caused the rear end to rise up upon accelerating off the line, rather than squatting down like other cars of the day. Driving the car in below freezing weather was a challenge though: the mostly aluminum engine just couldn’t warm up – you could let it idle all day on a cold day, and it would never warm up enough to have any power to get up and go. The problem was compounded by the fact that the cooling system water jacket runs through the intake manifold. Installing a water heater in one of the rad hoses helped a bit. A well equipped, well built car that was great fun to drive. I sure miss it

  2. johnfromct

    Looks like somebody took the sides of an MG Midget and tried to make the front and rear look like a Ferrari. Not my cup of tea. Not the least is that early Honda imports weren’t the best quality or reliability.

  3. jw454

    If it’s all the same to you, I’d rather have the 1970 GTO convertible sitting in the background.

  4. Joe Haska

    WOW! This model of Honda certainly passed me by in 1966, I don’t even remember seeing one. I have an excuse College, Viet-Nam and marriage, but I think this is really a neat interesting car, and would be a kick to own. I am a little surprised at the price , but that’s coming from a guy that didn’t even know what it was 10 minutes ago!

  5. Tom V

    In 1965 Roy Proctor’s dealership on Bank St. in Ottawa, Ontario started importing Honda. I stopped by, with my older brother, and we had a look at the 600S. There were the usual jokes about the chain drive and we all thought that this was the beginning and the end for the automobile side of this company. Needless to say, I’ve not done well in the stock market, either.

  6. Tom V

    In 1965 Roy Proctor’s dealership on Bank St. in Ottawa, Ontario started importing Honda. I stopped by, with my older brother, and we had a look at the S600. There were the usual jokes about the chain drive and we all thought that this was the beginning and the end for the automobile side of this company. Needless to say, I’ve not done well in the stock market, either.

  7. Jay Vette

    Were these actually sold here in the US originally? This one has left-hand drive and a MPH speedo, so that leads me to believe it was. I had no idea they imported them here! Does this one still have its chain drive?

  8. mikeH

    That is one beautiful automobile. I’m sure that, in person, it is diminutive in size, but in the pics, it looks as if it could have been done by Ferrari.

  9. Stephen Brodie

    Turple Brothers Motorcycle shop in Red Deer Alberta sold several just like this one. I bought a Honda 50 from them in 1962 and remember these for sale in their new building shortly thereafter. I remember thinking that these were so small that if they hit a big puddle of water they would drown. That had to be about 1966 when North American built cars were about as big as they ever got and these in comparison were no match in size or power to the average car then on the road. At the time I couldn’t imagine anyone buying one.

  10. Frank A

    Hondasports.wordpress.com

    Detailed info on the cars :-)

  11. Alan Robbins

    I had one of these and they are a technological marvel.

    Unfortunately the way the car starts is rather poorly designed, there’s a clutch inside a pulley that’s screwed onto the crankshaft and held with a keeper nut.

    The slightest glitch and it strips the threads right off the crank, which then has to be replaced. Yep you heard me right. Starter clutch screws up you have to buy a new crankshaft.

    Fortunately its not terribly hard to push start… Which is how I started mine 99% of the time I owned it.

    The cops use to pull me over regularly and tell me to “keep the revs down son”

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